To say that things in the Flyers’ crease this season were bizarre would be an understatement. From icing eight goalies to ending the season with prized prospect Carter Hart seizing the net, putting an end to a calendar year of frustrations between the pipes for the Flyers.
Bad news is that Cam Talbot threw some gasoline on the fire, but not nearly as much as some of his fellow netminders.
Talbot, 31, was acquired ahead of the trade deadline on Feb. 15th to —in theory— backup Hart with the Flyers playoff hopes quickly fading and the workload building up on the 20-year-old. Instead, Talbot played just four (!) games for the Flyers as the season winded down, posting an .889 save percentage in that action. Prior to that, he wasn’t much better for the Oilers, who though enough of their former starter to deal him for a largely unproven goaltender with a significant injury history and required to play a minimum number of games before they essentially lost him to free agency.
Anyways, the Talbot for Anthony Stolarz swap was largely a joke for both teams and frankly odd from the Flyers’ perspective considering they traded for Talbot to not use him. Throwing in the fact that Talbot trained and mentored Hart a bit in previous offseason and it makes a little more sense, but it’s still odd if Talbot doesn’t return with a new contract this offseason as he’s an unrestricted free agent July 1.
But one thing we can definitively say is that Cam Talbot was absolutely a member of the Flyers for like two months this season, so there’s that.
By The Numbers
Basic Stats w/ Flyers + Oilers
Talbot’s overall numbers in 2018-19 split between the Oilers and Flyers continued a pretty downward trend for the veteran since the 2016-17 season when he assumed the starting role in Edmonton and posted a .919 save percentage and a 2.39 goals-against average while winning 42 games. That season capped a four-year run where he averaged a .922 save percentage and a 2.32 goals-against average with the Rangers and Oilers in 186 games.
The issue, of course, is that Talbot’s numbers have rather sharply declined in the two seasons since then with the netminder tending to a .902 save percentage and a 3.02 goals-against average in 102 games. Now granted the Oilers and the Flyers aren’t exactly shutdown defensive teams, but Talbot posted a GSAA (Goals saved above average) of 10.59 in those first four seasons and dropped sharply to -16.55 in the past two years per HockeyReference.
Even accounting for some terrible defensive teams, Talbot has essentially done a 180 in the past two years and is about to hit free agency and play his age-32 season. That’s not ideal, even given the goaltending climate across the league where teams are desperate to find two capable bodies back there if they can to spread out the workloads.
With the Flyers still in the market for someone to backup Hart and potentially be reliable enough upon to take extra games off the youngster, they could do worse than Talbot but there’s also a question of it Talbot is even worth giving the shot with his recent production.
Three Burning Questions
Did this player live up to our expectations for this season?
Like most party crashers, Talbot came in late and didn’t do much to demonstrate value. But he also wasn’t given many chances to actually have an impact so it’s really hard to grade his Flyers tenure here.
That said, he wasn’t very good when he did get a chance to get in there for the Orange and Black. The sample size is small, but it also wasn’t good, and he didn’t do enough in practice to steal starts from the aging Brian Elliott, who the Flyers didn’t need to see an ounce of the rest of the season.
What do we expect from this player next season?
If the Fletcher and the Flyers do decide that Talbot is the man they want to pair with Carter Hart, we could be in for a wild ride again in the Flyers crease. Hopefully not like eight tenders deep like last season, but things could get hairy fast with the still largely unproven Hart and what amounts essentially to a reclamation project in Talbot.
But if it is indeed Talbot that shares the crease with Hart, perhaps the return of former coach Alain Vigneault behind the bench can spark the veteran. Talbot posted a couple of really strong seasons with Vigneault at the helm of the Rangers and is comfortable playing behind the Flyers’ new bench boss’ system. Hopefully familiarly would help Talbot get back closer to the player he was his first two years in Edmonton and in New York, when he was certainly an above average NHL goaltender —and one capable of prospecting in a timeshare.
What would we like to see this player improve on?
If you only watched like five minutes of Cam Talbot this season —Flyers or Oilers— you’d know that the man needs to stuff some more padding in those pillows to control his damn rebounds more.
No shutout in Cam's debut. pic.twitter.com/H9cGprVnxh— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 2, 2019
Statistics and data courtesy of HockeyReference.com, NHL.com