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5-ON-5 | Countdown to 2016-17 Part 4

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

As part of edmontonoilers.com’s countdown to 2016-17, we will be publishing a 5-on-5 series. For the five weeks leading up to rookie camp, we take a look at five questions for this Oilers team heading into the new season. The series ends September 15, as the Oilers rookies report for duty and our pre-season coverage begins.

2. Can Cam Talbot pick up where he left off?

A 9-6-2 record, two shutouts and a .930 save percentage.

Cam Talbot was about as good as you could have asked for in his final 17 starts of 2015-16. The Oilers unquestioned number-one goalie shook off an early slump to finish among some of the best puck-stoppers in the League.

In fact, for save percentage, Talbot was the best in the NHL (.920) following the All-Star break among qualified goaltenders (those to play at least 27 games during that time).

Photo by Getty Images.
When the season was over, Talbot continued his superb play but this time on the international stage. He backstopped Team Canada to Gold at the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Russia, with a .940 save percentage, 1.25 GAA and four shutouts in eight games played.

The Cam Talbot Oilers fans saw at the end of the season was different from the one they saw at the beginning. A late goal allowed from a bad angle against Calgary on Halloween highlighted Talbot’s early season struggles. The netminder took some time out of the lineup to work his craft, and his turnaround was impressive.

“It was more of a mental thing, and I got to work through those with (Oilers Goalie Coach Dustin Schwartz). I give him a ton of credit for sticking with me and the work we were able to do in those five or six weeks,” Talbot said. “It’s a long season, and I feel every starting goaltender goes through one of those at some point in the year and mine just happened to go a little longer than most. I think it’s how you come out of those stretches that says a lot, and I cam out of it stronger. I felt more comfortable and confident down the stretch than I have my whole career.”

Talbot finished his season with 21 wins, becoming the first Oilers goalie to reach 20-plus wins since Devan Dubnyk in 2011-12. The last to do it before that was Dwayne Roloson in 2008-09. His .917 save percentage for the season ranked 13th among goalies with at least 50 starts, putting him in the company of Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones (.918).

So, here is the big question: can Talbot pick up where he left off? He’ll certainly get an opportunity.

Look no further than Head Coach Todd McLellan’s comments on Talbot’s usage in 2016-17. McLellan said toward the end of last season that you could “line up” the players and he thinks “every one of them will tell you they feel really good when 33 is in the net.”

McLellan also said he could see a workhorse load next season, although the team wants to limit shots against to give him an easier time of it.

If the team can do that and Talbot does pick up where he left off, the Oilers are in great shape in terms of their starting option. Talbot proved he can be a workhorse when he’s on his game and after he ironed out his early season struggles he showed the promise that influenced the Oilers to trade for him at the 2015 NHL Draft.

Key to the Oilers success this year will be Talbot’s continued growth as an NHL starter, and he seemed to show he’s at least ready to take on that challenge.

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