EDMONTON, AB - You could say Cam Talbot is all in on Edmonton.
He and his wife, Kelly, are closing on a place in the city this summer, content with the knowledge they’ll make it their home for the foreseeable future. Talbot signed a three-year contract extension with the Oilers on January 17, putting some closure to any uncertainty the Talbot clan may have in terms of where they’d be nesting after the season.
This time last year there may have been more of the uncertainty. The 28-year-old goaltender was with the New York Rangers at the time, coming off an impressive regular season in which he filled in exceptionally for an injured Henrik Lundqvist. Heading into the 2015 NHL Draft, Talbot understood his name would be tossed around in trade rumours to various teams and there was definitely a factor of unknown as to where he’d eventually wind up.
In fact, Talbot was at home in New York flipping through the channels and searching for draft coverage when his agent called him to tell him the deal was on and the team was Edmonton. Talbot had known for some time Edmonton was one of the most interested parties, so that wasn’t a surprise.
The Oilers sent a second-round pick, a third-round pick and a seventh-round pick to the Rangers in exchange for Talbot and a seventh-round selection. Just like that, Talbot and his wife knew where they’d be headed next.
Flash forward to today and they’re happily settling into their new environment.
“We’re settled in for the long haul,” said Talbot. “We just bought a place, so we’ll be closing on that in the middle of summer. We’re excited as a family and it’s a great city. The fans are so passionate.”
Just having the comfort of knowing where you’ll be employed heading into a fresh season is refreshing in itself.
“It takes a little bit of the uncertainty out of it, that’s for sure,” Talbot said. “It’s kind of nice having the security and comfortability of knowing where you’re going to be and who you’re going to be working with.”
While the Talbots are all in on Edmonton, it appears as though the team feels the same way about them and, in particular, Cam as their starter.
|Photo Andy Devlin | Edmonton Oilers |
Talbot’s first year in Edmonton didn’t start the way he would have liked, though. Halloween was a particularly dark day for the Oilers netminder, a stamp on what was a disappointing start to the season. A late goal from a bad angle in his first-ever home Battle of Alberta vs. Calgary was a low point in the season for the goalie. He’d sit behind Anders Nilsson for a time, working his craft with Oilers Goalie Coach Dustin Schwartz, but when he returned to the starting role he didn’t look back. Talbot put up resurgent numbers as he secured his place at the top of the Oilers pecking order.
“It was more of a mental thing and I got to work through those with Schwartzy. 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,” said Talbot. “It’s a stretch that I feel — it’s a long season — 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 came out of it stronger. I felt more comfortable and confident down the stretch than I have my whole career.”
Talbot hadn’t been a number-one goalie in the National Hockey League until he joined the Oilers. It was a new experience for the former backup, as he worked toward running away with the role in Edmonton. Talbot finished the season with 21 wins and a .917 save percentage. Talbot ranked 13th in save percentage amongst NHL netminders with at least 50 starts, in the thick of impressive company such as Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick (.918) and San Jose’s Martin Jones (.918).
In Talbot’s final 17 games of the 2015-16 season, he went 9-6-2 with two shutouts and a .930 save percentage.
“It all started with that stretch at the beginning of the year where mentally there was some stuff I needed to work through,” said Talbot. “I think the biggest part of that was having to sit after some of those games and keep thinking about it and keep working, whereas sometimes you get that chance to go back in there and atone for the loss the night before and get right back at it. I think as the season went on, if I did have an off night and Todd (McLellan) had the confidence to go back with me the next day, I was able to bounce back from those games and still have the confidence in myself. It started off a little rocky, but for the most part I think with the season I felt more comfortable and confident after that.”
More comfortable and confident than he has felt his entire career, he says. That’s a great sign for the Oilers who now have their top guy between the crease heading into 2016-17.
“My body feels good right now,” he said. “I could have played another 28 in the playoffs if I needed to, but unfortunately that’s not the case this year. I think that I’ll just keep training the same way I’ve been training and come into camp. There won’t be as much of a transition period for me next year — working with a new team and a new goalie coach — and I’ll be more familiar next year to start the season so hopefully there’s no dips like that to start and we hit the ground running.”