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Rob Soria The Hockey Writers

Published on Wednesday, October 18, 2017





Oilers: McLellan Misses Mark in Talbot Benching

It’s no secret Cam Talbot hasn’t been good out of the gate for the Edmonton Oilers.  Despite being pulled from two of his first four appearances, the hope was Todd McLellan wouldn’t hit the panic button and sit his starter against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, he did just that and likely cost his team two points in the process and sent the wrong message to his No. 1 goalie.

With a tough three-game road trip next on the schedule, last night’s contest was a game where grabbing points was almost a necessity. With that being the case, instead of giving the net to a player some considered to be as valuable to the Oilers in 2016-17 as Connor McDavid, the head coach handed over the reins to Laurent Brossoit and hoped for the best. Not surprisingly, it was a decision that backfired.

Brossoit Not the Right Choice

Two goals against inside five minutes and yet another loss leave Edmonton with a 1-4 record and a starting goaltender who has to be wondering what is going on. As if trying to work his way out of a slump wasn’t already enough, having Talbot sit and watch his understudy get lit up like a Christmas Tree didn’t help. It was a spot that has been his for the better part of two years and suddenly he was asked to take a seat in a crucial game.

That is what we call sending a “mixed message” and one cannot help but wonder why. Instead of heading out-of-town with some confidence following a win, both the club and its star netminder sit at the opposite end of the spectrum. With trips to Chicago, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh next on their dance card, expecting that trend to suddenly turn would seem rather unrealistic.

Cam Talbot, Markus Granlund, NHL, Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers acquired Cam Talbot for three 2015 picks. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

For an organization that started Talbot in 86 of 95 regular season and playoff games in 2016-17, it seems rather bizarre to make such a move. Three ugly performances in succession and just like that…send your guy to the bench. In the minds of some, it is not a big deal but go ask any player who has experienced this kind of thing in the past and they’ll tell you having a guy behind them who they trust is essential.

Oilers a Fragile Group

Sorry but that isn’t Brossoit and yet there he was standing in the Oilers net and it took all of 20 seconds to send the entire evening spiraling out of control. When a team is struggling to the extent Edmonton is, the last thing they need is to fall behind mere seconds into a game. That is a spot when a goalie has to find a way to make a save and while Talbot hadn’t been doing it of late, his resume suggests he will.

Though they would never say it publicly, you can bet every player in that room wanted to see No. 33 in goal but their coach decided to go in a different direction. Perhaps it was more of a move to send a message to the collective and a wake-up call for Talbot? Possibly but the risk that comes with going that route is what we saw against the Canes. Remember, these were two points this team badly wanted and they just gave them away.

Don’t get me wrong, the 30-year old has not been good to this point but having already been pulled twice, there was no need for a so-called wake-up call. We are talking about a player who was on the periphery of being nominated for the Vezina Trophy last season. Like it or not, that counts for something but for whatever reason, that wasn’t the case this time around with McLellan and it is rather puzzling.

Talbot’s Resume Speaks for Itself

The only way a struggling team regains their confidence is by winning and dressing the best roster possible gives them their best shot at doing just that. No question an .880 SV% is ugly to look at and when you consider that number includes a shutout, it becomes that much uglier.  However, the only people who were calling for Talbot to not play against Carolina were die-hard fans who were simply grasping at straws for answers.

Oilers head coach Todd McLellan. (Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Desperation can make people do weird things and in my opinion; Todd McLellan let the moment get the better of him and steered away from using common sense. It certainly came back to bite him and funny enough, he will now do an about-face and look towards Cam Talbot to stop this thing from snowballing out of control. Yes, these are certainly interesting time in good ol’ Oil Country.

Also available from Rob Soria: 

Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One


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