One season ago, the Calgary Flames got Cam Talbot at a bargain price on a one year deal. A few years removed from being pretty damn good for Edmonton, he had fallen out of favour and was functionally Philadelphia’s third-stringer as he headed into free agency.

But someone signed as a reclamation project ended up being Calgary’s best goaltender.

2019-20 season summary

(Data courtesy Natural Stat Trick.)

Games played Wins Losses OT/SO L
26 12 10 1 0.925 0.975 0.919 0.806 1.005

Talbot was used primarily as the Flames’ back-up in the opening half of the season, with his usage not really changing all that much after the coaching change.

Talbot made 22 starts in the regular season compared to David Rittch’s 48. See if you can recognize a pattern here:

  • Oct. 13 at San Jose, the back half of a back-to-back (L, 3-1)
  • Oct. 20 at Anaheim, the back half of a back-to-back (W, 2-1)
  • Oct. 22 vs. Washington (L, 5-3)
  • Nov. 3 at Washington, the back half of a back-to-back (L, 4-2)
  • Nov. 13 vs. Dallas (L, 3-1)
  • Nov. 17 at Vegas, the back half of a back-to-back (L, 6-0)
  • Dec. 7 vs. Los Angeles (W, 4-3)
  • Dec. 10 at Arizona, the back half of a back-to-back (W, 5-2)
  • Dec. 17 vs. Pittsburgh (L, 4-1)
  • Dec. 23 at Minnesota, the back half of a back-to-back (L, 3-0)
  • Jan. 2 vs. NY Rangers (W, 4-3)
  • Jan. 7 at Chicago (W, 2-1)
  • Jan. 9 vs. Minnesota (W, 2-1)
  • Jan. 11 vs. Edmonton (W, 4-3)
  • Jan. 28 vs. St. Louis, the first half of a back-to-back (SOL, 5-4)
  • Feb. 6 vs. Nashville (L, 3-2)
  • Feb. 13 at Anaheim, the second half of a back-to-back (W, 6-0)
  • Feb. 17 vs. Anaheim (W, 6-4)
  • Feb. 21 vs. Boston (L, 4-3)
  • Mar. 1 at Florida, the second half of a back-to-back (W, 3-0)
  • Mar. 4 vs. Columbus (OTW, 3-2)
  • Mar. 6 vs. Arizona (W, 3-2)

Of Talbot’s 22 starts, eight of them were so-called “schedule losses” – the second half of back-to-backs with travel. Of those eight schedule losses, Talbot won half of them. If that usage sounds familiar, it’s because that’s how the Flames broke Rittich in when he was Mike Smith’s back-up a few years back. But in the second half, Rittich was used more and more in favourable situations – a sign that he had either earned the coaching staff’s trust or that Rittich’s elbow injury was bugging him, possibly both.

Statistically, Talbot was more effective than Rittich in stopping low danger and medium danger chances. Rittich was more effective than Talbot against high danger shots.

Compared to last season

Talbot’s 2018-19 sucked. He bounced between Edmonton and Philadelphia, seemingly fighting the puck while wearing both jerseys. His improvements in 2019-20 weren’t uniform:

  • His low-danger save percentage went up 2.0%
  • His medium-danger save percentage went up 0.1%
  • His high-danger save percentage went down 0.5%
  • His overall save percentage went up 1.3%

The secret to having Talbot in net seems to be “Hey, maybe minimize the high-danger chances and he can probably give you a fighting chance.” Consequently, that seemed to be the Flames’ approach to the playoffs, when Talbot played some of his best hockey in years.

What about next season?

Talbot is a pending unrestricted free agent coming off a superb playoffs, albeit punctuated by a fairly iffy Game 6 performance against Dallas where he was (by his own admission) not up to snuff. But he was great in the prior nine games, so take his self-criticism with a grain of salt.

Continuity in Calgary’s net would be great. But Talbot is 33 years old and has faced a lot of pucks, and the mid-30s isn’t usually a timespan where a goaltender gets miraculously better. Usually it works in the opposite direction, so any new pact for Talbot would likely be (a) short-term or (b) fraught with risk on the Flames’ side.

Age criticisms aside, Talbot was great when the Flames needed him this past year, and he’s probably earned himself a bit of a raise. How much of a raise he demands will probably determine if he’s wearing a Flames jersey in 2020-21.

2020 Player Evaluations

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