Amid the heady rumors of Marian Hossa and Jaromir Jagr being courted by Edmonton, the most amazing moment of 2008 (re: Oilers) received the attention of a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream (hat tip: John Candy).
Hossa’s agent Ritch Winter suggested Hossa’s concern about being an Edmonton Oiler came down to goaltending.
I remember questioning my own ears when I heard it, because the Oilers goaltending situation has improved since the day Roloson flew over. Plus, if Garon and Roloson aren’t clients of Winter that’s just really bad form and the “elephant in the room” for the Northwest division is in Calgary.
The Oilers’ starter last season performed reasonably well compared to the division’s #1′s:
- Niklas Backstrom (MIN) 58gp, .920
- Roberto Luongo (VCR) 73gp, .917
- Mathieu Garon (EDM) 47gp, .913
- Jose Theodrore (COL) 53gp, .910
- Mikka Kiprusoff (CGY) 76gp, .906
The Flames needed to address goaltending, at the very least bringing in a quality backup to give Kipper some rest (which is likely a lot of the problem). Calgary now have Curtis McElhinney as backup and that Irving kid is waiting in the wings. Colorado decided to undertake an experimental approach to their goaltending and now have a combination in goal that resembles Tom and Dick Smothers.
The Oilers? It looks for all the world like they acquired a guy at the right time. Garon is just 30 now, his SP’s have been solid save for the Black Hole of LA (which is currently trying to swallow LaBarbara) but even a closer look there suggests he was performing at a level superior to other candidates:
- Garon .907 in 32gp
- Sean Burke .901 in 23gp
- Barry Brust .878 in 11gp
- Dan Cloutier .860 in 24gp
The Kings were a mess and Garon wasn’t Luongo but he wasn’t Yutaka Fukfuji either. His career SP in the NHL is .906 and in the AHL it’s .915 and he’s certainly earned a chance to grab that number one slot. His salary is $1.1M and that has a tremendous chance to be a bargain.
The danger here is in signing him to a big contract. He does not have the kind of resume you’d like to see in a top flight free agent making the big money. I suspect the biggest decision for this Tambellini fellow this season will have to do with Garon and when/if to sign him long term.
Goaltending can make qualified people look positively stupid. The improvements up front, along with fewer grenades on the blue should mean a slight improvement for Garon this season.
Prediction for 08-09: 52gp, 2.75 .915