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The Season That Was: The Goaltenders

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Looking back on another disappointing Oilers season. First up, the goalies.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The final game has been played. Craig MacTavish has held his season ending press conference. And so, the Oilers 2014/15 season is officially over. And once again the results were disappointing. With a 24-44-14 record the team set a new franchise low for wins in a season (lockout shortened season excluded), and matched the 62 point total achieved in 2009/10 and 2010/11 when the rebuild was in its infancy. 62 points isn’t quite the lowest total in franchise history but it’s within shouting distance.

Simply put, there aren’t a lot of good things to say about this season. But because we here at the Copper & Blue are well known for our ability to always see the bright side of things, we’ll see what we can find in a multi-part series looking back at the season that was. We’ll start with the goalies.

Maybe this isn’t a good idea, if they aren’t a lot of good things to say about the season, there are even fewer to say about the goalies. Laurent Brossoit had a nice game. Richard Bachman started four games and looked pretty good. And that’s it. The Oilers netminders combined to post a 0.902 save percentage during 5-on-5 play, 0.847 when shorthanded, those rank them 30th and 27th respectively. You don’t need to know a lot about hockey to know that the numbers posted by the Oilers goalies this season are very, very bad. In fact, if there numbers were just bad, for arguments sake say 10 points below league average, the Oilers would have allowed 28 fewer goals.

There are plenty of areas for improvement on this team; goaltending is without a doubt one of them. The defence in front of them may not have done the man between the pipes a lot of favours, but numbers like this go well beyond that, these tell the story of two players who were nowhere near good enough this season.

Ben Scrivens was the Oilers number one this season. It was a bit of a gamble given his limited experience, but one that I thought was worth taking. Unfortunately that gamble didn’t work out well for the Oilers. Scrivens finished the season with a 15-26-12 record along with a 3.16 goals against average and an 0.890 save percentage. In 57 games, 53 of which he was starter, he played 2,641 minutes and change at 5-on-5 and posted a 0.900 save percentage. Of the 29 goalies who played at least 2,000 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey that was the worst, and it was the worst by a wide margin; Mike Smith’s 0.912 save percentage ranked him 28th in that group.

The data from war-on-ice doesn’t make things look any better either. There’s no nice way to say it, shots from everywhere went in on Scrivens this season.

Sadly, the story is much the same when it comes to Viktor Fasth. As Scrivens backup, Fasth started 24 games for the Oilers this season (none after suffering a knee injury on February 18) and played the second most minutes of his career; he finished the season with a 6-15-3 record to go along with a 3.41 goals against average an a 0.888 save percentage. As you can no doubt see, like Scrivens, he had a lot of trouble stopping pucks. 34 goalies played between 500 and 2,000 minutes; compared to his peers, Fasth’s 0.896 save percentage ranks him 32nd out of 34.

So What Happens Next?

This was the final year of Fasth’s current contract and there is almost no chance he’ll be back in Edmonton next season. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t even in North America next season. Fasth will turn 33 in August and aside from a good run in the first nine games of his career has never really posted numbers that are going to turn a lot of heads. If he’s not offered a one-way contract, and I doubt that he will be, would he want to ride the bus in the AHL? I have my doubts.

With one-year and $2.3M left on his contract, I expect Scrivens to be back as an Oiler next season, just not as the number one. Devan Dubnyk’s performance this season should remind everyone that goalies can run very hot and very cold, and I absolutely expect that Scrivens will post numbers next season closer to league average than what we saw this season, but even the Oilers, a team known for doing crazy things, can’t go into next season with him as their first option. And with nobody else ready to grab the number one job that person will have to come from outside the organization either via trade or free agency.

Will the tandem of Goalie X and Scrivens produce better results than Scrivens and Fasth? It’ll be difficult not to.

All save percentage data was taken from stats.hockeyanalysis.com.