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Goaltending Might Be An Issue for the Oilers Next Season

Couple thoughts on the Oilers goaltending for next season, and why there might be a problem.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the summer, it was fairly obvious that the team would need to find a dependable backup to play behind Cam Talbot and push young Laurent Brossoit down to Bakersfield for additional seasoning. Although Brossoit had put up some nice numbers at the AHL level, his showings in Edmonton were not very good, as the young prospect appeared in five games, finishing 0-4-0 with a sub-standard 87.18 save percentage at even-strength (Source: Corsica Hockey)

On July 1st, the Oilers did find a backup in 31-year old Jonas Gustavsson, who played with the Bruins last season going 11-9-1, with a 91.42 save percentage at even-strength. Among the 55 goalies who played at least 900 minutes last season, or around 20 games, similar to Gustavsson, the Oilers newest addition ranked 47th when it came to save percentage at even strength, the average of the group being 92.46. The season prior, Gustavsson only played in seven games, with Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek taking on the bulk of games, and did show well, but it's hard to make any large conclusions based on such a small sample size.

Season Team GP (Started) Record SV% (5v5) SO QS%
2009-10 TOR 42 (39) 16-5-9 91.43 1 0.359
2010-11 TOR 23 (21) 6-13-2 90.97 0 0.286
2011-12 TOR 42 (36) 17-17-4 90.49 4 0.389
2012-13 DET 7 (4) 2-2-1 89.19 0 0.500
2013-14 DET 27 (26) 16-5-4 91.26 0 0.500
2014-15 DET 7 (6) 3-3-1 93.69 1 0.500
2015-16 BOS 24 (20) 11-9-1 91.42 1 0.450

I've also included in the table above the Quality Starts (QS%) metric, derived from Hockey Abstract.

In order to record a Quality Start, the starting goalie must stop at least a league average number of shots (typically 91.3% prior to 2009-10, and 91.7% since), or play at least as well as a replacement-level goalie (88.5%) while allowing two goals or fewer. (Hockey Abstract)

What this tells us is that in his 20 starts last season, Gustavsson provided a quality start nine times, or 45%. Anything below 50% is awful, with 53% being the league average. Prior to the 2015/16 season, Gustavsson has never surpassed 50% when it comes to the number of quality starts, with his time in Toronto standing out for the wrong reasons.

When we dig into a few more metrics and compare how he measures up against the league average, we get more confirmation that Gustavsson is well behind his peers. Below are Gustavsson's 2015/16 numbers displayed in a handy SAVE chart, developed by Ian Fleming (Source: IMF Analytics). The save percentages are broken out by the areas shots originate from (high, medium and low, defined by War on Ice). In the image below, the high danger area is in blue, medium danger in red and low danger in yellow.

The AdjGSAA/60 (Adjusted Goals Saved Above Average per 60) is a metric that combines the high, medium and low danger goals saved above average at a per-60 rate (developed by Nick Mercadante, who has a detailed explanation of the metric at Blue Shirt Banter.

The stat represents the number of goals a goalie saves for his team above (or below) league average.Basically, take the league average sv% and apply it to the total shots faced by the particular goaltender. Out of that, you get a number of goals that the average goaltender would have given up had he faced the same number of shots as the goaltender in question. (Source)

And the Above Average Appearance Percentage, another metric developed by Nick, is the number of appearances in which a goaltender's Adjusted Goals Saved Above Average per 60 Minutes was above zero, as a percentage of total appearances. The bar colors represent the degrees away from league average with blue being good, red being bad, and the deeper the color, the farther from center. For comparison, I"ve included Ben Scrivens who played a backup role in Montreal last season and is someone Oiler fans are very familiar with.

The poor high danger save percentage should be a concern for the OIlers who last season finished 29th in the league when it came to the rate at which they allowed high danger scoring chances, only ahead of the Flames. Now, the team still has time to improve the defence core and their overall team play, but if the club continues to allow anywhere near the same rate of high danger chances against next season, they will not be able to count on Gustavsson to provide league average goaltending.

A point can be made that the Oilers will be running with Cam Talbot for the bulk of games anyways, and the Oilers signed Gustavsson for one year at a reasonable cost of $800,000. The problem that I foresee is Talbot going on a 10-15 game slide like he did last season, which would force the Oilers to rely on Gustavsson more frequently. This might be a pessimistic way to look at it, but it's very normal for good goalies to go on extended losing streaks where their play might not be up to standard. And we know historically that although he has proven to be a good goalie, Talbot does go on these types of runs.

Below is a table of Talbot's first 10 games as the starter for the Rangers and his first 10 games as an Oiler.

NYR 2014/15 90.43 28.63 94.74 87.76 86.42
EDM 2015/16 89.30 27.32 97.96 83.67 81.48

The save percentages in both of these 10-game sets would rank him near the bottom of the league, however you look at the location of the shots or if it's accumulated. The good news, in both situations, was that Talbot bounced back and finished strong for his clubs providing league average or above league average goaltending by seasons end. My concern is if Talbot plays poorly again, Gustavsson, who has established himself as a sub-par goaltender, would take on a bigger work load and would probably provide the same level of dependability as Ben Scrivens. And we all know how that would probably work out.