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Troubles in Net

Can the Oil Kings Still Rely on Travis Child?

The Edmonton Oil Kings are the worst team in the WHL, adding two more losses over the weekend. While the team struggled with multiple problems, inconsistent goaltending has been one of the most obvious.

The Oil Kings organization has publicly put their faith on Travis Child – trading for him last offseason, waiving Patrick Dea, announcing Child as part of their leadership group, and playing Child despite poor performances. Travis Child has not appeared up to the last of anchoring the Oil Kings night after night. In several instances, Child’s play has actually been detrimental to his team.

One of Child’s most visible areas of improvement is rebound control. As the season has progressed, it as become more obvious that it is not simply one or two bad games or bounces but normal for Child; a worrisome fact. The Oil Kings are a young team without the experience to overcome a inconsistent goaltender with bad rebound control. Travis Child has put more than one rebound directly onto the stick of whoever the Oil Kings’ opponent of the day is. More often than not, such a move ends up with the puck in the back of the Oil Kings net. The Oil Kings are not defensively strong enough to recover from an opponent having the puck in a high percentage area.

Child’s numbers are also less than impressive. Early in the season, Child struggled. While that might have been settling into a new team or system, Child’s numbers haven’t improved much. A save percentage of 0.862 and 65 goals allowed in 17 games played aren’t numbers which inspire confidence. Child has had only 4 wins in 14 starts. He’s faced 472 shots, meaning just under 1 in 5 shots results in a goal. Those numbers don’t paint a picture of a goaltender a team can count on when they’re struggling. The seem more like a possible reason the team is struggling.

If a team can’t count on their goaltender – if they lack confidence in their final defense – they play differently. The Edmonton media has mentioned the need for a goaltender with the confidence of their team who can be relied upon. It has been a narrative for every underperforming goaltender that has cycled through the Oilers system and is applicable to the Oil Kings as well. A goaltender who is confident in their abilities and has the confidence of their team is an integral part of a strong team.

The way the Oil Kings have played with Child in net since his return from injury doesn’t seem to say that they are confident in the abilities of their goaltenders. Instead it speaks of a team that doesn’t trust their goaltender will be able to make the next save.

If there is no trust in Child, the Oil Kings need to consider one of two solutions. One they either trade or release Travis Child. Two, they play Boston Bilious more and let Child stay as their backup. Perhaps with a different goaltender starting regularly, there will be a bit more life to the team.