Opinion

Addressing The Backup

The Edmonton Oilers have a problem on their hands, and it is costing them points in the standings. On Sunday night, Edmonton went to Ottawa and outplayed the Senators in a big way for forty minutes. The team scored three goals in the second period and allowed only 17 shots the entire night.

It was a great effort by the club, and it should have resulted in two points for the Oil. The end result? A devastating 5-3 loss on a night when two points should have been put in the bank. The biggest reason for Edmonton’s loss? All four of the Ottawa goals that beat netminder Jonas Gustavsson were soft, with the game winning fourth tally being unacceptable.

Gustavsson, who also gave away two points his last time out in Philadelphia back on December 8th, is officially a liability for the Edmonton Oilers. He’s directly responsible for the four points lost in his last two starts, and he likely should never play another game for the Oilers.

Peter Chiarelli must address this position before Edmonton’s next back-to-back set, which comes later this month against Nashville and Calgary on January 20th and 21st.

The Numbers:

The unfortunate reality is that Gustavsson has been a below replacement level goaltender this season. His .878 SV% in seven appearances is one of the worst numbers in the entire NHL. His .765 mark last night and his .806 tally in Philadelphia a month ago sunk the Oilers on nights when the team played well enough for two points.

Right now, the Oilers are getting some of the worst backup goaltending in the NHL, and it is killing them. Having a goalie below .910 isn’t ideal, let alone one that can’t crack .890 on the SV% chart.

It’s also quite apparent the Gustavsson has minimal confidence in himself right now, and that coach Todd McLellan has next to no confidence in the goalie. The Oilers went an entire month before even considering giving Gustavsson a look. That, to me, signals that the coach doesn’t really want to use him. That’s a problem.

Overall, Gustavsson ranks 58th overall out of 61 goalies when it comes to SV% (Minimum five appearances). He’s only ahead of Jhonas Enroth, Michael Neuvirth and Eddie Lack. Not exactly great company.

Solutions:

The easy solution for Edmonton here would be to waive Jonas Gustavsson and recall Laurent Brossoit from the AHL. Brossoit has an 8-8-0 record with a .909 SV% in Bakersfield this season, but that number is impacted by a tough weekend during December. The overall body of work from Brossoit has been strong this season.

He also outperformed Gustavsson in training camp this past September.

The other options would involve a trade, which isn’t ideal because Edmonton would have to move assets. That said, at this point the issue has moved to the top of the list and must be addressed, even if it means moving an asset.

Jhonas Enroth has had a really tough season, his SV% is below Gustavsson’s at .872, but he’s actually a proven NHL option and is a candidate to bounce back on an Edmonton squad that is slightly better defensively than Toronto. Enroth has a .904 SV% in the AHL this season, proving he can still stop the puck.

Reto Berra is an intriguing option because he had success on a mediocre NHL team last season (.922 SV% in 14 games) in Colorado. This season, Berra is holding the fort for Springfield of the AHL, leading the Panthers’ affiliate with a .920 SV% in 17 games. I’ve been told he looks really good for the Thunderbirds.

I don’t think either option would cost much. Toronto already waived Enroth this season and would likely give him away for next to nothing in a trade. Would an exchange of Gustavsson and Enroth with a late pick going Toronto’s way get it done? I’d assume so.

As for Berra, he’d likely cost a little bit more. That said, the Panthers have Roberto Luongo and James Reimer on the NHL roster and would probably move Berra for a prospect or pick.

Jaroslav Halak could also be an option for Edmonton, but a large contract like Mark Fayne’s would have to be going the other way. Halak has a .904 SV% in the NHL this season, but he too is a proven NHL goalie who excelled at the World Cup back in September.

Free agent Karri Ramo, Boston’s Anton Khudobin (recently assigned to the AHL) and Buffalo’s Anders Nilsson (No, seriously) are also options that the Oilers could look at. All of those players are likely available and would also be an upgrade.

Bottom line here is Peter Chiarelli needs to find a new backup goaltender. His first pick is hurting this team and stealing points from the bank.

UPDATE 12:00 PM EST: The Oilers have placed Jonas Gustavsson on waivers, so it appears that there will be change at this position.

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