Right from the outset, let me emphasize that I have thoroughly enjoyed the Ottawa Senators’ offseason from a roster-construction perspective. Long live the Summer of Pierre. We have already established that the offence will look much better. And we have written ad nauseum about how the Sens probably need one more minute-eating defender to really give them a shot at a playoff berth. “The Dorion” has also done a pretty decent job navigating the salary cap. He got rid of Matt Murray’s contract! And we haven’t talked too much about goaltending since our humble general manager swapped Filip Gustavsson for Cam Talbot, hence, this particular article. Because I wanna know: Will Forsberg or Talbot get the lion’s share in 2022-23?
Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. Talbot, at 35 years of age, finds himself about a decade removed from his best statistical NHL seasons (with the Rangers) but can provide some veteran leadership and stability for a young club looking to take the next step. He has a cap hit just under 3.7 million this season and moneypuck valued him at -0.97 Wins Above Replacement last year, which doesn’t seem great but considering the Sens would have paid Murray fifteen million over the next two seasons, we’ll take it. Talbot has the added incentive of impending free agency. He also has just under 400 games of NHL experience plus 33 playoff games under his belt. Coincidentally, both Murray and Talbot languished in the shadow of ((probable) future hall-of-famer) Marc-Andre Fleury before their respective trades to Ottawa.
Again, looking at the big picture, the Sens can insulate their goaltending prospects, got relief from Murray’s contract, and created some healthy internal competition among veterans. It also bears mentioning that, while obviously not the point of the trade, Talbot represents a short-term improvement over Gustavsson for Ottawa. While Gustavsson punctuated his tenure in Ottawa with some solid stretches in both Belleville and the nation’s capital, he never found consistent success within the organization season-over-season, and will most certainly benefit from a change of scenery to defence-first Minnesota. Welcome to Fleury’s shadow, Gus!
Now let’s talk about Forsberg, about whom I have suddenly become a truther. (Remember when I was a Murray truther?!). Forsberg had his best statistical season yet in the NHL last year (his second proper NHL season) and moneypuck valued him at +1.41 WAR as he now begins three years in Ottawa at just under 2.8 million. This seems like decent value. At age 30, Forsberg has just over 100 NHL games under his belt and zero postseason appearances to speak of. Depending who you ask, last season either represented a statistical aberration for a journeyman backup or a late-bloomer entering his prime a la Craig Anderson. With all of that in mind, would you bet on Talbot or Forsberg to break Ottawa’s five-year playoff drought? Let’s look at the fancy numbers and see if it offers any further insight.
Starting with all situation results among netminders with over 2500 minutes, Talbot ranked 15th last season in goals saved above average at +0.13 while Forsberg ranked 8th at +0.34. Forsberg looks better here obviously and I should note that both outperformed Murray (-0.02) and Gustavsson (-0.49). Even more impressively for Forsberg, he faced 2.98 expected goals against per 60 on an inexperienced Ottawa team while Talbot faced but 2.41/60. Murray and Gustavsson faced even worse barrages at 3.12 and 3.02 respectively for what it’s worth. Personally, I love these findings because the Sens front office ended up with the two best options based on fancy stats after two trades. When was the last time we said that?! And for the traditionalists:
|All sit. SV%
Pivoting now to five-on-five, among netminders who played over 2000 minutes last season, Talbot ranked 12th in GSAA/60 at +0.17 while Forsberg ranked 11th at +0.20 so here things get really close. And we should feel excited about this prospect! This team has two very competitive goalies with net-positive numbers in this category divided by the slimmest of margins. And once again we upgraded over Murray (-0.01) and Gustavsson (-0.28). Again it bears mentioning that Talbot faced far fewer expected goals against per 60 at 2.08 to Forsbergs 2.61 (Murray (2.77) and Gustavsson (2.69) again had it worse FWIW).
And finally, looking at the penalty kill (I’ve heard your best penalty-killer should probably also be your netminder), among those with over 200 minutes short-handed last season, Talbot ranked 17th in GSAA/60 at -0.24 while Forsberg ranked 3rd at +3.17. This stands out as maybe the biggest separator in earning Forsberg that three-year extension. Good for him. Please don’t regress! Again Talbot represents an improvement over Gustavsson who rocked a -1.45 GSAA/60 but to his credit, Murray played well enough on the penalty kill at +0.02. In keeping the trend alive, Ottawa’s goaltenders fared much worse last season facing over eight expected goals per 60 while Talbot saw under seven so Forsberg really outdid his newest competition in the crease. Save percentages!
So after all that, it sure as heck looks like Forsberg should have the majority of the starts this coming season based on statistics. But this is the NHL we’re talking about and Talbot has the experience and the higher cap hit in his favour (unfair as that logic may be). Talbot has expressed his desire to take over Ottawa’s crease and he has to earn his next NHL contract behind an unproven team. Once a highly touted prospect among stat-heads like myself, Forsberg has taken a very long road to get here and I would love nothing more than to see the horny dog hold down the fort until the Mads Søgaard era begins in earnest. But this is the weekly question! What do you think? Who carries the workload in 2022-23?
As always, naturalstattrick did all of the heavy lifting for this article.
Who will start the majority of Ottawa’s games this season?