Thursday, August 23, 2007

Oilers goaltending: Ten years of adequacy

A couple of posts ago, I threw it out there that the Oilers' current goaltending tandem of Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon is the best pairing the team has had in net since Curtis Joseph left town. This, of course, is not saying much, as Edmonton's history of sub-par goaltending is rich and storied indeed, but nonetheless, I believe this could turn out to be true.

Anyhow, making this unsubstantiated claim got me thinking about some of the Oilers goaltenders of old, so I figured over the next few days we could all take a little trip down memory lane — lord knows we Oiler fans love our nostalgia — and look at this squad's goalie tandems of the last 10 years. This is probably more for interest than to prove a point, but maybe some poignant observations will accidentally crop up in the process. As always, love to hear what you folks think.

1997-98: CUJO AND GOALIE BOB


Curtis Joseph
71 GP, 29-31-9, 2.63 GAA, .905 sv%, 8 SO
Bob Essensa
16 GP, 6-6-1, 2.55 GAA, .913 sv%, 0 SO

Regular season record: 35-37-10, 215 GF, 224 GA
Playoffs: 5-7, 24 GF, 25 GA — Lost in Round 2

Though a case could be made for Tommy Salo during his outstanding 2000-01 season, I think most fans would agree that Cujo was the last great, game-stealing goaltender of the modern Oilers era until Roloson came along. The 1997-98 season was Joseph's second as the Oilers' uncontested No. 1 since being acquired via trade from the St. Louis Blues in August, 1995, and it would also turn out to be his last in Edmonton. Bolstered by a flat-out Herculean post-season in which he posted a 1.92 GAA, .933 sv%, 3 SO in 12 games en route to a second-round loss to Dallas, Cujo left as a UFA and signed a big-money deal with Toronto the following off-season. Though he would go on to play with much better teams in Toronto and Detroit, 1997-98 still stands as one of the best seasons of Joseph's career. Never again would he crest the 70-game mark, and his eight shutouts remain a personal best.

Oh hey, and let's not forget Goalie Bob, who posted very nice backup numbers in his second season with the team since being acquired basically for free (future considerations) from the Detroit Red Wings in June, 1996. Interestingly, 1997-98 also stands the high-water mark for Essensa in terms of counting numbers; his 2.55 GAA and .913 sv% were both personal bests.

Verdict: Awesome. Both goalies had career seasons and were a major factor in the team performing as well as it did. Others may come close as this tour goes on, but I think it's fair to say that Joseph/Essensa was the best Oilers goalie tandem of the last 10 years. Too bad that was also, you know, 10 years ago.

Coming tomorrow, 1998-99: A very bad year.

UPDATE: Uh, I slept in. Sorry to the no doubt tens of dedicated readers who flocked back to read Part 2. How bout Saturday?

27 comments:

Jim said...

Essensa was severely underrated. I thought his starts were far too few for a goalie of his talent during his stay here.

Alan said...

Love the new look.

Header pictures: Klima, Smyth, old lady, ???, Gord Mark?

Gino said...

I remember Cujo against Dallas in the Playoffs. We couldn't get anything going and he stood on his head like crazy. Only problem with that is we relied on him too much, and I think he got tired pretty fast. Which seems to have been a problem in the past few years.

Mr DeBakey said...

??? is "Cowboy" Bill Flett.
The late Bill Flett.

Steve said...

Edmonton's history of sub-par goaltending is rich and storied indeed

Besides 1998-1999, 2005-2006 pre-Roloson, and the waning days of Tommy Gun, when have we ever had sub-car goaltending? We unloaded Ranford before it became apparent that he was done, so even in the desolate nineties goaltending was something we had going for us.

Steve said...

Essensa was severely underrated. I thought his starts were far too few for a goalie of his talent during his stay here.

I think 1998-1999 provided a pretty decent counter-argument to your second sentence's argument.

And I loved Essensa. But I think the Oilers used him as what he was: one of the league's most reliable and useful backups.

Chris! said...

"I think 1998-1999 provided a pretty decent counter-argument to your second sentence's argument."

Yeah, I was going say this earlier in regards to Jim's comment. 98-99 was not a kind year to Mr. Essensa, who simply could not handle the workload of a 50-50 platoon. More on that tomorrow.

Great, great backup, though.

Paul said...

It makes me sad that you guys are referring to the first starting goalie I'd ever known as "a great backup." Maybe that's why Winnipeg never got out of the first round.

Chris! said...

God dammit. Is the comments widget broken already?

majeau13 said...

I still believe that Tommy Salo was good, not great, but the 2002 Olympics ruined his career.

And Cujo stole games. That's the only way to put it. BackUp Bob got the job done when he had too, but Cujo was the man.

Black Dog said...

Nice fancy pants new look.

Salo was decent - he just never stole a playoff series. Even Steve Penney did that.

Vic Ferrari said...

Damn! Cool new look. Who are those cats in the header? And should I be getting an autograph from the guy 2nd from the right? Because I'm pretty sure that I've seen him in the dumpster that's outside of the building my nephew lives in, more than once. Seriously.

Throw me on the pile of people that think that the goaltending should be good this season. Garon has never impressed me when I've seen him play, but those are some very good save percentages he's posted in the past. Surely nobody is just that lucky.

Randy in the Med Hizzo said...

The guys in the header is Ivan Matulik. Google him and "grow op".

Pleasure Motors said...

God dammit. Is the comments widget broken already?

Nothing that links directly to "Whispers of the Night" can ever truly be considered broken.

Cam Fraser said...

Ah, Gord Mark. I still remember Mike's comic strip about him. God, how is it possible for me to remember that when I can't even remember my anniversary?

Panelled Heat rules!

Chris! said...

testing

Chris! said...

testing again. I wonder if this has anything to do with Blogger's site maintenance a couple days ago..

Chris! said...

one more time...

John Simmonds said...

i don't know if it counts, but what about the incredible ranford-taco combo of the early 90's! just kidding of course :) nice job on the blog page. go oil in 07/08

Darien said...

I guess I'm the only one who thinks that Roloson is not going to live up to the hype and will let the goal siren sound long, loud and often. Oh well, time tells etc. and all that.

Devin said...

Darien- you aren't the only one, but should be. I remember all the mouth-breathers last summer declaring Roloson nothing more than a serviceable backup. Then he went out and posted a .909 in just about the worst possible situation. Dwayne's got game, has for quite a few seasons now, and wishing for another outcome won't make it so.

oil2thebone said...

roloson SUX and kipper is gonna eat him 4 breakfast. we need to trade him and horcoff + nilsson for Martin Brodeur.

Chris! said...

that's the dumbest thing I've seen written on this blog by a non-Falmes fan in long time.

Andy Grabia said...

I can top it. Let's trade Roli, Hemsky, Schremp and Vikki Moss for Mike Modano, Willa Ford, and whoever the dude is that Modano is actually dating on the side.

Cam Fraser said...

See, what made that funny is the insinuation that Mike is secretly gay. Hilarious!

Anonymous said...

oil2thebone - I have trouble believing you're an Oil fan, perhaps you're an (poor disguised) undercover Flamer. Did you watch the games last season? Given what he had to play behind, he was pretty damn solid. And now that Garon is backing him up, I feel even better about our goalie situation. Kipper is great, but how's his backup I wonder?

court said...

How's his backup? Hell, who's his backup?