Get the latest summer forecast and weather knowledge from Cindy Day
Want to become a member? Check out the benefits here.
Thanking our essential workers
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
SaltWire Selects: Our weekend entertainment picks
What you need to know about COVID-19: September 18, 2020
Flames goalie Cam Talbot pauses at the bench area during Calgary Flames practice in Calgary on Tuesday, March 10, 2020. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot makes a glove save on a Minnesota Wild shot in first-period action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, January 9, 2020. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot is scored on by the New York Rangers in first-period action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, January 2, 2020. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
Cam Talbot has officially been a Calgary Flame for one calendar year.
It’s safe to say the last 365 days and beyond has been filled with enough ups and downs to make it one of the most memorable National Hockey League campaigns in his seven-season career.
Just four days before his 32nd birthday last summer, the Caledonia, Ont., native inked a one-year contract with the Flames, completing an eventful 2019 free agency that also saw the Edmonton Oilers ink former Calgary goalie Mike Smith.
Coming off a forgettable 2018-19 season that saw him traded to Philadelphia from the Oilers, Talbot was eager to improve and the situation in Calgary presented a perfect opportunity for that.
“I have zero regrets coming here,” Talbot was saying on Wednesday, as he and other teammates began preparations for the start of next week’s training camp and the NHL’s Phase 3 in the Return to Play plan. “I was excited to get my one-year deal here, a sort of redemption year. I’m just glad it didn’t end the way it did and we still have a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. I’m excited to still be apart of this group and help them win in the next few months.”
Heading into 2019-20, he was set to challenge the relatively inexperienced and projected No. 1 netminder David Rittich.
When Rittich received the lion’s share of the starts early on, Talbot quietly improved his game and began showing glimpses of his former self in the second half of the season.
There were signs he may have even eclipsed Rittich for the starter’s role heading into the playoffs but when the COVID-19 pandemic escalated — pausing the season on March 12 — that momentum was cut short. His 12-10-1 record had produced a 2.63 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. In total, Talbot had made 22 starts for the Flames and played in 26 games.
“Even from the onset, I felt as comfortable as I’d felt in a long time,” Talbot said. “Even at the start, my results weren’t where they needed to be but I wasn’t getting a whole lot of run support throughout the first nine or 10 starts. I just tried to stick with it … my numbers never really changed. Even when my record wasn’t where I wanted it to be, my numbers were still showing I was giving us a chance every night.
“I’m just excited that now, hopefully, I get a chance to finish it off with this group.”
Talbot arrived in Calgary from Hamilton on Sunday and was tested for COVID-19 on Monday. After that came back negative, he skated for the first time on Tuesday.
But it wasn’t the first time he’d been on the ice, having been permitted to skate at the Grainger Training Centre in Hamilton — his usual off-season training facility which remained open for much of the pandemic due to its’ size.
He was able to skate around a dozen times, while many of the other members of the Flames were quarantined.
“I know a lot of guys said that if arenas opened up, they only did a couple weeks ago — especially in Ontario,” Talbot said. “I was pretty lucky that we had that small sheet of ice and were able to get a couple of guys on the ice with me.”
He also got the ball rolling on a home gym, ordering weights, and other necessary equipment as soon as the pandemic hit in March.
All of which has allowed him to stay on top of his fitness despite being forced into four months of an off-season.
It gave him an opportunity to see his wife Kelly and twins Landon and Sloane a little longer before returning to Calgary.
“I definitely feel ahead of the game, coming into camp just from hearing what other guys have been limited to,” Talbot said. “I didn’t really have any limitations with my training or my on-ice training and I was able to spend a bit more time with my family, instead of having to rush back. I feel pretty good, it’s no different than coming into a normal training camp under normal circumstances at this point.”
Truth be told, there is nothing normal about these circumstances.
The Flames are hitting the ice Monday at Scotiabank Saddledome to prepare for a best-of-five pre-playoff qualification round against the Winnipeg Jets starting in early August. In a normal summer, they’d be amid their off-season training and getting ready for a training camp ahead of the upcoming regular season.
But the global health crisis threw a wrench into their schedule and these are the circumstances they’ve been dealt.
That also goes for any lineup decisions that Flames head coach Geoff Ward and his crew will be making, including who will be the starting goaltender when the puck drops (again) for real. It is a fresh slate and a short sprint to the finish line. The starter’s net is there for the taking.
“There has been really no indication (on who’ll earn the job), I haven’t even been able to see Wardo that much lately,” Talbot said. “There’s been no conversations about who is going to start or what it’s going to be like, really. When everything shut down, my game was as good as it has been in a long time. I thought I was trending to get more starts down the stretch and into the playoffs. But you never know what could happen.
“It’s just going to be pretty much what it’s been all season — compete for starts, and the best goaltender is going to play, and whoever is hot is going to play… whoever is going to give us the best chance to win that night is going to be in the net.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020