“Extremely honored, humbled, especially at this point in my career, to be given that that honor is pretty, pretty special to me and one that I am obviously extremely grateful for.”
That was Cam Talbot, speaking about his selection to represent the Kings at the 2024 NHL All-Star game in Toronto next month.
Talbot is a well-deserved selection for the Kings. Among goaltenders with 12 or more games played, he ranks second in the NHL in goals-against average (2.17) and third in save percentage (.923). He tops the charts in both if you expand the perimeters to 20 games played in net. Talbot has always referenced those statistics as team-based, not just specifically related to him. It’s something he once again touched on when discussing the All-Star honor.
“I’ve got to thank the guys that have been playing so well in front me too, that doesn’t happen without them,” he added. “I always say that I’m a byproduct of what’s going on in front of me and that has never been more true. I owe a lot to them, as well.”
Those around him, though, have spoken quite highly of Talbot and how deserving he truly is.
In talking with Adrian Kempe, he said that “no one deserves it more” than Talbot does. Phillip Danault echoed those thoughts, calling Talbot’s play this season “outstanding”, noting how he gives the team a chance to win every night. When Talbot was recognized during Thursday’s game at home, the entire bench stood up and took part in the arena-wide ovation. It’s a small gesture, but it says something to how his teammates think about him.
Talbot has been relied upon heavily by the coaching staff in the early goings here, with a schedule that’s allowed him to feature more regularly than he might have under different circumstances. He’s handled that schedule well to date, with the All-Star nod a natural reflection of his level of play.
“He’s very deserving,” Todd McLellan said of Talbot. “We have some other players that are very deserving, but that wasn’t a hard choice, I don’t think, for our group. He’s been very solid from day one, he’s injected a lot of confidence into the group and guys appreciate him, so I think we’re all really happy for him.”
McLellan went on to discuss the impact that Talbot has had here on this team, after he came in as a free agent over the summer.
Talbot and McLellan worked together in the past, but he hadn’t been teammates with a ton of the players on the Kings before this season. During training camp, one of he prevailing storylines from many external outlets was about the Kings’ investment in goal, how it was either 31st or 32nd in cap hit around the NHL. Talbot came in on just a one-year contract, but his return on investment has been exemplary thus far.
“He makes the saves he needs to make, he gets a lot of help from the group in front of him, it’s not like we’re giving up an enormous amount of chances, so it works good both way,” McLellan added. “What maybe we appreciate the most is how quick and how meshed together [it’s been] with him and his new teammates. It’s good to see and we’ve got to keep it going.”
That instant impact is generally what’s required to participate in an All-Star Game.
Typically, All-Star selections are about first-half play only, so the production has to be there early in a season. On a Kings team that, until recently, has ranked among the NHL’s elite, it took a standout performance in net to separate from the group. The Kings have Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe at a point-per-game pace, while Kevin Fiala sits just under. Then there’s Trevor Moore, who leads the team with 17 goals and Drew Doughty playing more minutes than any other player in the league.
Talbot certainly didn’t sign in Los Angeles with the intentions of being an All-Star. Coming off an injured-filled season, he was just looking for an opportunity to play regularly and an opportunity to win. He’s found both here in the early goings, with things going about as well as he possibly could have asked for, overall.
“This is kind of as good as I could have hoped for,” Talbot said “I don’t think I came in expecting for any of those things to happen, I was coming in hoping for an opportunity to play, to prove that I can still play at a high level and I think I’ve been able to do that. Everything’s gone pretty well so far.”
Making the honor that much more special is that Talbot will get the chance to play in his home province of Ontario, in front of a large contingent of friends and family. He joked that the NHL should be expecting quite a large request for him for tickets to the event, with numerous people in support of #39 likely to be in attendance.
“It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun to be in front of friends, family, my 86-year-old grandmother will be there as well,” Talbot added. “It’s nice to be able to share things like that with the family, so it’s going to be special.”
When the Kings won in Toronto earlier this season, it was clear that playing there, and winning there, still carries a bit of a special feeling for Talbot.
Talbot’s grandmother lives in the city of Vaughn, which is just North of Toronto, while his parents live in Caledonia, which is just over an hour South of Toronto. He also noted that he has extended family who live directly in Toronto, so the whole experience is one that he’s excited to share with friends and family.
He’s also hoping to share the experience with at least one of his teammates.
The initial announcements only included one player from each of the other 32 teams around the NHL, but the Kings have several other hopefuls, as noted above.
“It would be amazing, you always want your teammates to go, it means that as a whole we’ve been doing things right,” Talbot added. “I think that there’s a bunch of guys deserving in our locker room. Mooresie leads the team in goals, Kopi’s got a point-per-game, still playing at a high level, Dewy’s playing 26 minutes a night, probably should be up for the Norris I think, those are big hard minutes. Obviously Juice is a very exciting player, Kev too, there’s so many guys that are deserving right now, so hopefully we can get a couple more guys there.”
The voting process for additional All-Stars runs through Wednesday, with eight additional skaters from around the NHL to join those already selected via a fan vote. There will likely be additional replacements as well, if injuries occur around the NHL between now and the eventual showcase next month. There could be a couple of opportunities for an additional King to join Talbot via one of those two different ways, depending on how things shake out.
AllStarFanVote.NHL.com is the place to make Talbot’s wish come true.
This All-Star wants to bring his friends with him 👇
— LA Kings (@LAKings) January 6, 2024
Kings are back on the ice today in short order, at 11 AM here in Tampa Bay, 8 AM Pacific time.
Last night’s post-game comments lend themselves to a group that knows it has work to do, with hopes of snapping a five-game losing streak tomorrow in Tampa Bay. As task that is always easier said than done, in a building that the Kings have not won a game in since 2015. More to come, as everyone continues to work on righting the ship.