The Edmonton Oilers have always had pretty good luck with goalies.
Bill Ranford, Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog, Curtis Joseph, so on and so forth. Following in the footsteps of fan-favorite Jospeh (known as CuJo), Tommy Salo looked like he might not only surpass his predecessor but join the ranks of the elite for the Oilers.
The 118th overall pick in 1993, Salo played in the Swedish Elitserien League as well as the International Hockey League over the next few years with brief appearances with the Islanders sprinkled in.
By the 1996/97 season, Salo grabbed hold of the starting job on Long Island for some bad Islanders teams, holding onto that gig until he was sent to the Oilers before the 1998/99 season for Mats Lindgren and an 8th round pick.
Taking over for the popular CuJo, now departed to take the starting role in hockey-mad Toronto, Salo would have an excellent season in 1999/00 despite his record (27-28-13). He would make his first NHL All-Star game in 2000.
His stellar play would continue over the next two years, posting a 36-25-12 record the next year and followed that up with a 30-28-10 record (with a pretty good 2.22 GAA and .920 save perctange) in 2001/02.
Unfortunately for Salo, things changed for the worse. Representing Sweden in the 2002 Olympics, Salo and the Swedes were favorites to take gold. After finishing first in the round robin, Sweden met up with Belarus in the quarterfinals. Belarus defender Vladimir Kopat would up from 65 feet away and let a shot fly towards the Sweden net. What should have been a routine stop for Salo wound up being an embarrassing goal. Sweden would go on to lose and Salo would be made scapegoat in one of the biggest upsets in international hockey history.
From that point on, Salo didn’t seem the same. His play noticeably slipped and his stats worsened. He fell from a career-best goals against average in 2001/02 to a 2.71 average and a career-worst .899 save percentage (though he and the Oilers managed to make the playoffs).
Salo would continue to struggle well into the 2003/04 season, going 17-18-6 with a slightly less miserable 2.58 GAA and a miserabl .896 save percentage before being moved to Colorado for Tom Gilbert. Just five games with the Avalanche and Salo was done in North America.
After two years with Frolunda HC back in the SEL, he retired to take on a coaching position and, later, a general manager gig with Leksands IF.
Though his career flamed out shortly after an embarrassing gaff, Tommy Salo nearly became the next great goaltender of the Edmonton Oilers. A pair of All-Star appearances and a few solid seasons playing behind bad Oilers teams masked just how well he truly played.
For what was and might have been, Tommy Salo is one of the greatest Edmonton Oilers of all-time.
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