"The only way I can get into the goaltending market is if I trade a goalie. Mike Smith's got a two-year deal at $2.2 (million) and Mikko Koskinen's got a one-year deal at $4.5 (million). I could not get into the golden carousel if you wanted me to because of contracts." - Holland— Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBsports) July 28, 2021
It’s no secret that Ken Holland has tried to upgrade the goaltender position this offseason. For whatever reason, the club was unable to upgrade from Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. Mike Smith had a sizzling 2021 season, which blew the doors off of most prognosticators’ predictions.
Mikko Koskinen did not.
Last year was as strange year for the NHL. The league played an abbreviated season with no cross-border play until the Stanley Cup Finals, the divisions were realigned, players were in and out of the lineup, and the goalie carrousel was consistently moving along. Remember when Troy Grosenick was an Oiler for two weeks? Maybe it was that long? Me too.
When Mike Smith went down due to injury right as the season started, it was Mikko Koskinen’s net for the forseeable future. It wasn’t until the 12th game of the season that Koskinen would get a game off, and that was a game against the Ottawa Senators where Stuart Skinner made his NHL debut.
After Koskinen played in the first eleven games of the year, he only got into 15 games over the course of the next 45. A lot of that had to do with Mike Smith’s improbable run. Smith put up numbers that were higher than any he’d had in the previous nine seasons. Smith would end up finishing with a sparkly .923 SV% in 32 games along with three shutouts to go with it. Mikko Koskinen would finish with a less lovely .899 SV% on the year. Smith would end up playing all four of the Oilers’ playoff games.
I would have bet you a nickel that the Oilers would have had a new face in net this year coming up. I would have owed you a nickel. It’s the Smith and Koskinen show one more time, at least to start the 2021-22 season. The Oilers are supposedly in win now mode, and they’ll need Smith to be near-as-good as he was last season. Yes, the forwards look good, and they’ll need to be. The defence? That jury is still out. They’ll also need a bounce-back year from Mikko Koskinen if they’re going to be serious.
So, can he rebound? What’s the likelihood that happens?
At 33 years of age, Koskinen has a limited NHL career to look back on.
Originally drafted by the Islanders back in the early second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, he’s played in a grand total of 123 NHL games. He played four games with the Islanders before spending years in the KHL. Prior to joining the Oilers, Koskinen turned in respectable numbers in the KHL as a member of St. Petersburg. Since then, it’s been a mixed bag for Mikko at the NHL level.
There are a handful of questions going into next season.
- After a 4-3 preseason win over the Winnipeg Jets last weekend, Koskinen remarked that he got lonely last season after being away from his family due to the pandemic. The human element is often overlooked in sports, will Koskinen continue to find his game now with his family by his side?
- What will Mike Smith do? Smith had a great season. Will he continue to smash it up, owning the number one spot in the crease? Will Tippett run a 50/50 shift, or will he go with the hot hand? Will one goaltender expect to play 55 games, and the remaining games go to the second string goaltender?
- Ken Holland says he tried to upgrade the goaltender position this past offseason, he got nothing to show for it at the end. Will he continue to push early during the season? Will he play the waiver wire? Does Koskinen make it to the trade deadline and get moved in a deal? What if the wheels come off for the Oilers by American Thanksgiving, does Holland ramp up the pressure to acquire someone new?
There’s reason to believe that Koskinen will be better than the 47th ranked goaltender in this upcoming season. Koskinen played well in yesterday’s 4-3 preseason win over the Calgary Flames in Mike Smith’s absence due to sickness.
He’ll get chances.
Now, he’s got to make the most of them.