Despite signing a three-year extension on January 22nd, worth a surprising $4.5 million per season, Mikko Koskinen has only started one of the four games for the Edmonton Oilers since the bye week. The timing of his signing struck me as odd from the moment it came out. I didn’t see the need to sign him in January considering he’d only had 27 appearances and posted a .910sv%. It was more perplexing when you consider Cam Talbot is also a pending UFA and has a longer track record. Would Koskinen have turned down the contract after the season? I doubt it.
The other possibility was what if Talbot plays well, and we are seeing that unfold right now.
Many have tweeted me or texted my show saying the Oilers are showcasing Talbot and that’s why he has started three of four games.
It is a reasonable theory, except it has a few major flaws.
1. The Oilers organization desperately needs to win hockey games and make the playoffs. Teams want to make it every year, of course, but with many luxury suite holders’ three-contracts set to expire in a few months, a playoff berth might be the only thing that convinces them to renew. Winning is more important than acquiring a pick for Talbot.
2. Ken Hitchcock needs to win games because he wants to return as head coach next season. He isn’t playing Talbot just to “showcase” him. He wants to win and right now Talbot is playing better than Koskinen.
3. The Oilers have seven games before the February 25th trade deadline. If Talbot continues to play well they could win four games. If they win four games they will be right in the playoff hunt at the deadline. Do you honestly believe they would trade Talbot? How do you sell that to your players, season seat holders and fans? “We really need a second round pick.” I don’t think so.
4. I don’t see a big market for him. Maybe Buffalo or Carolina, but I don’t see it.
The “showcasing Talbot” theory doesn’t make sense when the main focus is the playoffs. If Koskinen was playing well and playing regularly that would be one thing, but Talbot will start again tomorrow, meaning he’ll have started 80% of the games coming out of the bye week, which just happens to also be the most important games of the season to date.
The Oilers are right in the playoff hunt.
Six teams are within four points for the two Wildcard spots. The Blues are playing the best hockey and if I was putting out odds I’d give them the best chance — far from a guarantee though — to make the postseason, but after them it is wide open. Minnesota is on pace for the most points of the remaining five teams, but they just lost their captain Mikko Koivu for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, the Oilers just got Oscar Klefbom back in the lineup. Major injuries can alter how a team plays, both good and bad.
If the Oilers manage to win four of their next seven games they will still be in the playoff mix on February 25th. You can say you still think the chances are low they make the playoffs, and that could be accurate, but if Talbot is playing well the Oilers can’t afford to trade him away and weaken the talent of their team. Again.
The players know who is talented. They know who can help them win and Talbot, even if he splits duties with Koskinen the rest of the way, gives them a better chance to win than a second round pick and the backup goalie they would get in return.
Oilers management must stop their trend of making trades which downgrade the talent pool of their team. They are in this mess because of it.
Yes, it is odd Talbot doesn’t have an extension, despite playing better than Koskinen lately, but that is the scenario. If Talbot plays well down the stretch and helps Edmonton remain in the playoff picture the Oilers have no choice but to keep him.
They have to do it for their players, but also their season ticket holders and fans. There is a lot riding on the next few months, and I don’t buy the suggestion Edmonton is showcasing Talbot.
They are trying to win games and he gives them the best chance right now.
GOAL SCORING PROWESS…
Fifty goal scorers are rare, but in the past decade even scoring 40 goals is difficult. In the past ten seasons there hasn’t been a year with more than eight 40-goal scorers, and the NHL hasn’t had a pair of teammates score 40 goals in the same season since 2012.
Year 40G men 50 goals Teammates
2009 8 1 None
2010 7 3 Alex Ovechkin (50) and Alex Semin (40).
2011 5 1 Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin (41 each).
2012 4 2 Evgeni Malkin (50) and James Neal (40).
2013 0 0 **lockout shortened season
2014 3 1 None
2015 3 1 None
2016 4 1 None
2017 3 0 None
2018 8 0 None
Ovechkin is the only player to score 50 goals in a season since 2012. Not surprisingly he is leading the NHL in goals again this year with 37. He had 49 last season, and is on pace for 56 right now. Jeff Skinner has 33 goals and is on pace for 51. Leon Draisaitl is third in goals with 32 and is on pace for 48. McDavid is on pace for 47.
Draisaitl and McDavid are on pace to become the first teammates since Malkin and Neal to score 40 goals, and they could become the first teammates to score 45 goals since Markus Naslund (48) and Todd Bertuzzi (46) did it with the Vancouver Canucks in 2003.
It is rare to have two teammates score at the rate McDavid and Draisaitl are. Enjoy it.
The 1990s saw four sets of teammates score 50 goals.
Mario Lemieux (69) and Jaromir Jagr (62) were the last to do it in 1996 with Pittsburgh.
Brendan Shanahan (52) and Brett Hull (57) did it with the 1994 Blues.
Sergei Federov (56) and Ray Sheppard (52) for the 1994 Red Wings.
Alex Mogilny (76) and and Pat Lafontaine (53) with the 1993 Sabres.
If McDavid and Draisaitl can stay hot and both reach 50 it would be remarkable feat for both of them.