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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Forgotten Problem

If the Oilers are going to get back on track next season the to-do list is a long one.

Hire a new General Manager and/or a President of Hockey Operations.
Find a new Head Coach.
Clear cap space.
Address a lack of scoring on the wings.
Possibly find a right shot offensive d-man.

The problem I’m seeing is that even if they fix all of those issues, they still might not have the goaltending to get the job done.

We know Mikko Koskinen will be here next season but if they are going to have success, I think they need someone that can, at the very least, push him for the job. Koskinen has had an up and down first year with the Oilers and in a perfect world, the team would still be evaluating what they have. Instead, they signed him to a three-year deal worth $13.5 million dollars. The timing of that contract will never, ever, ever make sense to me or anyone else for that matter. However, the extension has been signed, and as bad as it was, there is nothing you can do about it now.

The big Finn has been left hung out to dry on numerous occasions by the team in front of him and has still managed to look brilliant at times. With that said, soft goals are happening far too often for a goaltender that will make $4,500,000 per season for the next three years. Goals like this one are the reason I don’t have faith in Koskinen’s ability to carry a team to the playoffs.

Among goaltenders who have played at least 20 games this season, Koskinen ranks 32nd in the league with a .907 save percentage.

WHO WILL HELP?

ANTHONY STOLARZ

Stolarz is getting a brief opportunity to prove that he has what it takes to compliment Koskinen. I don’t think he’ll see enough action to be an RFA at the end of the season and that’s not the end of the world. I’m pretty sure teams won’t be lining up to sign Stolarz as a UFA in early July and at this point, the Oilers should take a pass as well.

SHANE STARRETT

Starrett has been absolutely outstanding with Bakersfield this season. He has a 2.24 G.A.A. and an equally impressive .920%.

Starrett is by far the Oilers best internal back up option for next year. He doesn’t have a lot of minor league experience over his two years since leaving Air Force but he will be 25-years old by the time camp opens. In a perfect world, the Oilers would bring in a veteran to battle Starrett for the backup job.

BRIAN ELLIOTT

This might be the best the Oilers can do. He has a .919 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average with Philly so far this season. At this stage of his career, Elliott shouldn’t command the type of money that will scare the Oilers away.

If Elliott can stay healthy, I could see him outplaying Koskinen next season.

CURTIS MCELHINNEY

McElhinney will very likely end up on the market but if he can carry the Hurricanes to the post-season, they may possibly give him a new deal. He has a .923 save percentage this season and was at .934 in 18 games with the Leafs last year.

The career backup has signed eight NHL contracts and all of them have been for $850,000 or less.

JIMMY HOWARD

I think Howard would fit the bill as a guy who could most certainly push Koskinen. The issue with Howard is at this stage of his career I don’t see why he would want to come to Edmonton.

PETR MRAZEK

Mrazek will always be an intriguing player simply because of the upside you want to believe he has. He’ll be 27-years old next season so you’d be getting a guy who may have a few good years left.

KEITH KINKAID

Kinkaid has had some nice stretches during his career but he has a career save percentage of .906. After being moved prior to the deadline I think he would be more than happy to have a chance to come in and fight for the starters job.

EVERYONE ELSE

There are a number of other goaltenders who I don’t think will end up being available or have any interest joining the Oilers. Lehner would be crazy to leave the Islanders. Bobrovsky will cost too much. Smith is out of the question. Talbot would be insane to come back. Ward’s best days are well behind him. Neuvirth has been injured and/or brutal this year. Miller isn’t leaving California. Nilsson is just another version of Koskinen. Montoya, JK, LOL, LMFAO.

A TRADE?

I’m not sure the Oilers can justify moving assets to address their goaltending when they just gave a goalie $13.5 million bucks over three years. Sooooooooooo………

That’s all I got. I know the Oilers need to somehow improve their goaltending in the off-season but I’m just not sure how it can happen. Please share your brilliant ideas in the comments section.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • Flint

    I understand what you’re saying about that Nylander shot, but in isolation that could’ve gone in against Hasek as well. That’s luck. But, Koskinen hasn’t been good enough to warrant the extension he got, and that is the main idea here.

  • CARLSOTO

    I remember reading about how Devan Dubnyk turned the corner when he left Edmonton by changing how he tracked the puck with his eyes and his body; something along the lines using his head/eyes to square himself to the puck while he tracks it. I know the current goalie coach is not the same coach that was here with Dubnyk, but I don’t like the way the goalies in Edmonton play; they seem to go down far too early for such large goaltenders and get caught too often with bad angle goals. Maybe it’s time we embrace the new age NHL and find some skills coaches who are more cutting edge in their philosophy. Talbot always seemed to have a soft glove hand to my eye, and Koskinen does as well.

    Of course if we had a better forward group who could cycle the puck and keep offensive pressure on more often it would lead to less time spent defending in their own zone. When was the last time the Oilers consistently kept the offensive pressure on and completed a full line change in the offensive zone while still maintaining possession?

      • GriffCity

        He had pit stops in Nashville and Arizona as well before being waived through the Washington and Mtl orgs. So it was a small miracle he turned it around in Minny but half a dozen other teams passed on him as well.

      • Serious Gord

        It was as CARLSOTO cited – he got specialized training (at the recommendation of Sean Burke?) and he was transformed. The oil were correct to unload him at the time.

    • ziyan94

      You’re referring to head trajectory. Goalies follow the puck by moving their their head instead of following with their eyes, so that the rest of their body (shoulders, foot stance) naturally adjusts to face the puck better.
      I think I remember reading the same piece, and the biggest difference was Dubnyk’s new goalie coach and their willingness to try a new positioning strategy.

  • 50 Flex

    This team just frustrates me to no end. I actually liked Koskinen for what he was: A decent backup goaltender. But this so called professional organization was unfamiliar with the 10th grade math concept of small sample sizes and went and signed him to that contract. They forced me to resent Koskinen when there wasn’t actually anything wrong with him.

  • Axe

    I think u r forgetting something.. Since it would be hard to move koskinen with his contract and there are no better options out there that we know of, how about we get a new goalie coach?? It might be just me but I don’t have a lot of confidence in the dude we have right now….

  • Heschultzhescores

    Why is it that any knowledgeable hockey fan could see Kosk needed a few days off after the OT loss to the Preds where he played outstanding. All the people managing the Oioerz for millions and I swear a group of us on ON could do a more competent job. Trash all you want but the guys running our show are average at best in hockey IQ. But man can they drink wine and pat backs with the best of them.

  • camdog

    Sean Burke has turned many average goalies into Vezina quality goalies. At 4.5, they likely don’t have cap to bring in the back up we need. Oilers need to throw money at professional scouts and goalie coaches.

    • He was the goalie coach in Arizona when Dubnyk was there. People don’t seem to remember now but the reason Minny even took a shot on Dubnyk was because he was playing soo well in Arizona. We also know Burke turned Mike Smith from a journeyman backup into a borderline Vezina candidate. These are the type of people we should be bringing in. Management should be throwing piles of cash at people with succesful track records instead of just looking to the Oil Kings every time they have a vacant spot. If we actually hired somebody other then Bob Green then we’d have Chabot and potentially Aho instead of the ghost of Griffin Reinhart’s NHL career.

      • Didnt they throw lots of money at chia?? What did that get us. Maybe the management salarys should be part of the cap hit. This team has the 4th highest payroll in the league and we are still the laughing stock. Katz you should take your team to Seattle like you wanted. 88 months until your a free man connor

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Hey, how about this for an idea? Patience.

    Koskinen’s been in the league for, what, five months? How about giving him a summer to work on his game and smooth over the rough edges?

    There’s a decent goalie there, people. We’ve all seen it. Hell, earlier this year, it looked like he might just save the season. I’ve seen enough to know there’s still significant upside on this guy. A bit of a late-bloomer, sure. But so was Dwayne Roloson.

    And, maybe it’s the old peewee goalie in me, but I’m nearing my breaking-point for tolerating criticism of Koskinen’s flaws … every… single… time … he … allows… a … goal.

    Honestly, it’s getting kind of sickening. With almost every goal, someone goes onto social media to remind of his contract. With every loss he’s in, one of the writers on Oilers Nation offers up more pearls of wisdom on the goaltending situation. Wow-oh-wow, am I ever glad there wasn’t social media back in the 1980s. With the goals that were scored back then … yowzers.

    This season’s nearly lost, but next season isn’t. And yes, like his contract or not, Koskinen will be a part of it. Instead of the constant belly-aching, how about recognizing the upside here?

    Dustin – you’ve got a lot of good suggestions for backups. I think Elliot or Kinkaid would be fine, but what do I know. And I think we all know it won’t matter, anyway. I wish I could shake this feeling that, regardless of who signs here, he’ll be deemed by the folks on this site as the “wrong” guy about three seconds after he lets in a goal to high-glove-side. That’s the kind of fever swamp we’re all in right now. We don’t allow ourselves to be positive anymore. It’s fallen out of style.

    Patience. Hope. Quaint, old-fashioned concepts, yes, but I’m sticking with them because I have a feeling they’re gonna come back into vogue. And I’ll stick my neck out and bet that Koskinen comes to the team next fall with some of his flaws figured out. Professionals do that.

  • A-co

    For a guy that is 6’7″ he sure seems small in the net at times…and does he have training weights in his glove? He sure gets beat high glove side a lot. ..maybe he proves everyone wrong but giving a three year contract to guy with 30 NHL games under his belt at that money is another reason everyone in management should be promoted to cabana boy at the Katz Malibu pad..don’t fire your friends Darryl….shuffle them to the cabana

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    We just simply don’t have the talent to compete. Who’s fault is that? Upper management. They ALL need to be fired at the end of this season – before we bring in a new GM and head coach. We must start from scratch and build it from the ground up.

    More of the same is simply what got us into this mess to start with!

  • Heschultzhescores

    We dont want Austin “I’m to good a player” or Johnny Squirt Mouth. We have the best, accept it and deal with it. Once again the best player in the world plays in Edmonton.

  • Beer

    3 new Fs in the top nine, 3 new D. I am ok with Russel as a sixth-seventh defenceman. Any takers on who gets hurt first next year. Sek’s or Klef?
    Pulljarvi, time to move on. CBJ passed on him because he had a bad knee at the draft(which was hushed up), now he has a lower body injury. hmm. Hasn’t committed to learn to speak the same language as his coaches and teamates.

  • Lazarus

    Lol. Just signed goaltender to multi year deal at way too much. 2 months later..looking to most likely overpay for a goaltender in trade 😂
    Please never change Edmonton

  • The Puck

    The talk is always about personnel issues. Nothing will change no matter who comes in until the Oilers play consistently strong defensive and offensive systems. Defensively closing gaps, limiting odd man rushes, keeping shots to the outside and most of all reducing shots from the high slot. Offensively maintain possession with clean breakouts, limited dump and chase and a focus on shots from the slot rather than individual and home run plays and shots from the point. I had high hopes for Hitch in this regard but really no different than under Todd.

  • Serious Gord

    THE issue that you don’t talk about Dustin that overshadows ALL of the others is the need to gut the entire Organization of the FOK and FOG and thus eradicate the pathological levels of nepotistic behaviour.

    The rest is moot until that is done.

    • hagar

      I dont think that narritive is going to come from most sports writers for various reasons. Its clear to everyone who doesnt write for a living that the problem has been the same since the problems started.
      Not sure how many more years it will take, or if it will ever happen, but its all just random moves until the idiots are removed. They will keep making moves, keep promising hope, and every single year it will kick the can down the road.
      If 11 years of incompetence isnt enough, not sure anything will ever be enough. It should have been considered crazy and mind blowing they are still here after 5 years, let alone 11.

    • Heschultzhescores

      Flamers and Leafs telling the world how to win without winning crap. I guess they are both winning the cup this year. Both the Leafs and Flamers will be talking about what went wrong again soon. When you actually accomplish something, talk…until then, STFU.

      • Derian Hatcher

        First, the Oilers are brutal – no doubt. but I’d have to agree. If and when the Leafs / Flames win the cup, there may be some cred there. Until then, let’s see what these teams do in the playoffs.

        But, if it makes the trolls feel better about themselves, and keeps your chest puffed out, then keep piling on.

        Remember though, Miss Karma can be a wicked lady, so if she pays you a visit at elimination time, you best remember why she’s visiting.

    • Rufio Barcoli

      Great article?
      By a jealous nameless goof.
      I’m actually not upset about these senseless articles by these weak men from out East.
      It’s going to be that much sweeter when McDavid starts winning here and they have to write about it.

    • Derian Hatcher

      It would appear that anyone with a laptop in the Center of the Universe can put an article on Leafs nation. And that comment section! So much to read.

  • OldOilFan

    Stolarz vs. Starrett = ideal situation

    Goaltender is maybe the ONE position where the Oil can save money and not worry.

    Kosko is here to stay (contract wise) – which is okay, because somebody has to be the “first string” guy. But nothing prevents one of Stolarz/Starrett getting hot and starting ahead of Kosko. It happened in Pittsburg where Matt Murray moved ahead of Fleury. The Pens fared better than okay…

  • puckle-head

    I think the Oilers’ mental time frame when making moves should be to assume they cannot be a contender until 2021/2022 (maybe a season earlier if they get lucky). Some of these less-than-stellar contracts are going to take time to clear, and it will take some time for internal help to arrive/to identify opportunities to pluck good players away from other teams/to bring in some new young talent.

    While I believe it will take a few years to produce a contender, I do think they can improve this roster enough to squeak into the playoffs next year. But any moves they might want to make to that end must not be at the cost of their 3 year horizon. Fortunately for Oilers fans, and contrary to most things, it doesn’t have to take as long to clean up an organizational mess as it did to make it (just look at Toronto). But we are still looking at a years-long process. The default Oiler fan setting, if you will.

  • Serious Gord

    The Oil Aren’t going to be going anywhere next year except perhaps to a quick exit in the first round of the playoffs.

    Thus the goalie issue – which is a real one – can wait until the following year. No need to waste assets on this year – focus on more pressing things…

  • hagar

    Rather have kosk than talbot. Kosk has reflexes, and when he is playing well, looks like a proper nhl goalie. When talbot plays well, it means most of the shots are hitting him.

    • Lowe enuf

      Come on man. Koskinen had an average night against a poor team and got a win. He is not a consistent performer. He is on his knees or his ass all night. He is 6’7” and plays small. He has a weak glove hand. Leafs tore him a new one because they have skill and can move the puck. Sens didn’t because they traded away a lot of their talent at the deadline. Face it the Oilers beat one of the few teams who are worse than us.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    I hope Starrett is ready next year. The Oilers AHL affiliate (Bake now, OKC before that) has been a goalie graveyard for far too many years. It would be nice to develop a decent goalie for a change. Another hope is that Skinner develops well next year in the Bake. With any luck, in a few years we could have two legitimate NHL goalies that were developed in house. Imagine that.

  • Arfguy

    This team cannot score if it isn’t coming from Connor, Leon or Ryan. I look around the League and I see teams getting somewhat decent goaltending from castoffs like Jacob Markstrom and Robin Lehner. I don’t know for sure if Koskinen can give us decent goaltending next year, but the Oilers need to realize they cannot get solid goaltending every night. They need to find secondary scoring first.

  • OttawaOiler

    Lucic, Koskinen, 2020 first rounder, and any prospect not named Bouchard for Craig Anderson (equally bad, but only one year left) and a third round pick on July 2.