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Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Should we expect Mikko Koskinen to improve?

As the season crawls to a close, Mikko Koskinen has become one of the biggest storyline surrounding the Oilers. When we hit the offseason things like trade targets and the search to build a front office before the draft will no doubt take over, but for now, the Oilers goaltending situation is a hot topic.

Koskinen has been flat out bad over his last six starts, only posting a save percentage of .900 or better twice. What’s even more concerning is that he’s already under contract for the next three seasons and given the fact he’s going to be paid $4.5 million, the Oilers will need him to be their starter.

That’s what we know, what we don’t know is whether or not Koskinen will be able to improve over the summer and actually give the Oilers a chance to make the playoffs next season.

THIS SEASON

Feb 28, 2019; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) makes a save in front of Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan (9) in the third period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

So far this season, 46 goaltenders have played 1400 minutes or more (starters or goalies in a 1A/1B scenario). Out of those goaltenders, Koskinen ranks 33rd in even strength save percentage, 32nd in even strength GAA, 41st in high-danger save percentage and 35th in goals saved above average.

Those are simply not the numbers of a goalie who’s about to be making $4.5 million. Those are the numbers of a solid 1B goaltender at the NHL level, which some could argue is exactly what he was supposed to be this year given his $2.5 million cap hit.

I also went back through his game logs and decided to see how many good games he had and how many bad games he had.

Koskinen appeared in 54 games this season. He posted a save percentage of 0.915 or better in 24 of those starts, he was between .890 and 0.914 five times, and he was below 0.890 a total of 25 times. Based off of those numbers, you could say that out of 54 games, Koskinen has given the Oilers a real chance to win a total of 29 times. Save percentage doesn’t tell the whole story, no number really does, but I did the same thing with his goals-against average.

He gave up under two goals a total of 25 times, he gave up three or four goals a total of 24 times, and he gave up five or more goals a total of five times. On the surface, you could say that on 25 occasions he gave the Oilers a great chance to win and in 24 games, the Oilers offence would have needed to win them the game, and in five games he was a major reason, if not the sole reason, why they lost.

When he’s been good, he’s been really good, but there have been a handful of games where he has hardly looked like an NHL quality goaltender. The 24 games where he gave up 3-4 goals are interesting as well. In a lot of those games, he would play well and make a lot of saves but then he would give up a goal at a bad time or give up a soft goal when the game was close. He would keep the Oilers in it for a portion of the night and then he would give up a goal that kills their momentum.

More often than not, true starting goalies find a way to make a big save when their team needs it and on too many occasions this season, Koskinen didn’t do that.

There are major red flags in Koskinen’s game, but is there reason to believe he could improve? Let’s look at both sides of that debate.

THINGS WILL GET BETTER

Feb 28, 2019; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) makes a save in front of Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan (9) in the third period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Koskinen gets beat up high, usually glove side, more than the average NHL goaltender. That’s simply a fact. An optimist could see that as a positive though. Koskinen is solid down low and if he can spend this summer improving on his ability to stop pucks going up high, next season could be a really good one for him. Players can improve.

This was also his first full NHL season. He’s had seasons in the past where he has played as many as 76 games when you combine KHL regular season, playoffs, and international play so he has played a lot of hockey before, just not at the NHL level and there is a difference.

He will have a full summer to work on his game and will come into next season with the security of a long-term deal and with a full year of NHL experience under his belt, which he didn’t have this year.

THIS IS MIKKO, DEAL WITH IT

Dec 9, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) makes a save on Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett (93) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

He’s 30-years-old. I don’t think Mikko is just finding out now that he isn’t very good up high. If it was as simple as “putting in a good summer’s work” then he probably wouldn’t have been out of the NHL for seven years.

He looks really strong at times, but he is not a legitimate starting goalie capable of starting 50-55 games. He likely needs a really strong backup who can push him and possibly take over for five or more games when Koskinen hits a cold streak. The only problem? The Oilers are paying Koskinen $4.5 million and if they want to find that established “1B” option, they’ll need to spend even more on their goalies which isn’t ideal considering their cap situation and the other holes they need to fill on their roster.

He’s not a rookie, so I doubt that Koskinen will suddenly figure it out at the NHL level. I think there’s a chance that we see some marginal improvement next year, but I think it may be a product of the team in front of him improving and staying healthy more than it would be a product of Koskinen figuring out his game. I think he is what he is, but he could be capable of having a better year than he did this year, if that makes any sense.

What say you? Could Koskinen improve his game to the point where he becomes “worth” his $4.5 million price tag? Let me know!



  • bcoil

    Is it the goalie or the Goalie coach ..Our goal coach has not had a very good track record with the goalies he has coached but all of the ones that have left have done well else where .Dubynk, Brossoit are two examples

    • Battman

      That’s where I’d start. Fire the goalie coach. We’ve had a number of big tenders over the past few years and they all seem to be beaten up high. That leads me to believe that the problem is in the instruction they are getting not the goalies themselves, especially seeing several of them leave and have success elsewhere. The coach is the one constant in all of it that directly works with the goalies

    • btrain

      First, change the goalie coach for the sake of it, but this is a bottom of the barrel problem for the Oilers. I kind of figure given how individual the position is, goalies should hire and fire their own personal coaches as they see fit. Tiger Woods isn’t going to have his coach assigned to him, why should a starting tender in the NHL?

      That said, whomever the goalie coach is, doesn’t change what the Oilers blue line looks like without Klefbom, Rusell, and/or Sekera on it. As much as the guys who have gone on to have success elsewhere deserve credit, they have also landed on much better and certainly more defensively structured teams. Brossoit is an obvious example of this while Dubnyk is a poor Oilers specific example as the Preds, Coyotes, and Canadiens also passed him along.

      The Oilers have also had, among others, Scrivens, Montoya, LaBarbera, Khabibulin, Gustavsson, Garon, Fasth, Deslauriers, Bryzgalov, Bachman, and Nillson try to stop pucks for them over the last 12 years. Did these tenders fail to find success in Edmonton because they didn’t have a good enough coach? or was it because they were not near good enough to bail out an extraordinarily inferior team on a consistent basis? Will Koskinen end up looking out of place from the above list? time will tell but I suspect he will fit in just fine unless the team defense finally improves/stays healthy.

      • Oilerz4life

        This is the league to hope that the goalie finds his game over the summer?

        Please, PLEASE find another home for this guy ASAP, maybe in the KHL.

        New puppet gm needs to make that priority #1.

  • hagar

    Be a lot easier to evaluate him when the rest of the team plays well.
    He for sure is regressing though. Prime A1 candidate for off season work.
    You don’t just pull awesome performances out of some magic box, the potential is there since we have seen it many many times.
    Not like he sucks all the time. Just like the rest of the team, he sucks at random, and is awesome other times. Nobody has figured out why the team as a whole constantly does that either.

  • TKB2677

    Koskinen has had stretches where he has been excellent and other stretches where he has struggled. I believe part of it has to do with how much he has played. He is coming from the KHL where they play way less games. He’s played 54 games this year, that’s the most he’s EVER played in his pro career. Before last nights game, he had played 24 of the last 25 games. Even for a seasoned NHL goalie, that a hell of a lot.

    Coming over from the KHL, he had to adjust to the NHL rink and game which is a lot different. He had to adjust a new team and City. He had to learn all the shooters. He had to learn about the demads of the NHL which are more than the KHL. That’s a hell of a lot to learn in 1 season. For next season, with a year of experience and having a better idea of what to expect, while I do not expect him to “improve” in the sense he will become this dominate goalie. I could see him improve where he is more consistent.

    • rnj

      I can see his potential as a solid .910 for 50 games tender. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the contract the OBC have provided which now puts pressure on Koskinen to perform at a level he probably isn’t capable of doing.

      The people responsible for this are still with the organization. It’s been happening since Hall, Ebs, and RNH all got 6×6 contracts and will continue to happen as long as they’re around. This team will not perform until management is cleaned out, period

  • Spydyr

    Why do the Oilers always sign player for too much money and term?

    Koskinen also has limited no-trade clause. The Oilers give them away like they mean nothing.

    That is the elephant in the room.

  • bwar

    Who was the last goalie who improved as an Oiler? Some improve after they leave but never while they are here. We should give Dustin Schwartz a $4.5M extension…

  • Spoils

    signing Koskinen to this contract was one of the crazier things from the outside looking in. such a small sample size, no real success. it led me to believe maybe the organization had made a promise to him that if he won the starting position they’d sign him to a longer-term contract since he took all his success in the K and converted it into a 1 year deal. Of course, they could never admit to that and that’s probably just conspiracy theory – tinfoil hat nonsense…

    but what a weird deal.

    let’s hope goalie coaching can turn him around in the off season.
    let’s hope Yammer has a great AHL playoff.
    let’s hope Puljujarvi turns north.
    let’s hope we have a great draft.

    but above all

    let’s get a GM that can turns this around.

    • Spydyr

      I hate to beat a dead horse but the GM position is not the issue. The issue is with the people that hire the GM and the people above that person.

      A fish rots from the head

      • Spoils

        I am not sure about that narrative. for starters… we all know deep down it is Katz’ son.

        but seriously, I expected much better from Pete, but he made a lot of errors his resume hinted at – he mismanaged the cap, he undervalued talent, he undervalued western players like Taylor Hall, he traded from positions of weakness, he rushed the build, he overvalued size… even then it is incredible how bad it worked out for him.

    • Hemmercules

      I’m still holding out hope they get it right this time but I have learned from the past way to many times with these guys so I wont be surprised if they screw up again.

      As terrible as the OBC has been, there is still that outside chance they get it right this time. 5th times a charm right? I mean, they are actually interviewing people this time so the odds of screwing up would be a little less I would think. Even if its Bobby doing the choosing at least he has some options this time. Not just a knee jerk hire. It all hinges on what power that new GM has though. He must be able to build his own management and scouting team or its just more of the same. Lowe and Bobby likely remain in some capacity no matter what happens with Mact probably moved to some newly created position.

      Or…just maybe….Katz is fed up and next week we see the axe come down on everyone in epic fashion.

  • tkfisher

    Mikko is a problem. But he’s not THE PROBLEM. The problem is that we have a management “team” who apparently made a “team” decision that this was our guy for the future after half a season. The Oilers management team is this teams real problem. PC was flat out one of the worst GM’s in LEAGUE HISTORY (top 3 or bottom 3 depending how you score it), but the rest of brain trust can’t hang idiotic organizational decisions on one idiot. A properly run organization should have an internal red team (A red team is an inside group that explicitly challenges a company’s strategy, products, ideas and preconceived notions. It frames a problem from the perspective of an adversary or skeptic, to find gaps in plans, and to avoid blunders). This organization has be run by idiots, that have idiotic ideas, that are approved and supported by a team of idiotic YES men. That is the only rational explanation for the level of failure this team has produced. We needed, and still need, a small internal team that take an idea like (Trade Hall, Trade for Reinheart, Sign Lucic, Sign Mikko, Acquire Manning, etc etc etc) AND IT IS THERE ONLY JOB TO RIP APART EVERY IDEA GOOD OR BAD AND PROPOSE WHY ITS NOT THE THING TO DO. Have a challenging debate. And then, if the idea is sound, it will stand up to the challenge and critic. If it’s not, DONT DO THAT DUMB THING.

  • Schmidt Head

    Like most Oilers not named McDavid or Draisaitl, he’s average at best, Not horrible and certainly not a star, just average.

    If the team improves, he’ll likely improve (somewhat) along with them. Given the past 13 years though, that’s a very big “if”!

    Nevertheless, I would IMPLORE!!! the Oilers management to NOT make the same mistake they keep making every off-season which is either trading away value for little return or signing some washed-up nobody that no one else wants to a huge contract in hopes that they’ll somehow, against all evidence, be that one magic saviour.

    Could we PLEASE!!!….. for once…. NOT go down that road?? Would everyone in the front office please learn the phrase…. “Draft and Develop”….. and have it tattooed onto their foreheads?

  • TKB2677

    I find it interesting that people here are calling for Schwartz’s head but when I listen to Kevin Woodley, the goalie guy who writes for a goaltending magazine and hangs out with all the NHL goalies. He raves about Schwartz on Gregor’s show.

  • Odanada

    With the OBC & BN at the helm, they will likely go for the big fix, which means they will get it wrong.
    They simply don’t get it and they’re never going to get it – they’re the problem. The righting of this ship takes a hockey acumen they simply don’t possess.
    To be blunt: they are inept bunglers whose intentions are the opposite of their results.
    They don’t have the honour to quit, so they’ll have to be shamed by being fired.
    I don’t like lumping Wayne in with them, but I don’t see how you can avoid it.

  • toprightcorner

    Koskinen won’t light the world on fire next year, but he should be solid and earn his $4.5 mill. He was overplayed since he became the starter and when you don’t get any game days off, it is extremely difficult to work on your game.

    A tired goalie means lower glove and more slouching, hence they get beat up high. I would be more worried if he showed a weak glove hand from the start, but it was only after playing so many games in a row and many back to back starts that the glove gave him issues.

    At the beginning of the season, the sharp angle shots were killing him, he put in a lot of work and he corrected the problem.

    A slight adjustment in his posture, where he holds his glove and being a couple of inches further out of the net and he will fix the issue.

  • FanSince72

    I’ll say it… if he is the starter next season they will be as bad as they are now. He is just not an NHL calibre goaltender. Plain and simple. Outright bad, and don’t blame it on the goalie coach. That’s nonsense. A coach can’t teach a guy to catch a flying puck. If he is the starter, the oil miss again, plain and simple, then McD demands out, and no one would blame him.

  • Ted

    As we are discussing $$$ and term let us look at Lucic again the $1M/goal guy! With Draisaitl’s contract he’s making about $170,000 /goal. If they were paid per goal at that rate Lucic would have made $1.2M a much more reasonable rate for a fourth liner!

  • Cody Black

    I don’t think it is unreasonable at all for a 30 year old to learn something new. A good goalie coach can get the most out of people and it doesn’t have to be something drastic either.

    • SkatinginSand

      As much as his glove hand has been a focus, an even bigger problem is that he is a terrible skater. Someone his size should be able to get from one side of the crease to the other in one push, yet he is constantly behind the play, off balance and putting himself off angle. I feel that he is always on his knees because he is not comfortable moving on his feet.
      Sure, he can improve on this, but good goalie coaches are primarily working on movement with 8 year olds. Koskinen is far behind the curve.

      • hagar

        Watch the difference between his play of late, and his earlier play when he was on point. He wasnt doing that awkward movement when he was playing well, and in fact, he moved around great for a big guy.