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.
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
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
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!