Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Scouting Report on Mike Smith

The Oilers have signed 37-year-old netminder Mike Smith to a one-year contract. TSN’s Frank Seravalli announced the signing last night. It is a one year deal with bonuses. Smith and Mikko Koskinen will battle for time between the pipes, but the starter’s job is Koskinen’s to lose. I assume, if he starts well he will keep it, but if he has a rough start Dave Tippett won’t hesitate to run with Smith. The Oilers need to make the playoffs this season, and they can’t afford to wait while their starting goalie “finds his game.”

Was Smith the right choice? I have opinion on it, but first I reached out to someone who knows much more about the position to see if Oilersnation should be excited or nervous about signing Smith.

Kevin Woodley from In Goal Magazine watches a lot of film on goalies. He watches for strengths, weaknesses, tendencies and more. He can breakdown a goalie much better than I, so I asked him four questions about Smith.

1. What do you like about Mike Smith?

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“Puck handling. I have already seen the jokes that he may be Oilers best puck-moving D now, but the makes plays few goalies try. And while the mistakes become glaring, the overall zone exits were up in Calgary when he touched the puck based on some internal numbers shared with me. I also love his size and competiveness. He plays deep, but isn’t passive, if that make sense. H remains active with his hands, which is a necessity when you play that deep, but was lost early last season, in part because of the changes to the chest protector and his struggles to adjust to new model. He ended up getting compact with his hands to protect himself, creating double coverage with his hands in front of his body and losing some of that crucial reactive element. Once he solved the chest protector issue with a Frankenstein combination of three models, he played closer to his level of recent seasons.

2. Why you think he could have success in Edmonton?

“Part of the problem during the first half of last season was he didn’t handle being second fiddle to David Rittich very well; something he candidly admitted to me late in the season. Also he’d hadn’t been a backup for a long time, or had to struggle to find his game without much playing time; and that’s not an easy adjustment for some guys.

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“Defined roles and having been through it should benefit him in Edmonton. So should being re-united with Tippett, but ironically he’s also been a goalie that plays better when busy. I predicted that would also be an adjustment in Calgary under Bill Peters, whose teams in Carolina tended to take away the outside shots that let a goalie feel his way into a game and pad the SV%, but then give up odd-man rushes after dominating possession at the other end. A heavier workload within games, like what he saw in playoffs, and a more balanced workload over the course of a season should help him with the Oilers. He’s also somewhat less vulnerable on lateral plays that the Oilers have tended to give up in recent years, because his deeper style means he barely has to move on a side-to-side pass to get post-to-post.”

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3. Concerns about his game?

“Strengths can become weaknesses at times: dead angles can be problematic as a result of playing deep. Deep can (doesn’t mean it will) equal flat along the goal line instead of squaring up on these plays, but he’s improved those areas in past few years too. Also at times he can overplay the puck trying to do too much.

“He can get reaching with those active hands at the expense of balance and end up on his belly, which means one big save but he’s done after that. If (Dustin) Schwartz (Oilers goalie coach) can get him moving into those a bit better, tracking into pucks more, it will help because when he stays over his knees and on balance, he’s a big body that takes up a ton of space.

“The one concern is injuries. He can’t play too much. If Koskinen struggles, they can’t overuse Smith.”

4. Why you weren’t as high on Petr Mrazek as Smith?

“It improved in Carolina, and maybe that could have continued in Edmonton, but there’s always been an exposure in Mrazek’s aggression and over reliance on athleticism that leaves him more dependent on the right team structure and less consistent overall. I’m not sure the upside is enough to ignore the potential lows or tendency to swing between them.

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“Mostly though, there was a sense he wanted term and more money and I’m just not sold even after last year, that he is a guy who can lock in to be a #1 for long periods,” answered Woodley.

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I don’t mind the signing, especially the term. Smith will have the drive to prepare to be a starter, and when he gets in if he plays well that will force Koskinen to maintain the same standard. But he was signed to be the backup, if he has to become the starter, then Koskinen has really struggled, and that will make the goaltending situation much muddier. If Smith plays 30 games, then the Oilers should be happy, because it means Koskinen was reliable.

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The Oilers have also signed Markus Granlund to a one-year $1.3 million contract. He is listed as a centre, but he’s played more on both wings the past three years than he did centre with the Canucks. I wrote about Granlund last week after the Canucks didn’t qualify him and became an unrestricted free agent.

Markus Granlund scored 19-13-32 in 69 games in 2017, then got banged up in 2018 and produced 8-4-12 in 53 games and last season potted 12-10-22 in 77 games. All three seasons were with the Canucks. He, along with Brandon Sutter, were their top two PK forwards in PK TOI the past three seasons. The Canucks PK was 29th in 2017, 21st in 2018 and 11th last season. He is listed as a C, but he has played more wing than centre the past three years. He was sixth, seventh and sixth on the Canucks in total faceoffs in each of the past three seasons. His GF% at 5×5 is an ugly 40%, and the rest of his underlying numbers are less than ideal. I’d pass if anything more than a one year deal.”

Granlund can play both wings and at centre. Over the past three seasons, he played 2403 minutes, and his most common linemates were Brandon Sutter (784 minutes), Loui Eriksson (596), Jake Virtanen (327), Henrik Sedin (245) and Daniel Sedin (210) and Bo Horvat (201). He has played more wing than centre, so I’m curious where Dave Tippett will employ him. I could see him starting on the wing, especially if the Oilers sign a centre in free agency.

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I thought Ken Holland would sign three forwards during free agency, and I’m told they are looking to land a centre if they can. The problem is there aren’t many right-shot centres out there.

  • TruthHurts98

    DOD 2.0 rages on. Plan the draft party, two worst glove hands in the league. The Sens might not win the race with the Oilers to dead last this next season.

  • Himynameistaylor

    >fans run Talbot out of town
    >oilers sign a goalie objectively worse than Talbot even on a good day

    Hahahahah. You schills get what you give. I love it. I bet Talbot finishes with more wins this season as a backup than koskinen does as a starter.

  • macinmillwoods

    “The Oilers need to make the playoffs this season” Stauffer made the same comment in his show last week. I just don’t see it happening. What are the 7 teams in the conference worse than the Oilers?

    • TruthHurts98

      Possibly L.A. but they have a better defense and goaltending tandem. Every other team has been getting actively better in the offseason. Are there even 7 teams that are going to be worse than the Oilers in the league??? Maybe Ottawa but the Rangers and Sabres have just added major pieces. Wings will be better but don’t think they make the playoffs. Devils improved and won’t be in the cellar anymore. Blue Jackets maybe fall into the bottom 10.

        • TruthHurts98

          I don’t know, they can’t keep firing people. The real consequence everyone is skirting still remains Connor demanding a trade. How long will he put up with the losing? I’m not sure this team is any better than last year, it might be worse.

          • Reg Dunlop

            Unlike you, I wait until Halloween to declare the season over. Just what have the Oil done to make them worse? They have avoided offering big term and money to generic free agents. One year contracts for small dollars could easily work as well as the Maroon and Chiasson deals. If not, the oil move on at the trade deadline. Big name free agent signings that work out are as rare as Flame playoff victories. Maybe the Oil have figured that out finally.

    • Bigdaddypuck

      Unless the coaching is good for ten point improvement it’s not happening. Stauffer is Employmed by the team and is probably giving a positive spin to fans. Unless cap space is retained and the team overachieves to that point I just can’t see it happening this year. Unless there is trades in the works or Lucic’s contract is moved I think we are drafting in the top ten again.

    • ed from edmonton

      I would estimate that “The OIlers need to make the playoffs” has been stated almost every year in the past 14. But this is only half a statement. The statement needs to be “The Oilers need to make the playoffs or ???????” If there are no consequences this makes no sense.

  • KootenayDan

    Pickins are slim for UFA goalies so Smith might be ok. Good luck to Cam Talbot in Calgary he is a really good person and not an awful goalie. Granlund has got to be better than Reider or Rattie I hope. The team has to improve internally unless Holland has more up his sleeve.

  • Oilfan_81

    Happy Canada Day Flames fans. As usual you have nothing better to do than talk Oilers. Apparently your hockey team is as quiet as downtown Calgary on a Tuesday afternoon.

  • Alf

    Pretty funny talk going on around here. Team and culture is already changing for the best. Oh and we have a couple of guys named McDavid and Draisaitl and now a super competitive goalie! I would like to think that corner is turning!

    p.s. I still hate that Hall trade.

    • ed from edmonton

      McElhenney is a career back up. The Oil needed someone who has at least a chance of being a starter. I would have preferred Mazurek, but McElhenney was never an option.

    • Joy S. Lee

      They want to see what Smith’s puck handling ability can bring to this team with 97 up front. It is a way of combating the #1 opposition strategy of dump and grind against Connor and his line… Smith fires it up before they have a chance to forecheck hard and there’s a certain guy hovering that may back off those pinches attempting to outnumber them down low and hem them in. Personally, I like the Smith option and am curious to see it play out.

  • Joy S. Lee

    I think you guys should add a 3rd button: Trash It, Cheers, and Pathetic. Maybe that’s too many letters, so you could use Wah-Wah. Just sayin’, there are so many that would qualify for that last category, and it would help discerning customers know which comments to skip right past, and maybe the ‘downers’ would get the hint. Hearing the amount of crying here gets really annoying, often sounds like a bunch of ten-year-olds.