Welcome to the 2020-21 season review and 2021-22 season preview player-by-player! In this, and other articles, I’ll be, well, reviewing the Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 season and previewing the 2021-22 season. You can read about the analytics behind my analysis here.
Sure, the season is underway — but we have a few players left to check in on.
Today, that’s Mike Smith.
There’s only one way to put Mike Smith’s 2020-21 season: incredible. At 38 years old, he found the fountain of youth and had one of the best seasons of his NHL career.
The fact he was able to do so was very unexpected. It was his second year with the Oilers and year one was far from perfect. Year one saw him post a 19-12-6 record, a .902 save percentage and an abysmal -7.7 goals saved above average.
Last year? Almost the opposite. He posted a 21-6-2 record, a .923 save percentage while notching a 13.9 GSAA. Smith’s save percentage and his GSAA both ranked seventh in the league among goalies who played over 20 games.
Smith was a rock for the Oilers. A leader not only in the dressing room, but on the ice, too. He took over the reins as the teams number one in net ater missing the first month of the season due to injury.
No matter the injury, the return was great. Many, myself included, had to eat their words on his 2020-21 campaign. Can he replicate the success again now a year older?
Early returns are promising. Through two games, Smith has two wins, a .953 save percentage on 85 shots that put him right at the top of the league and 3.9 GSAA. I’m still apprehensive to think he can maintain, or even replicate the high level of success he saw the year prior.
But the truth is, if there’s someone who can do it it’s Smith. He seems as motivated as any player in the NHL and has all the intangibles you want in a leader. The biggest question I have is can his body hold up?
At the end of the day, the Oilers are a team desperately in need of him being a great goaltender. The team feeds off his energy and the team undoubtedly relies on him.