There is plenty of blame to go around when you look at the streak of ineptitude the Edmonton Oilers have fashioned over the last 12 games as they prepare to face the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday. That includes pretty much everybody in the outfit from the GM on down.
Don’t like the team GM Ken Holland put together and there are some obvious holes he hasn’t filled? You don’t have to look very hard or long to come up with examples of that. Don’t agree with the way coach Dave Tippett has deployed the roster Holland has provided? Sure. Do you look at the options for bottom six forwards and shudder? Me too. I’m guessing that many of you have had a problem with the goaltending.
I’m with you. In fact, between watching the once robust Mike Smith, who has made a career in the crease by being full of piss and vinegar, get old and break down before our eyes, and seeing Mikko Koskinen prove again in Monday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers he’s too erratic with a heavy workload, it starts with the crease for me. That’s where I look first.
Specifically, I’ve got eyes for Koskinen, ripped by Tippett in his post-game availability. Fifteen seconds in, Koskinen shot a puck over the glass for a penalty. Later, Koskinen coughed up the puck behind the net, leading to the 1-0 goal by Alexis Lafreniere. It’s tough to imagine a worse start, although Koskinen losing it after allowing four goals on the first four shots he faced vs. Vancouver last May is fresh in the minds of many. I’ve seen enough. You?
START IN GOAL
If Koskinen can’t be counted on to stop pucks and Smith can’t stay healthy, it makes all the sense in the world to put in a call for Stuart Skinner in Bakersfield, as Jason Gregor suggested earlier today. Putting Skinner in the paint now obviously doesn’t address all of the issues challenging the Oilers, but at the very least it’s a place to get started until Holland can get explore his options something more done in the crease. If Skinner comes up and Smith is declared healthy, I’m using them in tandem and Koskinen goes on waivers.
Again, this isn’t about hanging all of the team’s shortcomings on Koskinen. Holland went back to Smith this off-season instead of looking elsewhere for younger options. And what about finding a third-line centre? And just for the hell of it, feel free to change things up and score the first goal once in a while, fellas instead of constantly chasing games. On and on.
We’ve seen Koskinen struggle when the workload gets heavy, and it’s been too heavy because of Smith’s inability to get and stay healthy since the third game of this season. That’s not Koskinen’s fault, but it’s his problem. We’ve seen great stretches by Koskinen during his time here, but we’ve seen the flipside too often when they ride him too hard.
The problem is, when goaltenders have a habit of allowing bad goals or early goals, which Koskinen does, it’s not just about the numbers. When it happens again and again and again, you can see a team sag. You’re not going to get any usable quotes about that from teammates in the dressing room, but occasionally a coach will vent like Tippett did last night.
So here we are. There’s much to do. All things considered, before the trades, firings, hirings and bigger moves that’ll inevitably be made down the road, starting in the blue paint makes a lot of sense in getting this outfit headed the right direction.
Previously by Robin Brownlee
- All the Answers
- Off the Top of My Head
- I’m Available
- “Zero Symptoms”
- Off the Top of My Head
- About Jakob