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41 Days Until The Season Begins

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
7 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane. Today at No. 41 we have Mike Smith, the enigmatic veteran goaltender who helped the Oilers get back into the playoffs. 
Smith was selected by the Dallas Stars in the fifth round of the 2001 draft and broke into the NHL during the 2006-07 season after four years spent between the ECHL and AHL. He put up a .912 save percentage over 23 games splitting the Stars’ net with Marty Turco and was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team.
The Stars traded Smith in January of 2008 to the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the return that netted them star forward Brad Richards. Smith spent the next four seasons splitting the net on some pretty bad Lightning teams and left Tampa to join the Arizona Coyotes in free agency.
In his first year in the desert, Smith broke out and posted a .930 save percentage over 67 games in the regular season. He then helped the Coyotes reach the Western Conference Final while putting up a .944 save percentage in the playoffs.
Smith spent five more seasons in Arizona but the team didn’t make it back to the playoffs again. He was traded to the Calgary Flames ahead of the 2017-18 season but again missed out on the playoffs. In 2018-19, the Flames finished with the best record in the Western Conference but bowed out in the first round despite Smith putting up a .917 save percentage.
In his first off-season as the general manager of the Oilers, Ken Holland signed Smith to a one-year contract to share the net with Mikko Koskinen. His first season was a rollercoaster ride but Smith helped the Oilers fly out of the gates in 2019-20 and stay in the mix of the playoffs before the season got paused in March because of the pandemic. Smith got shelled in Edmonton’s first bubble playoff game and the Oilers rolled with Koskinen the rest of the series.

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Holland brought Smith back on another one-year deal and rolled with the same tandem during the shortened 2021 season. Smith was excellent for the Oilers and finished seventh in Veinza Trophy voting with a .923 save percentage in 32 games. He was also rock-solid in the playoffs but Connor Hellebuyck was unbeatable and the Oilers got swept in four games.
Smith signed a two-year deal with the Oilers in the off-season and the Oilers again went with the same goaltending tandem. Things changed quickly as Smith was injured a couple of games into the season and rookie Stuart Skinner split the net with Koskinen in the veteran’s absence.
Skinner performed well in his debut and many called for the Oilers to go back to the rookie when the team dropped Smith’s first five games upon returning from the Injured Reserve in January. Things turned around in February when the Oilers changed coaches and Smith posted a .926 save percentage the rest of the way.
Come playoff time, Smith had some gaffes during Edmonton’s first-round series with the L.A. Kings but stopped 59 of 61 shots as the Oilers won Games 6 and 7. He got shelled in the first game of their second-round series with the Calgary Flames but put up a .922 save percentage in Edmonton’s four consecutive wins.
By the time the Colorado Avalanche rolled around in the Western Conference Final, Smith’s magic wore off and the Oilers got swept. In the off-season, it was announced that Smith wouldn’t play again and he would spend the second year of his contract on the Long-Term Injured Reserve.
Smith finished his NHL career with 299 wins and a .912 save percentage. He ranks 12th-highest all-time in save percentage in the NHL playoffs at .924.

PLAYER COUNTDOWN PRESENTED BY BETWAY


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