Welcome to the annual wrap-up of the most-read articles of the last year!
This was a fun one.
Jason Gregor dropped this piece on June 7th, a day after the Oilers were eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche, and he had tons of juicy information.
Some of the biggest news to come out of it was that surrounding Mike Smith, who Gregor reported was considering retirement.
Here’s some of what he wrote:
In the past few days, and mainly last night, I read many suggesting the Oilers need to upgrade in goal. How realistic is it?
The past two regular seasons Mike Smith had the sixth best Sv% among starting goaltenders. He also had a great value contract in terms of his contributions. He had the 44th highest AAV in 2021 and was 39th ($2.2m) this season. He’s currently played the fourth most playoff games the past two seasons.In 2022, only 17 goalies played five playoff games. Smith had the sixth highest Sv% at .913. Yes, he makes a few highlight reel errors now and then, but thinking he is easily replaceable is misguided. Stuart Skinner has 13 career NHL starts, and only two came against teams who made the playoffs. He lost both of those. He’s a young goalie with potential, but at this point, I don’t think anyone can accurately say how good he will be.I’ve heard rumblings that Smith is considering retirement. His salary next season ($2.5m) is higher than his AAV ($2.2m) so if he does retire he won’t count against the cap. He fought back his emotions in his post-game presser last night. He’s an emotional person, so maybe it was simply the disappointment of losing, but the structure of his contract, having his sons attend post-game pressers at times this playoffs, his age and his emotion last night, make me think retirement is a legit possibility. He will get a job in management/hockey operations somewhere when his career his over, if he wants it. He’s bright, works hard and is very likeable. He proved he can still compete, and play well, in the NHL this year, but does he want to do all the work in the off-season to get ready for next season?If he decides this is it for him, I expect he will tell Ken Holland before free agency. He wouldn’t leave the organization later in the summer when the UFA market has dried up. It is short-sighted to think replacing Smith will be easy. There are good goalies available, but how many will sign for the same $2.2m cap hit that Smith has? And are you certain they will be as good in the playoffs? Playoff success, even for top-end goalies, is far from a certainty. Ask the Flames.Marc-Andre Fleury, Darcy Kuemper, Jack Campbell, Ville Husso, Martin Jones, Braden Holtby, Casey DeSmith, Martin Jones and Thomas Greiss are the UFA goalies who played 25 games last season. Alex Georgiev is an RFA and wants an opportunity to play more. He won’t get that behind Igor Shesterkin in New York. There are some good goalies available, but they likely will cost more and there is no guarantee they perform as well as Smith. He is replaceable — most of us are in our jobs — but I would caution those claiming Smith was a major reason Edmonton couldn’t get to the next round. It will be difficult for him to be as good next season, that is a valid concern, and I’m not advocating they should not look at options, but scapegoating Smith isn’t a great look from my seat.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]