Edmonton Oilers: Could Mike Smith actually push them to playoff success?

Edmonton Oilers, Mike Smith (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Edmonton Oilers, Mike Smith (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Mike Smith’s season this year on the Edmonton Oilers has confounded me as much as everyone else.  He’s currently in a 3-way tie for 11th in the NHL in wins with 14 – and that was after spending the 1st 2 weeks of the season injured.  He’s 22nd in the league in sv%, and even higher if you take out all the goalies who have played less than 10 games this season (now he’s up to 13th).  He’s 29th in the league in GAA, 21st if you take out all the goalies who have played less than 10 games this season.  He’s currently riding the 2nd best sv% of his career and the 3rd best GAA of his career.

Mikko Koskinen was dealt a bad hand at the beginning of the season when Smith was out so you have to take his numbers with a grain of salt.  Nonetheless, it’s obvious that Smith has come out of nowhere – at the age of 39 no less – to become the hottest goalie in Oilers silks right now – and one of the hottest in the league since he came back from injury.

Now at this point, I think it’s safe to say the Oilers are looking at a playoff spot unless they completely implode from now until the end of the season.  A good regular season doesn’t guarantee playoff success in the slightest, but typically if a goalie is hot in the regular season he carries that momentum over to the playoffs.

There are many ingredients necessary for playoff success, and 1 is either solid goaltending or a goaltender who’s playing hot right now who they can ride throughout multiple series.  Smith definitely fits into the latter category this year.  It’s probably a pipe dream to assume Smith’s play will singlehandedly win the Oilers the Stanley Cup, but stranger things have happened.

The Edmonton Oilers have enjoyed success with a hot goaltender

The Oilers are no stranger to riding a hot goaltender either.  Look at 2006.  They acquired Dwayne Roloson from Minnesota at the deadline and he fits like a glove here from day 1.  There’s no question in my mind that if he had stayed healthy the Oilers likely would’ve won the Cup in 2006 instead of Carolina.

Chris Pronger and Ryan Smyth were both factors in that series, along with Jason Smith and a few other guys, but Roloson was the single biggest reason why the Oilers even made it that far in 2006.  Nobody, including Oilers fans and media, thought that team would even make it to the finals, never mind win the Stanley Cup, yet they came very close that year, and it never would’ve happened without Roli the goalie, as we called him then.

Could history repeat itself?  Maybe, maybe not.  I’m not going to naively declare that Smith will carry us all the way to winning the cup, because personally – and I’m sure most people will agree with me here – the Oilers are a good team but not to the level of a Stanley Cup contender just yet.  A few more pieces, a prospect who ripens here and there, and better goaltending over the long term?  Sure.  But today we are not that team.

But you just never know.  The Habs won 2 cups in 1986 and 1993 backstopped by Patrick Roy in net.  They had a few good pieces here and there but not enough depth to win without Roy.  If Roy had ever been injured in either of those 2 years, I guarantee you the Habs fortunes would’ve turned out a lot differently.  The only true superstar on those teams was Patrick Roy.

Buffalo made it all the way to the finals in 1999 mostly because of Dominik Hasek.  If the Oilers do win the cup – or even make it to the finals – based on riding a hot goaltender, it won’t be precedent-setting because it won’t even be the 1st time in franchise history it’s happened.

As many NHL players, coaches, and GMs are fond of saying, all you have to do is get into the playoffs, and then you never know.  Expect the unexpected.  It’s also interesting to note that outside of Smith’s 1 game debacle in last season’s play-in series with Chicago, he has an sv% that’s over .940 2 out of 3 years.

So, he knows how to elevate his game for the playoffs.  And if he’s playing this way now in the regular season?  If history repeats itself he’ll be back to .940 form, and the sky’s the limit with that kind of goaltending in the playoffs.

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Now, before readers come after me in the comments section, I’m not saying it will happen, just that it could happen. Just get into the playoffs, and after that, anything can happen.  Even old Mike Smith winning us the Stanley Cup, as improbable as it might seem.