Oilers Should Consider a New Goaltending Coach

With all the speculation on whether head coach Dave Tippett is going to have a job with the Edmonton Oilers in the very near future and general manager Ken Holland’s inability to go out and get reinforcements in net, it has taken any and all attention off of Oilers goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz.

Now with the team since 2014, he has had plenty of time and goaltenders to work with and be able to come up with something to show for it, but he hasn’t. With the next crop of young goaltenders making their way into the NHL and the Oilers in desperate need of solid goaltending to get them over the hump, someone new to help guide them and the team is long-past due.

Goaltenders Dustin Schwartz has worked with:

  • Ben Scrivens
  • Viktor Fasth
  • Richard Bachman
  • Laurent Brossoit
  • Tyler Bunz
  • Cam Talbot
  • Anders Nilsson
  • Jonas Gustavsson
  • Al Montoya
  • Nick Ellis
  • Mikko Koskinen
  • Anthony Stolarz
  • Mike Smith
  • Stuart Skinner
  • Troy Grosenick
  • Dylan Wells
  • Alex Stalock

The reason why it’s such a long list is that the talent isn’t exactly elite. You’d like to have a goaltender come in and spend five-plus seasons with the team. The state of the team has had a factor in so many goaltenders coming through and failing to reach their full potential, but now that the rest of the team is solid enough to compete, the Oilers need a goalie to match and a coach to help him get there.

Oilers Need to Hit on Goaltenders in Their System

The young goaltenders of focus that may have to help the Oilers into the future are Stuart Skinner, Ilya Konovalov, and soon after, Olivier Rodrigue. One of those three, if not more, have to hit for the Oilers since it’s so important in today’s NHL to draft and develop your own prospects and stars. Trading costs a lot, especially if the player is already coming into their own and will cost the Oilers some of their future that they’ve been drafting and developing over the past few years. They have 10 players on their current roster that they’ve drafted in the first three rounds, excluding Oscar Klefbom, who’s been injured for a while. They also have at least 10 more prospects that should make appearances in the NHL over the next three years.

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Though some teams may have to rely on trading because their drafting and developing aren’t up to par, the Oilers aren’t one of them. They can’t package their future because they passed on a player like Jesper Wallstedt in the 2021 NHL Draft or miss on all three promising goaltenders in their system.

Related: Oilers Should Look to Capitals to Address Goaltending Woes

All signs point to the Oilers adding a goaltender before the deadline with term, but if the new goaltender sticks around for more than two seasons and Schwartz is still with the team, regression will come.

History of Schwartz as the Oilers’ Goaltending Coach

Schwartz was hired in 2014, a horrible year for the Oilers that saw the team win just 24 games. The two primary goalies for the team that season were Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth, and they won just 21 games between them. Scrivens posted a 3.16 goals-against average (GAA) and .890 save percentage (SV%), while Fasth had a 3.41 GAA and .888 SV%. With how bad the team was overall, not much could have helped them out that year. Scrivens played just one more season in the NHL in Montreal, and Fasth didn’t play another NHL game.

There are three goaltenders that Schwartz has spent the most time with: Cam Talbot, Mikko Koskinen, and Mike Smith. Talbot spent the better part of four seasons with the Oilers and under Schwartz’s coaching. The first year in 2015-16, he had very respectable numbers, posting a 2.55 GAA and .917 SV%. The following year, Talbot set the Oilers’ single-season record for most wins in a season with 42 and improved both his GAA and SV%. That was the only year he improved, and coming into the Oilers, much of what he knew was probably still there from his time as a New York Ranger.

Talbot’s following two seasons saw him regress to the point where he got traded at the 2018-19 trade deadline. One year later, he found himself in Calgary and then Minnesota for the past two seasons, all good years for him. The teachings and time spent with Talbot had to have played a part in his regression because once he found a new home, he got right back to being a good goaltender.

If we take a look at Koskinen, he, like Talbot, improved the first season and then regressed below his first season the following two years. It could be that the initial coaching does well, and then they quickly become predictable, or Schwartz changes his tactics the longer he’s worked with a goaltender. But unlike Talbot and Koskinen, Smith is in his third season with the Oilers and comes in at the very end of his career. Despite that, Smith followed the same path of improving on his first season and then regressing. He’s only played six games this season, his third with Edmonton, but his numbers definitely indicate a big decline from last season.

Mikael Backlund, Mikko Koskinen
Edmonton Oilers, Mikko Koskinen. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

There are a couple of things to keep in mind. Every negative with the Oilers’ goaltending isn’t just on Schwartz, and every positive isn’t directly because of his work. Of the goaltenders who have spent a number of years with the Oilers, none of them have overall improvement under his coaching. In four seasons with the Oilers, Schwartz somehow hasn’t been able to find a fix for the horrible glove hand of Koskinen that every team seems to know and shoot for. At 6-foot-7, he should be a dominant goaltender like other tall netminders in the league, but instead, his glove hand holds him back, and he lets in a lot more goals than necessary.

If the Oilers are going to make changes in the offseason in regards to coaching, they should be looking at the issue with their goaltending coach. Bringing in a new face and voice that can help the young talent they have in their system could help them find a solution to their goaltending woes from within their ranks.

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