Oilers News & Rumors: Tippett, Koskinen, McDavid, Barrie, Kassian, Smith

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, there’s a back-and-forth going on between goaltender Mikko Koskinen and head coach Dave Tippett. It’s not exactly the best thing for a struggling hockey club for the goalie to feel like he’s being singled out. Meanwhile, the Oilers captain Connor McDavid has tested positive for COVID, as has Derek Ryan and Tyson Barrie. Can players like Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Jesse Puljujarvi and Warren Foegele step up when the team really needs them to? The good news for the team is that Zack Kassian and Mike Smith are back.

Tippett Calls out Koskinen

Tippett spoke with the media after Monday’s loss to the New York Rangers and said Koskinen wasn’t good enough and called the first goal brutal at a time the Oilers were playing pretty well. It appeared Tippett was blaming Koskinen for the loss, even though the coach did acknowledge the team didn’t get enough shots on the other goalie to get them back into the game.

Related: Forget Oilers Moving Mikko Koskinen: Why Would He Want to Stay?

While some fans have said that Koskinen deserves to be called out because of his poor play, others are wondering why Tippett would choose to target Koskinen when Smith hasn’t been reliable, the defense hasn’t been great and the offense hasn’t scored enough to warrant blaming only one player.

Tippett’s job has been talked about for a couple of weeks and many feel he’s on the hot seat. He responded to questions about his job security and said:

“That stuff doesn’t bother me a bit. I’ve been around too long and I’m with Ken Holland, who is a good man, so I don’t listen to any outside noise. He added, “The house is burning for you guys. Inside the coach’s office, we’re trying to put fires out.”

Koskinen Responds to Critics

The goaltender got a chance to respond to his critics, and to Tippett who was public in his criticism of Koskinen’s play. He noted, ”It’s not nice being thrown under the bus. I have to be better but at the same time, we scored 7 goals in my last 6 losses. I can’t score goals.”

Mikko Koskinen Anders Lee
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen corrals the puck in front of New York Islanders left wing Anders Lee (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

This is one of the first times Koskinen has ever really said much in this way and frankly, it’s a bit surprising that it’s taken this long for him to speak out. He’s been blamed for a lot of the Oilers’ troubles and it’s clear that while he’s not played well enough to be a regular starter, the team hasn’t been good enough around him either.

Holland Taking Hit For This Too

There is another segment of the fan base that wants GM Ken Holland to answer for the team’s recent struggles. An argument is being made that Holland is really the man responsible for all of this as he should have known that this goaltending tandem wasn’t likely to be good enough from the start and that any issues with either Koskinen or Smith could bring down the entire team.

The Oilers have salary cap issues, there are questions at multiple positions and many of the problems start at the top and exist because of the way the team was constructed.

McDavid, Ryan and Barrie on COVID Protocol

Tippett let the media know that not only is Connor McDavid not playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs because of a positive COVID test, but neither is Derek Ryan and Tyson Barrie. Those are the only three players the Oilers have out because of COVID, so it’s unlikely the game is postponed, but Tippett says it wreaks havoc on his lineup when the slow drip, drip, drip of names being added to the protocol list make it hard to ever get a full line up going.

McDavid was announced as unable to play on Tuesday after he missed his second straight practice. He missed Monday as well and had tested negative, but the Oilers kept him out just to be sure. He then tested positive on Tuesday. The Barrie news came on Wednesday.

It should be interesting to see if Leon Draisaitl can step up his game in the absence of McDavid and with no Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Leon is the main point of offense and he’ll be relied upon to get the rest of the offense going with hope that players like Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi can have big games.

Kassian and Smith Back For Oilers

The good news is that Kassian will be back in the lineup and Smith is back and healthy enough to get the start in goal for the team on Wednesday night. Kassian will need to come in and provide a physical spark for this team along with some solid pressure offensively. Smith needs to play as well as he did at the start of the season but more than that, stay healthy.

There’s a growing concern with Smith that any scrum or physical series in his net could result in him missing more action and being out of the lineup. The Oilers clearly can’t afford to have him on the shelf with Stuart Skinner down in Bakersfield and Koskinen struggling the way he has been.

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