About Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
I’d forgotten all about the prediction long-time columnist and HHOF writers wing member Terry Jones made on July 20 when he wrote that the Edmonton Oilers would sip suds from the 2024 Stanley Cup until I came across it this morning.
With training camp fast approaching, I came upon Large’s bold prediction while looking for anything new about Oilers’ stoppers Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell. That’s fitting since it doesn’t take a vast intellect to figure out the Oilers won’t be getting near the silverware unless Skinner and Campbell improve on a season in which the Vegas Golden Knights bounced them in the second round of the playoffs. Thanks, Captain Obvious.
Can Skinner and Campbell or Campbell and Skinner – either order will do as long as they stop pucks – provide the quality the Oilers need to set off a sixth Cup parade? While that’s not the only question going into another season of this team’s win-now edict, it’s the single most important one that’s facing coach Jay Woodcroft and the 2023-24 edition of the Oilers.
My take is Skinner and Campbell are capable of providing the goaltending the Oilers need to have a chance because I don’t think that they were all that far off for several stretches last season. Were they inconsistent at times? Sure. Are they overmatched when at the top of their games? No, I don’t think so. Of course, your guess is as good as mine. What say you?
THE WAY I SEE IT
Jan 21, 2023; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) and goalie Stuart Skinner (74) celebrate their victory against the Vancouver Canucks Rogers Arena. Oilers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The storyline we know. Inked to a five-year deal, Campbell was pencilled in to be the starter, but he struggled out of the gate and gave up the crease to Skinner. He got back in the grove with nine straight wins in January and February and he was outrageously good in limited duty during the post-season. All told, Campbell finished up at 21-9-4 with a 3.41 GAA and .888 save percentage in 36 appearances. He was all over the place.
That .888 comes after back-to-back seasons of .921 and .914 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. A big chunk of that was an .831 with the Oilers shorthanded. Campbell was .887 shorthanded with Toronto in 2021-22. All told, Campbell is a career .910 in 171 games including that .888 last season. I believe there’s room for a bump. Anything that’s 9-something works.
Skinner, 24, was a local-boy-makes-good story on the way to being a finalist for the Calder Trophy. He finished the season at 29-14-5 with a 2.75 GAA and .913 in 50 games despite some big swings in his play. It’s the second round of the post-season against Vegas that bit him on the way to a 5-6-0 record, 3.68 GAA, and an .883. In his final two games versus Vegas, he allowed eight goals on 39 shots.
We don’t have a track record for Skinner at the NHL level to look at for hints about what happens next, but I wonder if he wore down at the end of the season. Skinner hadn’t reached the 50-game mark since turning pro in 2018-19 until last season. I can’t say for sure that was a factor, but having Campbell’s game sorted to begin this season could allow for a more even split of the workload.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Of course, all the above comes with the caveat that allowing too many goals doesn’t fall solely on your goaltenders. The Oilers were too often guilty of making big mistakes that ended up in the net last season. Cutting down on that and lapses in coverage as well as tightening up on the penalty kill are all factors.
The Oilers are talented enough and offensively explosive enough even with some flaws that they don’t need great goaltending to win a Stanley Cup. They just need goaltending that’s better than what we saw last spring. I say Skinner and Campbell are capable of that. You?
Recent articles from Robin Brownlee