Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Do the Oilers actually need to acquire another goaltender?
23 days ago
Remember the 2-9-1 start for the Edmonton Oilers? When the sky was falling? A lot has changed since then.
On November 10, they were tied for last in the league in points with the dreadful San Jose Sharks. Over his first eight games, Stuart Skinner had posted an .854 save percentage along with a 3.87 goals-against average and a 1-5-1 record. Jack Campbell was somehow worse, as he had an .873 save percentage and a 4.50 goals-against average in his five games played, along with a 1-4-0 record.
On November 7, the Oilers pulled the trigger and sent Campbell down to the American Hockey League while replacing him with third-stringer Calvin Pickard.
Skinner had a rough start against the Sharks in his first start after Campbell was sent down. However, that was the last game of the Oiler’s awful start to the season, as they proceeded to win three straight in what is realistically their season turnaround. Since November 11, the Oilers are 27-6-0, with Skinner posting a .926 save percentage and a 2.02 goals-against in that stretch.
During Edmonton’s historic 16-game win streak, Skinner is 12-0-0 and has a .950 save percentage and a 1.41 goals-against average. There has only been one game where he’s had a save percentage below .926, and that was due to a literal last-second goal against the New York Rangers.
As of the All-Star break, Skinner now has a .910 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average in 34 games played. After starting his season 1-5-1, Skinner now has a season record of 23-9-1 along with two shutouts. It’s safe to say that the Oilers have their starting goaltender.
Dec 10, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; New Jersey Devils forward Jesper Brett (63) looks for a rebound in front of Edmonton Oilers goaltender Calvin Pickard (30) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
But what about a backup?
Skinner is playing a lot of games this season. Out of Edmonton’s 45 games, Skinner has appeared in 75.6% of them, which is a pace of over 61 games during an 82-game season.
The Oilers have used two other goaltenders, Pickard and Campbell. The former has held his own, posting a .915 save percentage and a 2.34 goals-against average in eight games, along with a 5-2-0 record. Campbell, well, we’ll get back to him.
Although Pickard has been good with Edmonton, picking up a shutout and winning two games against the New Jersey Devils, he may not be the ideal backup netminder. For his career, he has played 124 games and has a .904 save percentage and a 2.98 goals-against average.
Skinner may be the starting goaltender for playoffs, but what happens if an injury occurs? Pickard has never played in a National Hockey League playoff game and, in fact, has only played in five American Hockey League playoff games in 12 seasons.
Pickard isn’t bad, but he isn’t an ideal backup to carry into a “Cup or Bust” playoff… well, enter Jack Campbell. It’s no secret that Campbell has struggled in his Oiler tenure. In his two seasons with the team, the 32-year-old has an .886 save percentage and a 3.53 goals-against average. The record of 22-13-4 is more a product of Edmonton being a really good team, rather than Campbell being a factor between the pipes.
Even his tenure with the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League hasn’t been great in 2023-24. In 16 games with the team, he has a .904 save percentage and a 3.02 goals-against average. However, let’s dissect his season with the California-based team.
From November 9 to December 8, Campbell played in eight games and allowed 27 goals on 239 shots, which is an .887 save percentage. That’s better than what he posted in five games in the National Hockey League in 2023-24, but it was reminiscent of his 2022-23 season with the Oilers, where he had a .888 save percentage.
However, over his next eight games, Campbell faced 249 shots and saved 229 of them for a .919 save percentage. It appears that he has found his confidence once again, as he has just one game in that eight-game stretch with a save percentage below .810 and makes up for it with five games with a save percentage above .930.
Let’s be frank here, if the Oilers call up Campbell, this opportunity will surely be his last with Edmonton. With that being said, with Campbell’s strong play and a defensive system that actually works, perhaps he can be that 1B that the Oilers need to alleviate minutes from Skinner.
It’s also worth noting that top goaltending prospect Olivier Rodrigue has put together an excellent season down in Bakersfield, as the 23-year-old has a .920 save percentage in 18 starts. It’s not inconceivable that Rodrigue gets a look at the big league level at some point this season.
With all of that in mind — Stuart Skinner’s rebound to his previous season’s self, Calvin Pickard’s solid play as his backup, and two goalies performing well in the AHL — the Oilers might not need to use any assets to acquire a goaltender ahead of the trade deadline.
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