Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner’s workload is one of the highest in the NHL
1 month ago
One of the biggest drivers for the Oilers turnaround this season has been the play of 25-year-old netminder Stuart Skinner. Skinner struggled early on in the 2023/24 regular season, posting a save percentage of 86.1 percent and a goals saved above average (GSAA) of -9.07, which was the worst in the league among 57 goalies who had played at least 200 minutes up until that point.
But since the coaching change, Skinner’s game has turned around, having posted a save percentage of 92.2 percent in his last 23 games, with a GSAA of +11.14 in all situations. Among 64 goalies in the league who have played over 400 minutes since November 12th, when the coaching change occurred. Skinner ranks seventh best in the league when it comes to save percentage and fourth when it comes to goals saved above average.
The concern with Skinner is that while he’s been very good for the Oilers, his workload remains one of the highest in the league. He’s played 1,847 minutes in total this season, which is the seventh-highest in the league. With Jack Campbell in the AHL and Calvin Pickard only getting a handful of starts, Skinner has now played 72.7 percent of the Oilers’ total ice time this season, which is the fourth-highest proportion in the league. He’s only behind Alexandar Georgiev (79.9 percent in Colorado), Connor Hellebuyck (74.5 percent in Winnipeg) and Sergei Bobrovsky (72.9 percent in Florida).
The table below lists all 32 NHL teams, sorted by their points percentage, with the proportion of total ice time that their goalie with the most minutes has played for them this season.
Skinner’s proportion of 72.7 percent of the Oilers total ice time is well above league average, which is currently 58.6 percent this season. It’s interesting to note that teams like Boston, Vegas, Dallas, and Carolina – all of which have championship aspirations this season – are posting strong results and have spread out the workload among their netminders. Some of it is by design, and some of it is due to injuries or poor play. Nonetheless, these teams should have an edge with better-rested goalies come playoff time when goaltending becomes a significant factor.
It does appear that most NHL teams have been trending towards tandem goalies for a while now. Think back to the 2016/17 season when Cam Talbot played the most minutes among goalies that season, playing 73 games and over 86% (!) of the Oilers’ playing time. That season, the league average proportion of the workload for a starting goaltender was around 64.1 percent or about 53 games. That proportion dropped by 10 percent over the next five seasons, with the league average proportion of workload dropping to 57.7 percent in the 2022/23 regular season (or about 47 games). And it’s worth noting that the two Stanley Cup finalists from last spring both had multiple goalies share the workload in the regular season. Vegas was well below the league average proportion level for starting goalies, while Florida was just below it.
The concern for the Oilers is that with one of the hardest travel schedules, the overall grind of the regular season and the lack of options in net, there’s a very real possibility that Skinner won’t be as rested and fresh as some of the others when the playoffs start. With 40 games left in their schedule, the Oilers really need someone to play at least half of them, so that Skinner finishes the season with about 52 games. This would still be higher than last year’s league average number of games for a starting goalie (47), but would at least be lower than the 61-game pace he’s currently on.
It’s imperative that the team either address this workload issue internally and either call up Olivier Rodrigue or play Pickard more frequently over the next few months. And if neither of those goalies can get the same level of trust from the coaching staff as other netminders in the league, then it’s probably best for management to acquire someone who can. It is never ideal to spend assets at a trade deadline when the market prices will likely be sky-high, but there’s a lot on the line for the Edmonton Oilers considering the star players on the roster and the pressure on the team to win as soon as possible.
Data: Natural Stat Trick
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