Has Stuart Skinner been the Oilers MVP?

Photo credit:Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
1 month ago
We are officially in April and can say that Stanley Cup Playoff hockey will be played this month at Rogers Place. Now that we’re almost there, I’m thinking about how Stuart Skinner probably deserves more love for his role in getting the Oilers back into contention. 
It was quite the winding road for the Oilers to get here. On December 1st, they still sat in 27th in the league in points. From that point on, they’ve boasted a record of 36-11-3 and are the only team in the league whose points percentage is above .700 (and they’re up at .750).
We’ve come a long way from that infamous loss to the San Jose Sharks on November 9th that ultimately led to Jay Woodcroft being relieved of his duties and also led to a certain Oilersnation staff member tweeting out that we were watching the Connor McDavid era unravel right before our eyes (it wasn’t me, I swear. Don’t look it up though).
Well, here on April 1st, I’m looking a little foolish for thinking that way, but honestly, at the time, it wasn’t even that much of a hot take or overreaction. The Oilers were in a very tough spot and they just looked absolutely lifeless.
It took them an incredible turnaround to get to this point, and while a 16-game winning streak certainly helped, the Oilers deserve a lot of credit for how consistent they’ve been over this stretch.
Since December 1st, they’ve only lost three straight games twice, and in one of those stretches, they picked up two overtime losses. There hasn’t been any sort of elongated slump, and that’s allowed them to not give back any of the ground they’ve made up.
To play at this level for as long as the Oilers have been takes a strong effort from everyone on the roster, but it’s also no secret that the Oilers’ best players have really stepped up their level of play.
Look at Connor McDavid. On November 13th, he was tied for 73rd in league scoring and was 13 points back of the scoring lead. On December 1st, he was ten points back of Nikita Kucherov for the scoring lead. 
Full credit to both Kucherov and Nathan MacKinnon as well because even as McDavid heated up, they’ve both continued to rack up big performances. Since December 1st, MacKinnon has actually out produced McDavid when it comes to sheer volume of points but McDavid has the edge when it comes to points per game. It is wild that McDavid has been almost at two points per game for the last 50 games of the season.
He’s been on another level and has worked himself right back into the conversation for the Hart Trophy as well, which brings me to my next question: is he the Oilers MVP this season?
I realize some of you may roll your eyes at this but I think there is a legitimate argument here.
Yes, Connor McDavid flipping the switch is a big reason why the Oilers turned their season around but if you look back at the team’s 16-game winning streak there were a lot of nights where Stuart Skinner was their best player.
Also, if Connor McDavid never got up to a nearly two-point-per-game pace, I could still see a world where the Oilers work themselves back into the playoff picture. They wouldn’t be fighting for the top spot in the division but they would still be a playoff team.
Can you imagine a world where Stuart Skinner never bounced back?
The Oilers had no other option. If Skinner hadn’t found his game, this season would have never gotten back on the rails and similar to McDavid, if he had just bounced back to a normal pace the Oilers maybe would have gotten back into the playoff hunt but they never would have surged up the standings the way that they did.
Skinner didn’t just start playing like an average NHL goalie. He started playing like a legit, work-horse number-one starter.
From December 1st on, Skinner has played the eighth most games in the NHL and in that stretch, he had the fourth-best save percentage among goalies who have played at least 25 games (there are a total of 35 who fit that criteria).
He’s been elite and some people will point to the amount of games that he’s won but wins are a team stat. Goalies can play great and not get credit for a win. One stat that I really like is ‘games started above .900’.
For years, we talked about how the Oilers just needed a goalie that could be consistently above .900. Even if they don’t win, if your goalie is above a .900 save percentage then I think it’s fair to say that they at least gave you a chance to win and there are very few goalies in the league who’ve done that better than Skinner over the last few months.
Once again using December 1st as a starting point, there are only four goalies who have finished a game with a .900 save percentage more than Skinner. They are Joey Daccord, Connor Hellebuyck, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Pretty elite company.
Skinner hasn’t just shown he’s capable of being a good ‘1A’ goaltender. He’s proven that he is a legit top-tier NHL starting goaltender with his play over the last few months and considering that he’s locked up for two more years at $2.6 million per season, it won’t be long until he’s talked about as one of the best value contracts in the entire NHL.


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