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‘It’s very possible the Oilers will dabble in the goalie market,’ says NHL insider
By Zach Laing14 days ago
What ailed the Oilers early this season is what’s helped prop them up on a remarkable, record-setting run in the New Year: their goaltending.
The play of Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell was one of many reasons Edmonton went 3-9-1 through their first 13 games, leading to a difficult coaching change that’s paid dividends. While Campbell’s found a new home with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, going 10-7-0-1 with a 2.9 GAA and .909 save percentage, Skinner’s NHL numbers have climbed from the gutter to a 23-10-1 record, 2.43 GAA and .910 save percentage.
His backup, Calvin Pickard, has filled the backup role more than admirably, going 5-2 with a 2.34 GAA and .915 save percentage.
But just because the Oilers’ goaltending has rebounded to be among the best in the league, it doesn’t mean the team isn’t contemplating making a change.
In a 32 Thoughts column Wednesday night, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman said the club is keeping their options open:
Small thing, but a big thing from Connor McDavid: during our 32 Thoughts podcast interview, talking about goaltending, he mentioned Stuart Skinner, Calvin Pickard… and Jack Campbell. That did not go unnoticed. Campbell was on a heater at AHL Bakersfield a couple of weeks ago, but, as mentioned, the Oilers were in no rush to mess with what worked. It’s a crazy world. A month ago, the idea of Ilya Samsonov leading Toronto seemed as far-fetched as Tracy Chapman showing up at the Grammys. It’s very possible the Oilers will dabble in the goalie market, but you never know if you’re going to need someone again.
It’s logical to assume the Oilers are happy with Skinner, given they’ve shown nothing but patience and time for the 25-year-old to find his game. That’s more than paid off.
Truly, the biggest question in it all is how much the Oilers trust Pickard and Campbell as options in a DEFCON 1 scenario. That’s something Ken and Brad Holland and their respective staffs need to decide upon in the next month.
One name that could be a possibility is that of Marc-Andre Fleury. Without directly linking him to the Oilers, Friedman said the netminder has “earned the right to call his shot.”
Fleury initially was unhappy to move from Vegas to Chicago, and needed convincing to go to Minnesota. But the guy eats, breathes and loves hockey, so he adapts upon arrival. This screams Carolina, Colorado or Edmonton, all playoff-bound. But, in some of those situations, he wouldn’t be the starter, so that factors in. Again, it’s his call, and deservedly so.
Fleury brings all the pedigree in the world with three Stanley Cup titles, and an NHL career spanning over 1000 games and 20 years. The question is how much juice is left in the tank? He’s struggled in Minnesota this year with an 8-9-3 record, 2.95 GAA and .897 save percentage. His -4.04 goals saved above expected rank 77th of 91 goaltenders, according to Evolving Hockey, while his -4.15 goals saved above average are 65th.
The Wild, at least in part, have been sunk by goaltending this season as Filip Gustavsson hasn’t been sharp, either, but getting Fleury behind a much better team in the Oilers might be enough to provide him some jump.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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