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Monday Mailbag – Are the Oilers playing Stuart Skinner too much?

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
30 days ago
Happy Monday, Nation, and welcome to another brand new Mailbag to help get your week started and keep you updated on all things Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re discussing Evander Kane’s tough stretch, Stuart Skinner’s workload, the winning streak, and more. If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk , and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.
Nov 15, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane (91) celebrates his over-time winning goal against the Seattle Kraken at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
1) Bill F. asks – First, I love Evander Kane! I think his journey is pretty inspiring, but something is really wrong. I’m guessing some kind of injury, but when you see a shot of his face on camera, there just doesn’t seem to be the light and fire in his eyes. What is your take on what’s happening with Kane?
Jason Gregor: His past few games he has been very good. He’s battled some nagging injuries for the past month or so. Nothing too bad, otherwise he wouldn’t have only sat out one game. Kane is who he is. He speaks his mind, and won’t say what people want him to say. Others might think it, but he says it. If he feels he should play more, he voices it. This is who he is. He beats to his own drum, and he’s always done that. He looks out, and speaks out, for himself, sometimes to his detriment. As long as he plays hard in games, it is easier for players to take. If he is fully healthy, not playing well and moaning, then the issue becomes larger, as it has in some previous stops.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I think it’s a mix of a few things. There’s no doubt that he didn’t take his demotion to the third line well and we saw that through his comments in the media. That’s the downside to having a player with Kane’s personality on the team. It also sounds like he’s fighting a few injuries right now and honestly, I’m confused why they don’t just let him heal up and get to 100%. Hopefully the bye week lets him get back to full health and we can get back to watching Evander Kane be a play driving winger for the Oilers.
Baggedmilk: I think he’s hurt right now and also battling some confidence issues. That’s a pretty tough combo to overcome, but I also think that if he gets the chance to heal up a little bit that he’ll be much more effective down the stretch. As for the body language side of the question, Kane has always had a spicy reputation and I don’t think we should be surprised that he’s getting frustrated when things aren’t going so well.
Jan 20, 2024; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) guards his net against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome.
2) Geoff asks – Simple question: Are the Oilers playing Stuart Skinner too much? The January schedule is light, but he’s still playing the vast majority of Edmonton’s games.
Jason Gregor: I thought he’d start eight of 11 in January. He’s started eight of nine thus far, and could be nine out of 11. One more than I would have, but not crazy. If he starts two of three this week, he will have 33 starts before the AS break. He’ll have started 33 of 45 games.
The Oilers have 40 games remaining. If he starts 23-24 of them he’ll finish the season at 56-57 starts. Not crazy. They have eight sets of back-to-back in the final 40, so that is eight starts for the backup, which means of the remaining 21, Skinner should start 13-14 and Pickard (or another goalie) will start the other 7-8. Looking at the April schedule he likely will play four games in the final 14 days of the season as they have three sets of back-to-backs. As long as they stick to him only starting 22-24 games all season, I don’t see them overplaying him compared to other goalies among the top teams in the West.
Here’s those and their starting goalie:
Georgiev has started 38 of 47 games.
Saros, 36 of 46.
Hellebuyck, 33 of 44.
Demko, 33 of 46.
Talbot, 29 of 43.
Oettinger had made 24 of 44 starts. He missed one month with an injury. He had started 21 of Stars first 28 games before his injury.
Hill has only made 15 starts with Vegas due to injury.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Liam and I did the work on ON Everyday this week. If you give Pickard the “soft” games on the schedule and give Skinner all the games against tough opponents or the games where he and the team should be rested, then he’ll finish the season with 57 starts. It’s high for sure, but at least it’s not in the 60’s. I think the most important thing will be reducing his workload towards the end of the season so he can be at 100% heading into the playoffs. Right now, with a big break looming, I’m not worried about it.
Baggedmilk: I think this is going to be a big topic of conversation down the stretch when the schedule starts to get packed in real tight. I would like to see Pickard get an extra start or two because we know that Stu will reach a max output at some point.
Nov 30, 2023; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner (74) is congratulated by Edmonton Oilers defenseman Vincent Desharnais (73) on his win against the Winnipeg Jets at the end of the third period at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
3) Kev asks – The Oilers’ win streak has been so much fun since the team is winning games in all kinds of different ways. What do you see as the biggest contributing factor to their recent success?
Jason Gregor: Limiting goals against. Much easier to win when you limit the opposition to two goals or less most games.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Goaltending is the big one. Skinner has been lights out for over a month now. Also, the team in front of him is making his life easier and that’s big. Outside of the last two games, they’ve really cut down on odd-man rushes against and quality chances (especially on the PK). Those are the two big ones.
Baggedmilk:
Stuart Skinner has been fantastic, but since Tyler already covered that, I think I’ll go with the way they’re getting goals from through0ut the roster.
Nov 13, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Kris Knoblauch looks on against the New York Islanders at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
4) Yves asks – As I’m submitting my question, the Oilers are 23-6-0 under Kris Knoblauch. What are you seeing from the new bench boss so far that’s contributing to the Oilers’ success?
Jason Gregor: He is patient. He is deliberate and he sticks to his plan. Every PK is the same. He uses three sets of two forwards (sprinkles in Draisaitl for a few draws), and the same four D-men (unless one of them is in the penalty box). Then after the PK he plays McDavid, Draisaitl and either Hyman or Kane. Then he runs out Gagner/Holloway and either Kane or Hyman. He plays all 12 forwards during or right after a PK. Similar to the PP. He likes keeping players involved.
And he’s focused a lot on building up player’s confidence, and he doesn’t switch lines quickly if they are trailing.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I like that he’s committing to keeping his lines the same. They got some good chemistry right now and he’s not messing with it. I also really like how when he does go back to McDavid and Draisaitl on one line, it’s never for long stretches and it’s never simply because they’re losing. It’s because there is a clear matchup advantage to doing so. I love that.
Baggedmilk: I really appreciate how the line blender has stayed on the shelf for the most part, and that he’s kept McDavid and Draisaitl centering their own lines.
Dec 12, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) makes a save against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
5) Ed M. asks – How about Marc-Andre Fleury as the goalie the Oil should acquire?
The Wild seem on their way to sellers, and I’m sure MAF would like a chance at another cup. Although MAF is not having a stellar year, his experience would be invaluable, and with an expiring contract, he does not block OR next year.
Jason Gregor: No. He makes $3.5m, so the Oilers would have to move out salary to obtain him, and moving out Foegele or Kulak to get a backup makes zero sense to me. He also has a .897Sv% and 2.97 GAA. Not great numbers. Edmonton has Pickard who has been solid. Jack Campbell has a .920 in his last 10 games in the AHL. Olivier Rodrigue has a .924sv% in 15 starts. If need be, they can use a combination of goalies. They’d be better off spending the limited cap space they have to bolster their forward group before adding another goalie.
Tyler Yaremchuk: His cap hit might be a bit too rich for the Oilers. Skinner is their starter and I’m not sure if they need a goalie like Fleury to be his backup. I would look at options that are cheaper against the cap and likely cheaper to acquire.
Baggedmilk: I like the idea you’re going for here but I don’t see any way the Oilers could afford it without moving a key piece off the roster.

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