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Monday Mailbag – How many games is too many for Stuart Skinner?

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
2 months ago
Happy Monday, fair Internet friends, and welcome to a fresh edition of the Mailbag to help get your week started and keep you updated on all things Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re discussing Kris Knoblauch’s stamp on the team, Stuart Skinner’s workload, Jack Campbell, and much 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 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
1) @ElPinto24 asks – This upcoming six-day break is Coach Knoblauch’s first real chance to put his stamp on the team. What system or other changes might we see coming out of the break? Thanks.
Jason Gregor: I don’t see any significant changes. He will work on fine tuning what he’s already put in place. He likely will drill down more on limiting rush chances, which has already been a priority. He and Coffey have really emphasized moving the puck quickly, moving your feet and having fun. I think they sensed the players were maybe putting too much pressure on themselves. I do wonder if we see some drills about going to the net. That is something that doesn’t come natural to some of their forwards.
Robin Brownlee: Changes? They’ve won four straight games. I imagine a decision on whether to bring Jack Campbell up from Bakersfield could play into things, but I don’t know if there’s been a decision made on that yet. I don’t see that Knoblach has to put any stamp on the team at this point aside from accentuating what has worked so far — moving the puck, cutting down on prime scoring chances.
Baggedmilk: I don’t expect him to change a whole lot, but I would absolutely that he’ll be reinforcing the tactics they’ve discussed in the limited practice time he’s had available to him.
Nov 3, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41) makes a save on a shot by Edmonton Oilers defensemen Evan Bouchard (2) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2) James in Peterborough asks – Evan Bouchard has moved into the Top 5 in NHL Defenceman scoring and is at a point-per-game pace. When do you think critics will start to focus on his upside rather than the deficiencies?
Jason Gregor: Why worry about critics? What about those who have written about his strengths? I’ve had a balanced approach on Bouchard, and will continue to. His offence is his best asset, and when he is focused defensively he is a fine defender. I don’t need him to be Jason Smith defensively. No one should. Since the coaching change, I haven’t seen any glaring giveaways from any of the D-men. They’ve bought into Coffey’s message of being aware of where you are on ice and what is happening. Make the simple play has really helped the entire D corps.
Robin Brownlee: Mentioning defensive deficiencies doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on them, even if that’s your interpretation. Bouchard can be absolutely ghastly defensively and there’s no getting around that, but he’s been significantly better under Knoblauch and Coffey. He’s a talented offensive player who still needs to learn the other half of the game.
Baggedmilk: Bouchard is like many offensive minded defencemen before him: offensive minded. The defensive side of his game is always going to be a battle, but there’s plenty of upside here, and that’s what I’m focusing on. In an ideal scenario, Bouchard would play fewer 5v5 minutes and more on the power play, but the Oilers’ depth chart just isn’t stacked up to make that happen right now.
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) Brenden asks – How many games is too many games for Stuart Skinner? He’s played 14 of the last 16, and we’re only 22 games into the season.
Jason Gregor: He is young, and they have a five-day break. He has made 16 starts. There are 17 goalies in the NHL with 15+ starts and eight have 18+. He won’t start 14 of the next 16, but you are correct his total number of starts will need to be monitored. If he finishes with 55 that will be fine, meaning he can start 39 of the final 60 games. They need a backup (s) to start 21 of them.
Robin Brownlee: There isn’t a set number for me. Depends on days between games, rest and travel. It’s a situation you must judge in real time. I thought a fairly even split between Skinner and Campbell — say 45-37 or so — made sense before the season started but we know that’s out the window.
Baggedmilk: We talked about this on Friday’s episode of Oilersnation Radio, and I agree with you. I know he’s young and there are some extended breaks that come in December, but it would be very nice to get some balance for the guy so he can catch a breather.
Mar 28, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (36) warms up before a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
4) @PoppaRusty asks – Do you think Jack Campbell needs more time in Bako before he comes back up? I feel like he should stay until Christmas to make sure he’s confident in his game.
Jason Gregor: He has had really strong moments down there, and then he’s allowed a few goals that have no business going in. He needs to be more efficient with him movement. He will practice there all week, likely play Friday, and if he is solid we might see him come up. He is much more proven NHL goalie than Calvin Pickard at this point, and I understand the trepidation to play him. He actually had a higher Sv% than Skinner when he was sent down. Better team defence in front of him will help him when he returns. I don’t expect him to be great, and they don’t need that. He just needs to be reliable and consistent. I just don’t know if he will be and I’m not sure if two or four more AHL games will change that.
Robin Brownlee: Confidence isn’t about setting a date. Campbell was getting lit up when he first went down and has been much better since then. That can flip-flop in a hurry — history shows that’s especially true with Campbell. So no, I don’t think it’ about “more time.” It’s about performance.
Baggedmilk: Let Jack Campbell be in Bakersfield until he can string together more than a few quality games. Remember, he SHOULD be dominating that league, so to see him give up some of the stinkers that have gone in lately tells me that he’s nowhere near ready to rejoin an Oilers team that doesn’t have the luxury of giving him the time to work on his game. The Oilers need wins, and right now, it seems doubtful that he’d be the one to provide them.
Feb 12, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Arber Xhekaj (72) fights with Edmonton Oilers defenseman Vincent Desharnais (73) during the second period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
5) @dangledump94 asks – If you could see the Oilers play in any Canadian city besides Edmonton, what would it be? I went to the Canadians/Knights game a few weeks ago, and I wouldn’t have picked MTL in my top four, but now it’s easily #1.
Jason Gregor: Montreal is a fantastic place to watch a game. Great atmosphere. But right now I might pick Vancouver, because they are good so the crowd will be into more than they usually are. When they aren’t competitive, Vancouver is near the bottom of places I’d want to go, but when they are good it is a good place to watch, plus there is more of a rivalry between Oilers and Canucks than the Oilers and Canadiens.
Robin Brownlee: Been to every NHL rink in Canada multiple times. I always enjoyed games in Montreal the best. Great city to visit. Fabulous restaurants and night life. Terrific rink steeped in tradition. Toronto (when it was Maple Leaf Gardens) and Vancouver a distant second and third.
Baggedmilk: I’ve been to Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, and the Heritage Classic in Winnipeg. Of those, Edmonton has the best rink and best atmosphere (I’m thinking playoffs specifically), but I would absolutely love to go to a game in Montreal. Habs fans get into it in a way that’s almost European soccer style, and I think that would be a lot of fun to experience.

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