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Off the Top of My Head: Stuart Skinner, the goaltending situation, and Cal Nichols

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Photo credit:Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
2 months ago
Stuart Skinner was as emphatic as anybody that he hadn’t been good enough in the Edmonton Oilers 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday that ended his team’s eight-game winning streak. Having allowed five goals on 22 shots to go with a couple of empty netters, Skinner was simply telling it straight.
While Andrei Vasilevskiy was goofy-good at the other end of the rink, Skinner, who came in on a seven-game roll that had produced a 1.70 GAA and .934 save percentage, gave up a soft goal to Nikita Kucherov to break a 3-3 tie and another by Steven Stamkos for his hat-trick to make it 5-3. Skinner, who took a seat as Calvin Pickard worked the crease in a 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers last night, didn’t duck and run post-game after the loss to the Bolts. 
“I think the guys played a heck of a game,” Skinner said. “I don’t think anybody in this room should be upset except for me, to be honest. I think I ended up kind of losing us the game, and that’s something that I’ll take on and I’ll be better for it. I think these guys in here should all be very happy with how they played. They were fantastic.”
Like I said off the top, there’s no debate Skinner wasn’t at his best against Tampa Bay, but it didn’t take long for that obvious bit of business to turn into much broader consternation about the team’s ongoing situation in the crease. Is Skinner tired? Is he destined to fade because of too many starts without a proven back-up to spell him off? What then? Pickard had nothing last night, so fair comment.

NOT IDEAL

Oct 24, 2023; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save against the Minnesota Wild in the second period at Xcel Energy Center.
Put me down for “I don’t know” on all counts. What I do know is the schedule has been favorable with a long break before the homestand and a day off between each game. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear much about that big-picture perspective when Skinner and the Oilers were rolling before the wheels came off Thursday. I suppose that’s to be expected.
With Jack Campbell in the minors and Pickard the only option as of today, it’s not an ideal situation. At this rate, Skinner will end up playing north of 60 games. He got into a career-high 50 last season then ran out gas during a stretch of 12 post-season games. I figured Skinner was good for 55 games when we discussed the situation in the crease during pre-season, but that was assuming Campbell was the other half of the tandem.
What we know is the Oilers don’t enjoy the luxury of having a blue-chip stopper like Vasilevskiy when the money is on the table and playoff series are at stake. To borrow from Captain Obvious, that would simplify things. Might Skinner – the version who took the starting job from Campbell last season and performed so well during this last winning streak – be enough to get the job done if GM Ken Holland can’t make a deal to add somebody?
That depends on who you ask and when you ask them.

TOAST OF THE TOWN

Photo Credit: Edmonton Journal
The 2024 edition of Toast of the Town in support of the Cure Cancer Foundation goes April 20 at the River Cree Hotel and Casino and I can’t think of a more worthy honoree than former EIG boss Cal Nichols.
Nichols, who is now 81, spearheaded not one but two drives to ensure the Oilers stayed in Edmonton when former owner Peter Pocklington’s financial house of cards crumbled. In 1996, Nichols, a long-time fan and regular around the rink, stepped up as co-chair of the Friends of the Oilers ticket drive and helped the team meet a deadline to sell 13,000 season tickets to qualify for the NHL’s currency equalization program.
Then, with the target and deadline met, Nichols led a group of 38 investors, better known as the Edmonton Investors Group, to raise about $60 million to purchase the team. In the following years, negotiations between the EIG and Daryl Katz resulted in multiple offers, with a deal finally coming in December of 2007 — $188 million to the EIG and a commitment of $100 million by Katz to build what would become Rogers Place.
The business-end of Nichol’s commitment to Edmonton aside, he’s a remarkable and generous man who has never sought publicity or media attention for all he’s contributed to this town. Like I said of the top, I can’t think of a more worthy honoree or a cause than what’s happening with the Cure Cancer Foundation. If you care to donate, you can do that here. 

WORTH A READ

If you haven’t read it yet, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector sat down with Zach Hyman of the Oilers to discuss the rising and alarming levels of antisemitism in recent times, especially now framed by the war in Gaza we’ve been seeing on the nightly news for months now.
“As somebody that young Jewish kids look up to — not just an athlete, but as a proud Jewish person — I think it’s important that when things are really tough, a community binds together. It sticks together and fights antisemitism,” Hyman said.
“Antisemitism has been rising for years, and it’s now reached the point where . . . it’s scary.” There’s nothing about hockey in this item that ran this past week, but it’s worth a read. You can find it here.

AND . . . 

Here’s another feel-good story from the Ben Stelter Foundation via father Mike Stelter about attempts to bring proton therapy to Canada in the foundation’s first major undertaking. 

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