There’s no question that the goaltending situation for the Oilers has unfolded in the complete opposite direction that it was expected to.
Although Jack Campbell has been playing better as of late, there’s no question he’s been struggling to start the season. The only feather he has in his cap is that he still has a winning record of 8-6-0-1 in his 15 starts so far, but his GAA is above 4.0 and his sv% is below .900.
Those aren’t the numbers you’d want from a $5 million man.
Meanwhile, rookie Stuart Skinner, in his first season as a full-time NHLer, has performed better than anyone expected. His sv% of .916 is nearly elite, which is phenomenal for a rookie goaltender. His 2.81 GAA isn’t spectacular but he’s shown the ability to steal us games at times and keep the team in games they didn’t deserve to be in, the mark of a great goaltender.
He isn’t at the top of the list, but he’s at least put himself in the conversation for the Calder trophy. I wouldn’t count on him to win the Vezina trophy either, as he’s currently middle of the road in all the important goalie stats for the NHL.
That being said, whether he wins a trophy or not doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not he’s had a solid season. Unless he completely implodes between now and the end of the season, he’ll have had a solid season regardless. If he goes on a Jordan Binnington-style heater circa 2019, then who knows? The sky’s the limit at that point.
One thing he has done, however, at least for the moment, is supplanting Campbell as the starter. Skinner has already played seven more games and has six more starts than Campbell does.
This will create an awkward situation in the offseason for Ken Holland if this continues. Does he keep Campbell for next season at least and hope he rebounds? Or does he move him and change the makeup of his tandem between the pipes, hoping another outside hire will do the trick? I already considered one possibility for the latter here, and of course, Holland may have a whole other plan as far as this goes. After all, if Campbell continues to struggle it will only drive down his trade value even more.
It’s a loaded question for sure. Making the playoffs for the Oilers in win-now mode is not an option, it has to be done. In today’s NHL you need two dependable tenders who are at least average. Some teams have been able to make do with the traditional starter-backup tandem, but that’s only a handful of teams these days.
It’ll be something to keep an eye on as Jack Campbell is signed for another four seasons after this one. That’s a long time to be struggling in an Oilers uniform