Stuart Skinner is expected to start in Seattle versus the Kraken, in a game Jay Woodcroft needs to win to have any chance of remaining as Oilers coach.
If your coaching life depended on the outcome of one game, would you start Stuart Skinner? This is effectively what Jay Woodcroft is doing, as he attempts to hold onto his position as Oilers coach.
As per the Oilers media staff, Stuart is expected to be in goal on Saturday night versus the Kraken. He was the first goalie off the ice in the morning skate in Seattle, which usually is a strong indicator of getting the start.
Speculation is swirling, that Woodcroft will be fired once the Oilers return from their current road trip, which concludes in Seattle. (Along with Ken Holland and Dave Manson.) If true, then it really doesn’t matter what transpires on Saturday night at Climate Pledge Arena.
However, if there is any chance the 47-year-old still has a job to fight for, then he needs the team to respond with a win against the Kraken. As much as there is no indication the players dislike him, will they go all-out in Seattle, knowing it could well seal his fate?
Skinner no sure bet these days
Regardless, turning to Skinner between the pipes is a dicey proposition. He looks nothing like the player who finished runner up for the Calder Memorial Trophy last season.
Instead, Woodcroft and the Oilers have a goalie with the third-worst save percentage in the entire NHL entering Saturday’s slate of games, at .854 percent. In addition, he has a 3.87 Goals Against Average, which ranks eighth-worst.
As such, it’s no wonder the 25-year-old only has 1-5-1 record in seven starts this season. Not that we’re suggesting he is entirely to blame, with the Oilers’ overall defensive effort in front of him being nothing short of disastrous up to this point in 2023-24.
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Regardless, Woodcroft desperately needs Skinner to revert to the version, who stepped up as the main man when Jack Campbell failed last season. The version who went 29-14-5, while producing a .913 save percentage and 2.75 Goals Against Average.
We appreciate it’s not just down to the goalie, but the Edmonton native can help his coach big time, if he comes up with a big performance in Seattle. He certainly has it in him, although we wouldn’t exactly bet the house on it.
A positive and optimistic Woodcroft
For his part Woodcroft came across as quite relaxed, as he smiled and joked when speaking to the media after practice on Saturday. Whether this is because he’s already aware of his fate, is just focused on the job at hand, or is keeping an optimistic outlook, is open to debate.
In terms of the optimistic outlook, Woodcroft was asked how he felt ahead of the game versus the Kraken. He said:
"“I’m excited about our opportunity today. We had a good practice yesterday and have an opportunity to play a divisional opponent. We talked about it yesterday, how we’re seven points out of a playoff position. It’s weird to talk about that in November, but it’s not a position that we haven’t been in before. Obviously when Dave and I first came up, (we were) seven points out and we have experience of clawing our way back, but it starts with one game and that’s tonight.”"
We’ve already advocated for Woodcroft keeping his job, and how he doesn’t deserve any imminent firing. For now though, all that can be focused on is Saturday night, in a game the Oilers really do need to win for a variety of reasons.