Happy New Year to one and all from everyone at Oil on Whyte, with us hoping 2024 is a good one for you. This includes the Edmonton Oilers.
The 2023 portion of this season was an interesting one for the Oilers. Tagged as preseason favorites by ESPN to win it all, things haven't quite gone to plan thus far.
What the rest of this season holds for the Oilers remains to be seen. However, here are four New Year resolutions which, if they can fulfill, will go some way towards finally winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1989-90:
1) Resolve the goalie situation behind Stuart Skinner
From an overall season perspective to date, the team goalie stats for the Oilers are not exactly encouraging. At the time of posting, they are tied-26th with a .891 save percentage and 20th with a 3.24 Goals Against Average (GAA).
However, consider that at one point it was even more dire, with the worst team save percentage and second-worst GAA in the NHL. This speaks to an improvement which sees the Oilers ranked eighth with a .913 save percentage and fifth with a 2.38 GAA in their past 16 games.
In this respect, Stuart Skinner has completely turned his season around. At one stage he had a horrific 1-5-1 record through seven starts, as well as the third-worst save percentage among all NHL goaltenders.
Since then however, as the team has improved so has Skinner, with a spectacular 13-4-0 record in his past 17 starts. While his overall .892 save percentage still doesn't look great, it's above .900 since Kris Knoblauch came in.
In this respect, the Edmonton native is more than proving he has the chance to be the long-term solution in net for the Oilers. There is the concern of playing too much however, with his 24 starts, already halfway to his total from all of last season.
The question is, what do the Oilers do about their goaltending situation behind Skinner? In fairness, Calvin Pickard has been decent in his five starts, but there is some doubt -- fair or not -- based on his previous experience at the NHL level.
There has been talk of giving Olivier Rodrigue a chance with the Oilers and certainly he does offer some intriguing upside. He's been excellent in Bakersfield since taking over from Jack Campbell as the number one, and overall he is second among all qualifying AHL goalies in save percentage this season.
There is also still the option on the table of trading for a quality goalie, whether it be to serve as a backup or even as part of a tandem, although this would come at a cost. Ultimately, whatever route the Oilers decide to take, they need to give Skinner more time off or risk running him into the ground.