Does Stuart Skinner deserve Vezina Trophy consideration?

Stuart Skinner has been in excellent form for the Edmonton Oilers, but does it make him worthy of being in the conversation for winning the Vezina Trophy?

Ottawa Senators v Edmonton Oilers
Ottawa Senators v Edmonton Oilers / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

The Vezina Trophy has an illustrious history which dates all the way back to 1927, not that Edmonton Oilers have ever had much luck with the award. Their only winner to date is Grany Fuhr, who took home the trophy in 1988.

As per, by comparison from a team perspective, Montreal Canadiens goalies have won an incredible 29 Vezina Trophies. On an individual level Jacque Plantes has won the award seven times, followed by Dominik Hasek and Bill Durnan with six each.

Coming back up to date and the current season, there is the question of if Stuart Skinner deserves consideration for the Vezina Trophy? At first thought we appreciate the majority of folks would say no so let's dive deeper, with all statistics up to and including Feb. 7.

Comparing Skinner to the field

For a start, Skinner is only tied 15th among all NHL goaltenders, with a .910 save percentage in 34 starts and 35 appearances overall. By comparison, Oilers' killer Adin Hill of the Golden Knights leads the way with a tremendous .938 save percentage.

Admittedly Hill's success does come with a qualifier though, in that he has only started 18 games. The Jets' Connor Hellebuyck is second with a .923 save percentage in 36 starts, while Jeremy Swayman of the Bruins (27 starts, 28 games overall) is tied-third at .922 percent, along with the Red Wings' Alex Lyon (21 starts).

Where Skinner begins to compare more favourably is in Goals Against Average (GAA), tied-sixth at 2.43 with the Canucks' Thatcher Demko. Hill also leads the way in this category at 1.88. so again we look below him with Hellebuyck once again second, at 2.77, and the Rangers' revitalised Jonathan Quick third at 2.27, albeit having only started 18 games along with one other appearance.

While not always indicative of a goalies' worth, wins do have to factor in to some extent. Along these lines, this is where Skinner really begins to stand out.

At the time of posting, the 2023 All-Star is tied-third on 23 wins, along with Hellebuyck and the Panthers' Sergei Bobrovsky, who has started 36 games. Leading the way with 27 wins is the duo of Demko and Alexander Georgiev, although it should be the noted the Avalanche goalie has 41 starts (42 games overall), the most in the NHL.

Not in the Vezina race as things stand

As things stand, there are certain media outlets who believe the race for the Vezina Trophy is a two-horse race between Hellebuyck and Demko. Sean O'Leary of The Score doesn't even have Skinner in his top five, although he does at least have the Oilers' goalie as a potential contender to be a top-three finalist.

In order to further justify why Skinner deserves consideration, it is important to look at how far he's come this season. Back when the Oilers were enduring one of their worst starts in franchise history, he was similarly playing poorly.

The 25-year-old began the 2023-24 campaign with a 1-5-1 record through seven starts. At one point he had the third-worst save percentage among all NHL goaltenders and was letting goals in left, right and centre, including four in his relief appearance during the humiliating season opener in Vancouver.

Since then however, Skinner has been a revelation between the pipes. He is undoubtedly one of the main reasons the Oilers have recovered under new coach Kris Knoblauch.

Racking up the wins

To give some idea of just how tremendous the Edmonton native has been, consider that his 22 wins since Nov. 3 are the most in the NHL. This included recently winning 12 consecutive starts, to surpass Fuhr's previous franchise record of 10 straight.

Unfortunately for Skinner and the Oilers, their 16-game winning streak was ended in the 3-1 loss on Tuesday night to the Golden Knights. As a result, he fell two straight wins short of the all-time NHL record for a goalie of 14.

This still doesn't take away from how fantastic the 2017 third round draft pick has been for the Oilers. January saw him awarded the NHL's Second Star of the Month, as he went a perfect 9-0-0 and produced a 1.33 GAA and .953 save percentage in the process.

Forgoing comparisons to anyone else for a minute, as things stand Skinner is projected to set a new single-season low with a 2.43 GAA. As for his current .910 save percentage, he is easily with reach of his current best of .913.

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Overall, in order for last season's Calder Trophy runner up to be considered a serious contender for the Vezina, he just needs to continue on his current trajectory. This includes aiming to extend his current run of 12 straight starts of allowing no more than two goals.

As a final note, what could help Skinner is that the NHL's 32 general managers vote to decide who will win the Vezina. As long as the GMs have been paying attention all season, you would hope they are well aware of just how well the Oilers' main man has been performing in net.

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