Now is not the right time for Oilers to call up Olivier Rodrigue

There has been some suggestion the Edmonton Oilers should give Olivier Rodrigue a chance in goal, but it's too early to go down this route.
Sep 24, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Olivier Rodrigue (35) follows the
Sep 24, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Olivier Rodrigue (35) follows the / Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the Oilers' 12-6 record since Kris Knoblauch took over as coach, there's plenty that needs to be improved. The team still feels far too streaky, albeit not quite as inconsistent as earlier in the season.

In particular, the sentiment is that the Oilers need to upgrade their goalie position. This has mostly been suggested to achieve via a trade, with the team connected to a multitude of options, including Elvis Merzlikins, Jake Allen, Juuse Saros and even Linus Ullmark.

How feasible any of these options are is quite rightly open to debate. Regardless, there is another alternative for the Oilers to pursue, i.e. from within their own organisation.

So what about Rodrigue?

More specifically, there have been calls of late for the Oilers to give Olivier Rodrigue a chance between the pipes. And certainly, we can appreciate why.

From a pure talent perspective, Rodrigue has an intriguing upside. Selected by the Oilers in the second round of the 2018 draft, he is extremely athletic and has excellent lateral movement.

Last season was a breakout campaign of sorts, as the 23-year-old showed tremendous form in the AHL with the Condors. While a record of 14-14-1 in 29 appearances may not sound that great, he still produced a .912 save percentage and 2.77 GAA as the main backup to Calvin Pickard.

This season has seen Rodrigue perform even better for the Condors, to the point he has now taken over from Jack Campbell as their number one netminder. He is 4-2-2 in nine appearances, in the process recording a .935 save percentage and 2.22 GAA.

The calls for the Chicoutimi, Quebec native to be promoted only intensified, following his best performance of the season yet on Saturday night. Facing a Firebirds team which went to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals last season, he stopped all but one of the 38 shots he faced in a 2-1 overtime win.

Give it some more time

However, as much as you can appreciate the clamour for the Oilers to call up Rodrigue, it's too soon for such a move. The main reason being, he needs to gain more experience as the main man in net,

It's one thing to be the backup or a spot starter, but there are more challenges to contend with as the number one option. This includes being able to perform consistently and deal with the inevitable adversity which comes with the mantle.

In addition, Calvin Pickard deserves some more time to backup Stuart Skinner in Edmonton. He's earned as much, after being outstanding last season as the Condors' main option, and then continuing to perform well this season prior to his own callup.

Further, while a .898 save percentage and 2.99 GAA in five games may not jump off the page, Pickard has not done too badly as Skinner's relief. He has really only had the one poor outing so far and should have the benefit of a slightly longer leash to prove himself.

Let's also not forget that Pickard has a decent amount of experience at the NHL level, with 121 appearances spread over nine seasons, resulting in a .903 save percentage and 3.04 GAA. This includes his 2016-17 season in Colorado as the main man, when despite a record of 15-31-2 which was more on the players in front of him, he produced a .904 save percentage and 2.98 GAA.

Of course, just because we think now is not the time to call up Rodrigue, it doesn't mean the Oilers should wait too much long either. Any number of factors could change the current situation, such as if he continues to play well in Bakersfield, Pickard has a drop off/doesn't improve, and so on.

3 Oilers who have got worse since Knoblauch took over. 3 Oilers who have got worse since Knoblauch took over. dark. Next

Overall, the thinking is that a trade for a quality backup or tandem option is still the best way to ensure the chances of improved overall play in net for the Oilers as they push for the playoffs. However, if this isn't possible for whatever reason, then why not eventually give Rodrigue the opportunity to show the the potential which got him drafted so high in the first place.