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Skin(ner) In The Game

Until Jack Campbell gets going, Stuart Skinner should be getting the lion’s share of the net.

Edmonton Oilers v Florida Panthers Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

It’s been an interesting start to the 2022-23 season for your Edmonton Oilers. It’s been a tale of two teams. Edmonton is scoring plenty; as of this writing they are third in the league in goals scored per game (3.69). The power play is second in the league behind last year’s Stanley Cup Champion Avalanche. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the league’s 1-2 scoring leaders in mid-November.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, they’ve been able to muster only nine wins in their first sixteen games of the season. The puck is ending up in their net far too often. Their penalty kill is third worst in the league, barely breaking a 70% success rate. Overall, the Oilers yield an average of 3.5 goals per game, fourth worst in the league. They’ve got the firepower on offence, but they’re struggling to keep their own goal light off.

Goaltending isn’t the only issue that’s contributing to so many goals against, but it’s fair to say that new Oilers netminder Jack Campbell has struggled to gain traction so far. Though he’s 6-4 on the season, Jack Campbell’s .873 SV% in ten games ties him with Detroit’s Alex Nedeljkovic for 53rd in the league. With the season still less than a quarter old, Campbell has some time to turn those numbers around. Currently fourth in the Pacific, the Oilers hope that happens sooner than later.

Though Campbell has struggled to gain traction early on, Stuart Skinner has performed admirably. Skinner’s latest show is a 40-save effort over the Florida Panthers on Saturday. It’s Skinner’s third win of the season, he’s absolutely beaming with a .932 SV% in seven games this season. A .932 SV% puts Skinner fifth in the entire league, which isn’t half bad.

Skinner’s got just 21 career NHL games under his belt, a third of them taking place in this young season alone. There’s not a whole lot of career to work with here, and the Oilers are desperate to make up some lost ground early. It’s kind of a gamble to set a big workload on a young goaltender, but I don’t know how the Oilers can not afford to use Skinner in at least two of every three games until Campbell’s game comes around.

I don’t think many Oiler fans had Skinner getting the lion’s share of the net this season, and when you add Ken Holland’s splashy free agent cost to bring Jack Campbell to Edmonton (5 years @ 5MM each), the mere idea of turning to Skinner for more than a breather opens up a pretty big window of criticism to such a big signing. Right now, Skinner’s game looks worlds away from Campbell’s, and the Oilers know it. Skinner is playing with confidence, and his efforts give the Oilers a chance to win every night. I don’t know how long it will take Campbell’s game to surface, but right now the Oilers would be foolish not to ride with the hot hand.

There’s some wild card factor with Skinner, in that we don’t know his ceiling. Barring an injury to Campbell, there’s not a whole lot of chance we see enough of him to find out if he’s ready for 50 games or more. His hot start is likely to regress. By the time this happens, there’s hope that Campbell will have found footing in the Edmonton crease.

Until then, ride the wave.

Right now, the Oilers are getting what they need in net from Stuart Skinner. They’d be foolish not to take advantage of that fact.