Safe to say the first few weeks of his 2022-23 campaign haven’t played out in the fashion Jack Campbell had hoped. The combination of poor play, a lack of defensive zone support and a number of unfortunate bounces has led to what can only be viewed as a disappointing start to his Edmonton Oilers career.
Having said all of that, with 70 games left on the schedule, now would not be the time for anyone to make rash decisions on who or what they believe Campbell to be as a goaltender. Like any athlete, when confidence becomes an issue, the results are rarely pretty and the position he plays only makes it worse.
It comes with territory with goalies and for the moment, the 30-year old is simply trying to survive. Through his first eight appearances in Oilers silks, the numbers have been grotesque (4.20 GAA and .874 SV%) but on the positive side of the ledger, Campbell hasn’t given up an abundance of bad goals.
In fact, yesterday afternoon’s disastrous performance against the Dallas Stars sums up Campbell’s start to the season perfectly. Three of the six goals he allowed were essentially goal-mouth tap-ins, one was a perfectly placed shot on a 2-on-1, another was an unlucky bounce and the other simply cannot go in.
The bad bounces were plentiful and when you couple that with Edmonton’s terrible defensive zone coverage (and god awful penalty kill) and a goaltender that’s visibly uncomfortable, you get what we have seen of late. At least for the moment, Campbell can’t make a stop when his team needs it.
The funny thing is, those suggesting he has been terrible all season long are a tad off-base. Outside of an ugly 10 minute stretch against the Calgary Flames, one in which he had zero support from those in front him, Campbell was fairly good in the other four of his first five outings.
Yes, he was allowing goals against but when you take into account the quality of opponent and brand of hockey the Oilers were playing early on, it couldn’t really be helped. Edmonton was trying to outscore their mistakes and the job of their goaltender was to keep it close and make some timely saves.
Problem being, with most goaltenders, that isn’t a sustainable and it’s caught up to Campbell. As the pucks getting past him started to pile up, we can have seen his comfort level worsen with each passing game. Many don’t want to hear or believe it but confidence matters much more than most think it does.
Over the last few games, one can make the argument that Stuart Skinner has actually allowed more “poor” goals against than Campbell but is there no question which of the two is playing better? Despite these hiccups, Skinner looks to be in control and gives off the vibe of a guy oozing with confidence.
Whereas his partner is at the point where he is waiting for something bad to happen and when in it does, as is usually the case, it has snowballed on him. Unfortunately, this is nothing new with Campbell, as Toronto Maple Leafs fans everywhere like to remind those in Oil Country on the regular.
Campbell is by no means a star goalie and will suffer through his share of ups and downs over the course of a season. However, we have seen him carry a team on his shoulders for long stretches and it can be argued, he was the reason the Maple Leafs turned their season around as quickly as they did in ’21-’22.
He has that ability but expecting him to come to Edmonton be a saviour of sorts, wasn’t realistic. On teams that have the kind of personnel and play the style of game that the Oilers and Maple Leafs do, that isn’t going happening. There are a handful of elite goalies in the NHL and Campbell is not one.
The Oilers don’t need elite goaltending to be successful during the regular season but until the organization finds the right mix on defence (something Ken Holland has yet to accomplish), they will count on their goaltenders a little more than they should and Campbell hasn’t been up to the task.
Now does that mean, he should be written off and exiled to the heap? Nope and if you want a recent example, go look at how things started out for Linus Ullmark last season with the Boston Bruins after signing a contract that is nearly identical to the one Campbell inked with the Oilers this off-season.
Ullmark struggled to find his footing and ultimately ended up in a tandem like set-up with the organization’s up and coming netminder in Jeremy Swayman. Sound familiar? Swayman ended up being the Bruins guy in the playoffs but Ullmark has been the guy carrying the mail this season.
Point being, unless we are talking about the aforementioned elite guardians, most are going to have their struggles over an 82-game campaign. Those struggles have come early on in Jack Campbell’s tenure with the Edmonton Oilers and in the long run, this may be blessing in disguise for everyone involved.