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Stuart Skinner and the Edmonton Oilers

Heading into the 2021-22 season, Ken Holland had likely never envisioned a situation in which Stuart Skinner would be the Edmonton Oilers starting goaltending but it’s a scenario he has to seriously consider. 

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

In what has been a season marred by inconsistent goaltending, no one could’ve been surprised with Edmonton Oilers fans being beside themselves following Saturday’s loss to the Calgary Flames. Nine goals against will do that and the calls for Stuart Skinner are growing louder by the minute.

In no way was what happened in against the Pacific Division leaders solely on Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith but the calls for change have very little to do with one game and everything to do with the duos collective body of work during the 2021-22 campaign.

Sixty-six games into the Oilers season and here is what the club’s two primary netminders have delivered:

nhl.com

No matter which one you prefer, the numbers speak volumes. There has been a lot going on in Edmonton this season but the stats do not lie. In fact, Koskinen is coming off a real nice stretch and his totals still look the way they do. Not good by any means but it explains quite a bit.

As the OIlers continue to yo-yo up and down both the Pacific and Western Conference standings, the masses have reached the end of their rope. In their minds, Skinner is the answer and while that may not be the case, it’s hard to argue against the kid getting a real look.

There are those who tell you the Edmonton native has been the Oilers best goaltender this season and from statistical standpoint they would be correct. In thirteen appearances, he has gone 6-6-0 posting a .913 SV% and 2.62 GAA but those numbers don’t tell the entire story.

In his twelve starts, Skinner has faced exactly one opponent that doesn’t currently sit in the bottom half of the league’s overall standings. Though that is in no way his fault, moving forward, the Oilers will be facing teams who are playoff locks or fighting for a spot.

In other words, he doesn’t have much of a track record against better teams but with what Koskinen and Smith have delivered, is the risk really that big? Though his AHL statistics don’t really matter, there is no arguing who’s been the best goaltender in the organization this season.

Skinner’s numbers with the Bakersfield Condors squad are impressive…15-3-5 with a 2.26 GAA, .920 SV% and three shutouts. Combine those totals with what he has done at the NHL level and it’s hard to argue against what the youngster has managed to accomplish.

When given the opportunity, the 2017 third round pick has been solid and yet, the organization seemingly wants no part of finding out if he’s ready. Not only does this team badly need to stabilize its netminding in the here and now, they also need to find out what Skinner is.

Come 2022-23, he will no longer be waiver exempt and with the Oilers current lot in life, they have the ideal spot for Skinner to show what he can or cannot do but are clearly uncomfortable with even handing him the reins on a short-term or part-time basis.

The want is so strong for Koskinen and/or Smith to be the answer, that they are ignoring how their play impacts the team’s performance on the ice. Again, the disaster that unfolded over the weekend wasn’t the goaltenders doing but they did nothing to help stop the bleeding.

After carrying the load for the better part of the past month, Koskinen has allowed 17 goals on 102 shots in his past four starts. Smith has been better since returning from his most recent absence but continues to look uncomfortable and is guessing on most shots headed his way.

At this point, it’s evident neither one of these guys can handle taking on the lion’s share of work. The inconsistencies in their games have been present all season and expecting that to change seems foolish for a team looking to secure a playoff spot and potentially make some noise.

In my mind, missing the playoffs isn’t a real concern but having some kind of tangible playoff success is and without that, this year can only be viewed as a complete and utter failure. With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the only place to get help is from Bakersfield.

Stuart Skinner is waiting for the call and though he isn’t likely to place it anytime soon, Oilers fans are hoping Ken Holland will come to his senses in the not too distant future do what needs to be done. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain by making a simple phone call.