The Edmonton Oilers will battle the Florida Panthers on Saturday afternoon and Jack Campbell is going to sit on the bench and watch as Stuart Skinner tries to backstop the Oilers to a much-needed win. Campbell has struggled early during his run with his new team and there are questions about what’s wrong and whether the Oilers made a mistake by giving such a lucrative contract to a player that has a history of up-and-down starts.
Campbell’s career has shown he’s got the ability to be a starter and he can go on a run of strong performances, but there’s also evidence that he’s not a top-tier goaltender. His numbers of late suggest he’s going to struggle as a backup if things don’t change. While that might be an issue for a later day, the question now is, what can the Oilers do while he’s struggling?
Play Better In Front of Campbell
Campbell has not been good. His run with the Oilers is off to a lousy start and he needs to find a way to work himself out of whatever is going on between his ears and with his glove. At the same time, he’s shown signs that he can be the goaltender that the team meant to sign and if he gets a little help from the rest of his team, he tends to perform ok.
Campbell will be the first to take the heat for his own mistakes, calling his play “pathetic” and using other adjectives to accept responsibility. His teammates need to do what they can and do and play their part, something they’ve not often done with success. It is incumbent upon the Oilers to stop making glaring mistakes, especially in front of what is definitely a fragile goaltender. Campbell has made some big stops this season but you can’t count on him to get over his own issues and make up for yours if you constantly cough the puck up or turn it over in high-danger areas.
The best way to help your goaltender is to make his life a whole lot easier. It’s fair to argue the Oilers don’t do that. In fact, they tend to pile on and kick their own guy when he’s down based on their loose play.
Read His Body Language Properly
In two of the last three games, Campbell has looked at his glove hand in bewilderment. It’s as if there’s a hole in it and the announce crews on Sportsnet have actually questioned whether there is. That’s not an equipment issue. That’s nothing more than Campbell losing all of his confidence in a game and closing his hand too early. When that happens, and when Campbell looks to his equipment as the issue, the Oilers need to make the switch.
Edmonton has Stuart Skinner ready to go and playing better than Campbell right now. If Campbell is lost in his own game and not sure why he’s unable to make stops, then questions whether his equipment is letting him down, he doesn’t have it. That’s the time to pull him and not after he’s let in two or three more goals and let the game get out of reach. This is on Jay Woodcroft and the rest of the team to talk and assess and know when Campbell is on and when he’s not.
And, for crying out loud, if there is something wrong with his glove… get him a different one.
Stay Nothing But Positive
Campbell is getting beaten up on all sides of this. A small minority of Leafs Nation wants to see Campbell leave Edmonton because he’s struggling so badly (a couple even suggested bringing him back) and he’s such a nice guy, but most fans in Toronto are being quite vocal about the fact that they dodged a bullet and that GM Kyle Dubas didn’t give Campbell a five-year deal. In Edmonton, Campbell is being crapped on because he’s performing so poorly and the Oilers have invested big money into him. The last thing he needs is for his own teammates to bail.
It’s unlikely that his teammates turn on him but things can happen and fingers get pointed when the team is losing. The Oilers need to find ways to win, even if they aren’t getting the goaltending they need, and in that process, not blame the less-than-stellar netminding until it fixes itself.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”