The 2022-23 season is officially here and Edmonton Oilers fans are ecstatic. After a 2021-22 campaign which saw their team not only finish with 104 points in the regular season but also advance all the way to the Western Conference Final, there is plenty of belief that this roster can contend for a Stanley Cup.
Not only were the Oilers a great team in 2021-22, but they were able to keep the majority of their roster together while also improving it in certain areas. Players like Evander Kane and Brett Kulak were re-signed to team-friendly deals, while Ryan Murray appears to be a solid signing for the team’s third pairing. The biggest change of all was between the pipes, as both Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are out and are being replaced by Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner. While fans of the team are quite thrilled by this, however, some aren’t sold. In fact, a number of analytics-based writers from The Athletic aren’t sure the new duo is an upgrade at all (from “Dom Luszczyszyn, Shayna Goldman and more: Edmonton Oilers 2022-23 season preview: Playoff chances, projected points, roster rankings,” The Athletic, 09/30/22).
Campbell & Skinner a Better Duo Than Column Suggests
Before we get too deep into this, let me start by stating that I believe a Campbell/Skinner duo is far better than what the Oilers have rolled out in recent seasons. Smith’s inconsistency made him an extremely frustrating goaltender as it seemed you never knew who you were going to get on a nightly basis and, at age 40, it was clear come playoff time this past year that he had nothing left in the tank. As for Koskinen, he was flat-out bad in his final two seasons with the Oilers, recording .899 and .903 save percentages (SV%) in those years.
Many made the argument last season that Skinner was the Oilers’ best netminder during his short time with the club. The now 23-year-old posted a steady 2.62 goals against average (GAA) along with a .913 SV% in his 13 appearances and should continue to post similar numbers in what is expected to be a backup role this upcoming season (from “Bruce McCurdy: Did Edmonton Oilers just send their best goaltender to the AHL?”, Edmonton Journal, 02/16/22).
The bigger question, of course, is Campbell. While Oilers fans are excited to have the 30-year-old in town, there is no denying the fact he will have plenty of pressure on his shoulders after signing a five-year, $25 million deal this summer. He is quite inexperienced as a starting goalie in the NHL, but proved at times with the Toronto Maple Leafs that he can play at an extremely high level. That said, he was often plagued by inconsistencies, something he will need to quickly figure out with the Oilers. Now, let’s get back to the piece put out by The Athletic.
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“…Mike Smith’s numbers going into the 2021-22 season were stronger than Jack Campbell’s – relative to the defensive effort in front of him,” the column reads. “Mikko Koskinen was a more proven backup as well.”
It is worth noting that indeed Smith and Campbell’s stat lines look similar in each of the past two seasons. That said, anyone who has watched the Oilers closely would attest to the fact that Smith had an ugly tendency to give up very soft goals at untimely moments, oftentimes due to situations he would put himself in with his erratic puck handling.
As for the backup situation, it is true that Skinner has less experience than Koskinen. That said, experience doesn’t matter a ton when the goaltender is recording a 3.10 GAA along with a .903 SV% in 45 outings, which Koskinen did last season. It became extremely evident that shooters around the league learned to shoot high glove side on the Finnish netminder, and they were able to score with relative ease when doing so. Barring a complete letdown of a season, Skinner should have no problem when it comes to outdoing what we saw from Koskinen in 2021-22.
Oilers’ Duo Has Plenty to Prove
While Oilers fans will completely agree that this duo is a significant upgrade from what this team iced a season ago, this article from The Athletic shows they have plenty to prove moving forward. There are many other fans and analysts alike who too are questioning this duo entering the 2022-23 campaign, and until they prove otherwise those doubts will continue.
As mentioned, Campbell has been known to be inconsistent at times, particularly this past season where he had a dreadful second half. The hope is that he can fix that, but if not, the Oilers will rely on Skinner to step in and right the ship. It certainly isn’t a foolproof duo, but fans of this organization would take it any day of the week over what they had the past few seasons.