Oilers Need Jack Campbell to Return to Form in 2023

When it comes to the Edmonton Oilers’ goaltending situation in 2022-23, is the glass half-empty or half-full? There’s no doubt that the glass is half-full when you look at starting goaltender Stuart Skinner, as his strong play has kept the Oilers in the mix of playoff teams in the Western Conference. But when it comes to Jack Campbell, the glass is definitely half-empty.

Jack Campbell Edmonton Oilers
Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Will the glass remain that way for Campbell by the time the regular season comes to a close? That’s the $5 million question in Oil Country as the Oilers near the halfway point of the season.

Oilers Campbell Hoping To Turn His Fortunes Around

As Mark Spector of Sportsnet reported in late December, Campbell is currently breaking in new goalie pads and upper body gear that is considerably different from the stuff he has used for most of his career. That’s a big sign of a goaltender desperate for some positive change. He has only started five games over the past five weeks, and currently sits in 76th place among goaltenders with a .875 save percentage (SV%). The only silver lining is that he has an 8-6 record, but his overall stats are definitely not good enough for a goalie the Oilers had high hopes for when they signed him to a five-year $25 million contract back in July 2022.

January Will Be A Key Month for Campbell

The Oilers play seven out of their 12 games in January against Pacific Division opponents, including a four-game road trip to California and Vegas starting on Jan. 9. There’s a chance that Campbell could start against teams like the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks who are further down the standings. Playing closer to home in the month of January should help lessen the travel fatigue the Oilers experienced in the first half of the season, and this could also benefit Campbell in terms of having a fresher group of defencemen in front of him. However, sometimes they have a tendency to play down to lesser opponents, so you just never know what you’re going to get with the team.

Related: Oilers & Campbell Following Flames & Markstrom Script

The next four weeks are going to be a good litmus test for both Campbell and the Oilers. If they can put together a significant winning streak, and if he can regain his lost confidence, then they will definitely be in a stronger position down the stretch drive. However, if he continues his inconsistent play, Oilers general manager Ken Holland will have to find some answers quickly.

Goaltending Options for the Oilers

If Campbell is unable to turn his game around, the Oilers might be forced into making some moves out of desperation in order to strengthen their goaltending for the spring. You can’t expect Skinner to turn into Grant Fuhr or Martin Brodeur – and play almost every game. Today’s NHL is different, it’s faster and more demanding on the body and you need a strong goaltending tandem in order to succeed.

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Lawrence Scott/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, and Anaheim Ducks are the only three NHL teams with the cap room to take on a $5 million hit such as Campbell’s. But would they want to? And if so, who could fill the void for the Oilers in net if Campbell were to be moved before or at the trade deadline? Finally, would any of them be interested in a three-team trade? These are all questions the Oilers brass might already be contemplating should Campbell’s play not improve.

Oilers Goaltending Prospect Olivier Rodrigue Looking Good in Bakersfield

It would probably be too much of a leap to bring up Olivier Rodrigue, who is currently the Oilers’ No. 1 goaltending prospect. But you never know. They once had two young unproven goalies on their NHL roster with Fuhr and Andy Moog back in the early 1980s, and that didn’t turn out too bad. Could a Skinner/Rodrique tandem work for this current version of the Oilers?

Olivier Rodrigue Oilers
Olivier Rodrigue, Edmonton Oilers, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Rodrique is currently the Bakersfield Condors’ starter and has a .911 SV% which puts him in the top 15 goalies in the American Hockey League. Depending on what happens this season, you have to wonder if Oilers management might look at buying out Campbell’s contract and bringing up Rodrigue to partner with Skinner for the 2023-24 season.

Campbell Still Has Half a Season to Redeem Himself

The best-case scenario for the Oilers (and the most realistic) is for Campbell to improve his play in the second half of the season. If he can return to the form he showed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers will be looking good in net come playoff time. There are still a lot of games to be played, and a lot more questions than answers at this point. If you’re an Oilers fan, you have to hope that a nice guy such as Campbell can finish first. What a great story that would be.