Is Dustin Schwartz Really The Problem?

Photo by Amanda Cain/NHLI

As the Oilers have opened up the season with a goalie controversy only 16 games in, there has been quite a bit of finger-pointing at Dustin Schwartz. Mostly negative. Most are about how new Oiler Jack Campbell has started his season with abysmal numbers. Through 10 games this season, Jack Campbell has a record of 6-4-0, with a GAA of 4.27 and a SV% of .873%.

Something that makes this confusing is just how good Skinner has been for the Oilers. Through Skinner’s first seven games, he has a record of 3-3-0, a GAA of 2.53, and a SV% of .932%, insane numbers thus far. With his last game coming against the Florida Panthers, Skinner made a whopping 40 saves en route to an Oilers 4-2 victory, a much-needed victory at that. This game pushed the talk of Skinner possibly taking over as the starter. Another sign is that Skinner will start against the LA Kings, a divisional rival.

Looking into it too much? Maybe, but giving your “backup” a game against your divisional rival when your team is trying to crawl out of a slow start to the season doesn’t seem like nothing. Woodcroft is giving Skinner his vote of confidence, as has most of the Edmonton Oilers fan base.

This begs the question of the title… is Dustin Schwartz the problem?

You Need Defense

Something that has been working against Campbell has been both the Oilers defense and defensive play all around in their end. Most of the time, it seems the Oilers have played better in front of Skinner (obviously not including the Panthers game.), but for Campbell, it has been the complete opposite. The Oilers have been a tire fire in their zone. Anyone who has watched the games knows this. They look lost, with tons of missed assignments and bad reads.

This is not to discount Skinner’s strong play or to bail out Campbell. Soup has not been near good enough, and he knows it. In a post-game interview following a 6-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, Jack Campbell was not holding back on his play, saying, “I haven’t brought my best. Frankly, it’s been pathetic the way I’ve been playing. I owe it to this team to bring my A game, and they haven’t seen it yet.”.

The Oilers are 24th in the league for goals against and 23rd in goals for. McDavid, Draisaitl, Kane, Nugent-Hopkins, and Zach Hyman have combined for 44 goals. The rest of the team has a combined 15. That is not near good enough.

The Good With The Bad

As we talked about Skinner and Campbell’s play being opposites of each other, this is where I find it hard to blame Schwartz. Campbell has been in the league for a good amount of time now and has had success everywhere he’s played, being a solid NHL goaltender when called upon. Yet, in Edmonton, he’s been anything but that. This is more on the defense than it is on Schwartz.

Both of Campbell’s former teams have had good defense in front of him. He played behind names like Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez, to TJ Brodie and Jake Muzzin, with each player being very good defensively. Also, with Campbell being around the league for so long, it’s hard to see how Schwartz could have had much of an impact on how Campbell plays, especially to this extent.

One player that has been around Dustin Schwartz for his whole time in the NHL is Stuart Skinner. Since joining Edmonton in 2017, Skinner has worked with Dustin Schwartz quite a bit, with the bulk of it being in the past two seasons. Skinner is pretty much Schwartz’s first NHL grown-from-the-ground-up goalie, as for the majority of his time in Edmonton, he hasn’t been dealt a very good hand in the goaltending department.

All In All

The Oilers issues in net run deeper than Dustin Schwartz, as the Oilers continue to struggle in their own zone, and teams are taking full advantage of it. Unless the Oilers figure it out in their own zone, it’s hard to see Jack Campbell bouncing back if he can’t get the support he needs. Ken Holland can only go so long without having his hand forced, and with names like Carson Soucy, Gavrikov, and the big-ticket LD man Jacob Chychrun on the market… it’s safe to assume that no one’s job is safe on the defensive end.

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