Going into this season, the Edmonton Oilers figured that Jack Campbell would be their main man between the pipes for the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Last off-season, the Oilers signed Campbell, 31, to a five-year, $25 million contract. He earned that contract thanks to a solid season last year with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he was 31-9-0-6 with a 2.64 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage, and five shutouts.
This season, however, has been a much different story for Campbell. He played in just 36 games and went 21-9-0-4 with a 3.41 goals-against average, a .888 save percentage, and one shutout.
Those are not the kind of numbers that you are supposed to get from a goaltender that you signed to a long-term contract. Campbell did not play anywhere close to what the team signed him for.
In came 24-year-old Stuart Skinner. Skinner had a great regular season for the Oilers this year as he went 29-14-0-5 with a 2.75 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage, and one shutout.
Because of Skinner’s strong play, the team signed him to a three-year, $7.8 million contract back on December 19th. This means that the Oilers have a tandem of Campbell and Skinner locked up for the next eight years.
While team head coach Jay Woodcroft has not announced who his starting goaltender would be heading into their first round matchup with the Los Angeles Kings, one would expect Skinner to be the guy for several reasons. For starters, he had much better numbers than Campbell this season.
If you look at the above statistics from both Campbell and Skinner, it is clear that Skinner was the better goaltender. He played in more games, had a better goals-against average, better save percentage, and more wins.
Yes, there will be those who say Campbell did not have the opportunity to post those numbers. Well, he did not get the opportunity because he got outplayed by Skinner, and when you play in a league that is all about wins, you go with the guy who gives your team the best chance to win a hockey game. That was Skinner for the Oilers this season.
Secondly, Skinner has played extremely well over his last several starts. In fact, if you look at what he has accomplished below, you will see that he is playing some of his best hockey at the right time:
- March 30th against the Los Angeles Kings: Stopped 43 of 43 shots in a shutout victory.
- April 4th against the Los Angeles Kings: Stopped 20 of 21 shots in a win.
- April 8th against the San Jose Sharks: Stopped 22 of 23 shots in a win.
- April 11th against the Colorado Avalanche: Stopped 29 of 29 shots in a win.
- April 13th against the San Jose Sharks: Stopped 27 of 29 shots in a win.
It is clear that Skinner is playing at a high level right now. Woodcroft should stick with him, and if he ends up playing poorly early on in the series, he can go right ahead and turn to Campbell.
Lastly, even though he is a rookie and has never played a Stanley Cup playoff game before, Skinner has earned every right to be given the net to start the series against the Kings. He has shown that he knows how to win games and that he can play well consistently, both things that matter most come playoff time.
Skinner has a chance to show the rest of the league and their fans that he has what it takes to bring the Cup back to Edmonton.