Jack Campbell’s beginning tenure with the Edmonton Oilers is statistically less than ideal. Not only has he been outplayed by his counterpart and backup, Stuart Skinner, but he has also raised the ire of a Stanley Cup-desperate fan base who have consistently been told the only hindrance to hoisting Lord Stanley begins in the blue paint. Goals allowed, puck-playing miscues, and nightly high-scoring games have all contributed to rumblings throughout the fan base and from various media outlets, all of whom are already beginning to question the value of his five-year $5M AAV contract.
First ten games played for each season
Inconsistent, back-breaking, abysmal – a few of the descriptives regarding Campbell’s play from various sources such as Twitter and Oiler’s talk shows. Less than a few months ago, the same individuals were hailing Campbell as a saviour finally ready to steady the Oilers’ goaltending conundrum. Granted, the sample size of ten games is small, but does it depict a larger trend or the play of a goalie settling into a new system with which he was unfamiliar?
|Career Average of First 10 Games||30||18||2||124||1394||27.88||0.912%||2.66||4|
Campbell is having the worst start of his career
Statistically, Campbell is posting one of his worst stretches for season starts in his career. Among the past five seasons, when starting at least ten games, Campbell’s 2022–23 season SV% and GAA rank as career worst. Compared to his career averages for the first ten games of a season played, Campbell is currently posting -0.40% below his career SV% and 1.62 above his career GAA. However, his expected goals against average (xGAA) is 3.53, a negative difference of -0.74, implying his GAA should be less than actual.
Reflecting on the ten-game benchmark for starts, Campbell has only posted sub 0.900 SV% twice in his career, with the other in 2019–20 on a below .500 Los Angeles Kings team. The beginning of the 2022–23 season is the only occurrence where his GAA is above 3.00, although he was close with the Kings in the 2019–20 season.
In terms of advanced stats, Campbell is posting a goals saved above average (GSAA) of -10.1, goals saved above expected (GSAx) of -6.7, and wins above replacement (WAR) of -1.12, each ranking among NHL worst for goalies.
Although contrary to the rocky start, Campbell has backstopped the Oilers to six wins among his ten starts, good enough for a 0.600% winning percentage and third-best among his seasonal beginnings. Two games – his second start against Calgary and tenth start against Carolina – skew Campbell’s seasonal numbers to a considerable negative degree. Though the results without the games mentioned above, 0.893 SV% and 3.51 GAA, are still less than a positive return on the Oilers $5M AAV investment.
How does Stu compare to Soup?
As mentioned, the play of his tandem partner is not easing the burden of the pressure or the beating of the drum to have Campbell sit and ride the hot hand of Stuart Skinner. Compared to Campbell, Skinner is posting much more respectable numbers; however, in a smaller sample size of only seven games.
Skinner’s performance to date represents more of what Oilers’ management expected of Campbell, a 2.53 GAA and 0.932 SV%, rankings that place Skinner sixth and seventh league-wide. Advanced metrics further support Skinner’s statistics, including a GSAx of 5.1 (12th best in the NHL) and GSAA of 6.6, measurements far outpacing those of Campbell.
Additionally, Skinner is succeeding even though the Oilers defensively are giving up six high danger scoring chances against (HDSCA) per game. With Campbell tending the net, HDSCA per game reduces to 5.1, marks ranking near the worst of the NHL.
Is this just a pattern for Campbell?
Campbell has gone through previous stretches like this, including the 2021–22 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the 20 games between December and March, Campbell posted measures of 0.885 SV% and 3.54 GAA before returning to average career form. After this period of bad play, Campbell’s 0.915 SV% and 2.58 GAA aligned much more with his registered professional norm of 0.913 SV% and 2.65 GAA.
While most readers probably know, some individuals may not perceive this is as Campbell’s first time with a new team. From the aforementioned Kings, where Campbell’s statistics mirrored that of a rebuilding team, Campbell was traded midway through the 2019–20 season to the Maple Leafs. Before the trade, Campbell was 8–10–2, with a 0.900 SV% and 2.84 GAA, reflective of a team giving up 5.25 HDSCA per game.
However, upon beginning with a contending team, Campbell’s statistics aligned almost identically with his SV% and GAA career averages even though HDSCA per game increased from 5.25 with L.A. to 6.67, although in a minimal sample size of six games. Reviewing the HDSCA per game figure illustrates the Oilers’ current defensive play, ~5.1 HDSCA per game with Campbell. As the trade deadline outlines, Campbell has previously proven that he can post average career measures in a porous defensive structure, providing hope for positive change.
The only consistency when it comes to Campbell is inconsistency
What can Oilers fans expect moving forward? Campbell’s inconsistent play to date cannot be squarely rested on his shoulders to blame as shots against, penalty kill woes, and defensive structure of high-danger chances have additionally contributed to his lackluster play. Yet, as most fans viewed during the Carolina Hurricanes game, Campbell is mentally fighting a battle from pressure and with confidence in his ability. This was evident in his questioning every shot attempt, such as pucks bouncing out of snapping-shut gloves or checking behind the back after shots squeaked through.
Looking ahead to the schedule and reflecting on the streakiness of the hot and cold nature of Campbell’s career, facing off against struggling teams such as Montreal, Washington, Arizona, and Nashville within the next ten games may be the ideal solution.
It can also be fair and optimistic to expect Campbell to snap out of the current funk and positively regress statistically toward his career norms. As previously throughout his career, Campbell has shown to do so with the Maple Leafs and the Kings which will hopefully soothe the worry of anxious fans and media alike.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire