Now that the season is over and the offseason has slowed down, our team at The Oil Rig has been reflecting on the season that was. Over the past few weeks, we have been assigning grades to each player who played a significant part of the 2022-23 season with the Edmonton Oilers.
Overall, the season can be looked at as a success. Although the ending was disappointing, the Oilers finished the season with a 50–23–9 record, a total of 109 points. The first time they’ve hit 50 wins since 1986–87 and the most points since 1985–86. Things are looking promising for Edmonton’s competitive window, even though they only made it to the second round of the playoffs this season.
No position has a bigger impact on team results than the goalie and can often sink or carry a team’s season. Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell played 100% of the minutes for the Oilers, with the only other roster time for a goalie coming from the handful of games that Calvin Pickard spent as the back up while Beau Skinner was being born. Today let’s look into the 2022–23 campaigns for Skinner and Campbell.
Stuart Skinner: A-
During the regular season, Stuart Skinner was one of the great surprises for the Oilers. Entering the season, the Oilers brass simply hoped that Skinner would be an adequate back up to their newly signed veteran starter since the man they call Stu was now waiver eligible and couldn’t be sent to Bakersfield.
Instead, Skinner was likely the most valuable Oiler outside of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Skinner’s first big challenge came with the start in the Battle of Alberta in Calgary during late October. He stole the game for the Oilers and did not look back. He took the starting job, steadily positing good results for the team. In the end, in his regular season made him a worthy Calder finalist. The consistency in his play made him so dependable that the team, media and fans almost forgot he was a rookie, trusting him to take the load heading into the Oilers playoff run.
Come playoff time, it was a different story. Whether it be the man-on-man defence structure showing gaps, targeted attacking with extra scouting or a heavy workload late in the season, Skinner just wasn’t the same in the post season. He wasn’t outright bad in my opinion, but he regularly left you wanting with about one bad goal per start. When contrast with the strong play that Vegas got from Adin Hill late in the second round, it left the Oilers and their fans wanting more.
The Oilers’ rookie only made league minimum last year, so it’s tough to fault Skinner for the eventual struggles he faced in the playoffs. But the fact of the matter is that he was in that position and his performance played a role in the eventual downfall of the Oilers’ postseason hopes. Skinner had a previous history of playoff success at other levels, so I’d expect him to improve the next time he gets a chance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
At the same time, it’s impossible to take away his extremely strong regular season, which saw him play consistently at a high level and gain the Oilers 13 points in the standings.
Jack Campbell: F
On July 13, 2022, the Oilers signed Jack Campbell to a five-year contract worth a total of $25M after what seemed to be weeks of reporting prior to free agency connecting the two sides. Like it or not, Ken Holland had found what he thought would be the Oilers’ starter for the remainder of the existing McDavid and Draisaitl contracts.
The first year of Campbell’s contract almost could not have gone any worse. While he record might not show it, Campbell struggled mightily. He posted an .888 SV% and 3.41 GAA while having a 34–21–9 record. This wasn’t a case of just a bad defensive structure, as the Oilers were clocked around average as a defensive unit by most models, but Campbell posted 18.81 goals saved below expected (per EvolvingHockey).
The private models were not any friendlier to Campbell, as Clear Sight Analytics had him at -18.88 GSAx, which was fifth worst in the league for the season. By applying that goals saved above expected to each game, I was able to determine that Campbell likely cost the Oilers seven points over the course of the season, which would have been enough to win the Pacific Division and Western Conference.
The 31-year-old goalie not only lost a starting job that was guaranteed to him last summer, but he completely lost any sense of trust that the coaching staff might have had in him. As it became increasingly obvious that Skinner had run out of gas in the playoffs, Coach Jay Woodcroft continued to roll out his rookie starter as he had lost any trust in Campbell due to his poor performance over the course of the season.
The low point of that season was likely the five straight games where Campbell was the main culprit for the Oilers loss in mid-February. Another low light was when seven pucks beat Campbell in a game against the lowly San Jose Sharks, but former video coach Jeremy Coupal was able to take three of them off the board leading to a 5–4 overtime winner.
There was some glimmer of hope late in the season for Campbell. His last two regular season starts against the 32nd overall Anaheim Ducks—so the results should be taken with a grain of salt—but he was able to shut them out at home before beating them 3–2 in Anaheim.
I don’t place a lot of weight on the relief appearances that Campbell had against Vegas, as those games were at points where the Golden Knights were not trying to attack. However, Campbell’s performance in Game 4 against Los Angeles was his best of the season and likely saved that series for the Oilers. Here’s hoping that Campbell can build on that late success heading into an offseason of training and into next season, as his first in orange and blue was absolutely dismal.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire