In the upcoming 2023-24 NHL season, there is no doubt (well, almost no doubt) about the two goaltenders who will be leading the way for the Edmonton Oilers. Stuart Skinner exploded onto the scene with a Calder Trophy-candidate season and proved he was a promising homegrown prospect that could be as good a starter as the Oilers have had in the last decade. Meanwhile, Edmonton invested big money in free agent goaltender Jack Campbell and tied their wagon to him, even though he didn’t have the best first season with the team.
For Skinner, investing his offseason in improving his glove work and puck-handling skills should prove beneficial for his career trajectory. He personally noted he wants to work on his skating and get better control of the chances opposing players get right in front of his net. If he takes another step, the Oilers are in good shape. Meanwhile, Campbell needs to work on his consistency, having spurts where he looked solid, a number of clunkers derailed his campaign and he often looked lost and uncomfortable.
All that said, a crucial factor in achieving a better outcome in goal for the Oilers next season lies in fostering healthy competition between the two. Essentially, the team should start over from the beginning and let each netminder have a shot to be the guy.
Oilers Are Paying Campbell Like a Starter
Campbell, who had a challenging season, needs to regain his form and justify his $5 million price tag. Ken Holland noted during his end-of-season media conference that big-ticket free agents have struggled in net the first year after signing their deals but bounced back in year two. He expects Campbell to do so. Giving him a chance on opening night is the best plan of action.
Should Campbell not do so, the Oilers have a problem.
Considering the Oilers’ tight cap situation, it might be worth finding out immediately where Campbell stands. If he’s not going to be reliable, it’s good to know that early, giving the team a chance to make moves or decisions that are best for the team. Anointing Skinner as the undisputed starter in the early going is not conducive to getting the best out of Campbell or boosting his confidence. He needs to know the upcoming season means a fresh start and fair competition.
At the same time, if Campbell is given a fair shake and doesn’t produce, it might be worth ensuring Skinner knows he’s the guy. If both goaltenders are given equal opportunities and Skinner wins the job again, two seasons of having done so should be enough to warrant the confidence of the organization moving forward. Not only that, but healthy competition will provide the motivation Skinner needs after a shaky 2023 playoffs.
Goaltending Needs to Start From Scratch in Edmonton
Competition breeds excellence, and the goaltending position is no exception. The pressure of competing should bring out the best in both Skinner and Campbell and the two will push each other to new heights, both knowing they’ve got as good a chance as the other to get the next game. This dynamic will not only enhance the Oilers’ chances of regular season success but provides a clear path for next season’s playoffs where the Oilers need a better showing.
Skinner may have won the job this season, but his playoffs were subpar and for that reason, the Oilers should start again. Both are under contract, both will be ready to contribute, and both can be key components to the Oilers winning games.
Next: Turmoil in Toronto: Shanahan Prevented Multiple Dubas Decisions
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