It's time for the Oilers to turn the crease over to Stuart Skinner

Feb 26 2022, 12:16 am

It didn’t work with Mikko Koskinen. It hasn’t with Mike Smith, either.¬†

So, at least for now, it’s time to turn to 23-year-old netminder Stuart Skinner in a bid to put even average goaltending back between the pipes for the Edmonton Oilers.

Simply put, he’s their best option at this stage.¬†

Granted, Smith hasn’t had much of a chance to work himself back into a groove after returning from injury, but the early returns aren’t there and the Oilers are blessed with much runway.

True, Koskinen has shown spurts this season of being able to hold his own, but the wild inconsistencies shown in his game aren’t about to inspire the five skaters in front of him with any regularity.

Yes, Skinner has fewer than 800 minutes under his belt in his career in the National Hockey League. 

But he’s shown to be the best of the three. And it’s not close.¬†

The surface numbers show the same. 

While Koskinen boasts a 17-8-2 record this season, his .899 save percentage and 3.13 goals-against average are far from being worthy of an automatic go-to. Smith, the oft-injured 39-year-old, has even worse numbers in half the showing, with a 5-6-1 record to run alongside a 3.65 goals-against average and .891 save percentage. 

Contrast those numbers with Skinner, who, admittedly, does sit at 6-6-0 on the year, but sports a shiny .913 save percentage and a 2.62 goals-against average. Both stats, obviously, lead the team. 

There’s no parachuting in a goaltender via the trade market, at least not at this point, with Edmonton sitting at just over $700,000 in cap space, according to CapFriendly. Any swap would need to be a dollars-in, dollars-out transaction, as general manager Ken Holland is fully aware.¬†

Even if the numbers could work, does the 3.82 goals-against-average of Joonas Korpisalo of the Columbus Blue Jackets or a .893 save percentage from Seattle Kraken goalie Chris Driedger inspire more confidence than Skinner? 

How about Martin Jones, James Reimer, or Thomas Greiss?

If Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t an option, and he likely isn’t, is there another netminder on the market that’s worth testing before giving Skinner the crease for the next month to test the youngster?¬†

It makes more sense to roll him out than Smith or Koskinen at this stage. 

He’s the only goalie in Edmonton’s stable with a positive goals-saved-above-expected at 0.9, substantially better than Smith’s -6.5 (in the same amount of games) and Koskinen’s -9.4 mark. Skinner’s save percentage, sans one slight sliver to Koskinen on unblocked shots, is the best of the trio in all advanced measures, too, according to MoneyPuck.

Across all metrics, Skinner has been remarkably average.

That should suit the Oilers, which sit with a share of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference alongside the Dallas Stars, just fine. 

Just fine goaltending will strengthen their playoff hopes. 

And Skinner’s their best bet to get them that at the moment.¬†

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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