The Edmonton Oilers are one of the worst teams in hockey to start the season. As NHLRumors.com documented, the Oilers are the most disappointing team in the Western Conference. Thus changes were coming. The first change the Oilers made was to put Jack Campbell on waivers for the purpose of assignment.
It is easy to point the finger at Campbell. He is in the second year of a five-year, $25 million deal that carries a salary cap hit of $5 million. Campbell was brought in to be the guy and solve the goaltending issues for the Oilers. Unfortunately, Campbell has not performed.
Thus, he has been made to be the fall guy with a 4.50 goals-against average and a .873 save percentage. Just not good enough. And we know Campbell’s psyche can be shaken easily. He wears it on his sleeve when he does not perform well.
However, this just does not fall on Campbell. Again, it is easy because he makes the most money of the goalie duo of Stuart Skinner and Campbell. But Skinner has been equally bad outside of one period outdoors. Skinner has a 3.99 goals against average and a .856 save percentage. Also not good enough.
Skinner is in his second season in the league, so he could be going through that sophomore slump. However, this is not a goaltending problem in Edmonton. It is a team problem that starts at the top and goes all the way down into that locker room as TSN’s Ryan Rishaug points out on That’s Hockey with Gino Reda in an NHLRumors.com Transcription.
Rishaug: “You know, like the list of people who are responsible for this situation is long. So where do you want to start? Maybe let’s just start far up the organization. Right. Ken Holland. I mean, the team is rammed up against the cap. They started the season short on players on their roster, but he’s the one that signed Campbell. So the responsibility is lying squarely at his feet. No question about it.
Jay Woodcroft. How many times are we going to do a scrum with Jay Woodcroft where he stands there and talks about how it’s not a system problem, it’s about too many individual mistakes? Just too many individual mistakes. Well, Gino, I ask you, whose responsibility is it to make sure there’s accountability and that those mistakes stop? I would tell you it’s the head coach’s.
Yet Evan Bouchard made probably the worst mistake we’ve seen this season last night. Didn’t miss a shift. Jay Woodcroft has not been able to get any level of accountability out of these players. And so it lies squarely at his feet. By the way, the new defensive system that was gonna make this team better defensively, it’s been a train wreck and one of the worst teams in the league defensively. He broke it. He broke it. Yeah, now whether it’s the system or the individual mistakes, it’s broken.”
?Night Cap Recap ?
Thoughts Here: pic.twitter.com/RBgjNxuvIY
— Jim Biringer (@JimBiringer) November 7, 2023
That system Rishaug is talking about is a zone plus one. Last season the Oilers were playing man-to-man and they got to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yes, they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights and their defense got exposed, but the Oilers are not playing good team defense.
And yes, the Oilers needed a timely save from Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner, the team is giving up way too many high-danger scoring chances. According to Natural Stat Trick, of the goals scored against the Oilers, 60 percent came from the High Danger Zone. That equates to two high danger zone goals per game and the Oilers have given up 19.82 high danger zone goals this season.
Simply put, the defense for the Oilers is not good enough to win hockey games when they are putting up numbers like this. It is just not the goaltending. Granted both Skinner and Campbell needed to be better, but the Oilers need to play team defense first before worrying about scoring goals.
Evan Bouchard continues to make bad pinching mistakes that lead to goals. Bouchard against Vancouver did not even backcheck and his man scored. Did not miss a shift as Rishaug stated. Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci need to be broken up. Both players continued to get exposed. The system does not help. At least in man to man they were protected. Somewhat.
Mattias Ekholm is not the same player that came over at the deadline last season. But there are no easy fixes. One of them has to be changing back the defensive scheme. Because if this keeps up more changes are coming.
Forgot to mention Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are shells of themselves. Draisaitl is 18th in points per game, while McDavid is 27th in points per game this season. Not having the best duo going in the game will hurt any coach.
But this is not just not one player. Jack Campbell knew he needed to be better. But the team in front of him was not good enough either.
The players need to hold themselves accountable. They cannot continuously make the same mistakes that end up in the back of their net. The Oilers must work harder and exercise their demons.
What if these losses keep happening? What if these mistakes keep happening?
Who is to blame then?
Again this was not a Jack Campbell problem it is a team problem for the Edmonton Oilers.