Jack Campbell, Oilers Goaltending

Should the Oilers Be Worried About Jack Campbell Already?

What happened to Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell after he earned the opening-night start against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, Oct. 11? Well, I’m not going to place the blame solely on him. It wasn’t a great start, and the numbers don’t suggest he deserved to win, but the Oilers didn’t play well in front of him, either.

Campbell was pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots and replaced by Stuart Skinner. This may not have happened in the first game of the regular season in 2022-23, but it did happen a fair bit over the entire season. Last season, Skinner was just a rookie, and Campbell had just signed a five-year deal worth $5 million annually. Many believed that Campbell would bounce back this season since he put in plenty of offseason work and had a very strong preseason, but the first game of 2023-24 didn’t support that.

What Went Wrong in Game 1 for the Oilers & Campbell?

Campbell was the team’s best goalie in the preseason, which is how he earned the start (from “What We Learned: Edmonton Oilers go back to the well with Jack Campbell”, EP Rinkside, Oct. 9, 2023). He went 3-0-0 and stopped 101 of 104 shots. He was also playing a bit better by the end of 2022-23, but he wasn’t trusted to start. Then, he played very well in relief over four appearances in the playoffs. Even though he didn’t gain the trust of the coaching staff back last season, and it was part of the Oilers’ downfall in the postseason, he put in the work over the summer to change the narrative.

Jack Campbell Edmonton Oilers
Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

From speaking to someone about how to deal with what he’s going through mentally after last season to working on his game on the ice, Campbell looked ready to go this season and did earn the coaching staff’s trust back. A new season can bring a different player. So, what went wrong in the first game of the season?

First, the Canucks finished last season on a very strong note with a new head coach. The core group is tired of losing, and many players have something to prove this season. They showed it in the season opener against the Oilers. On top of that, the bounces just didn’t fall in the Oilers’ favour on Wednesday night. At both ends of the ice, some bounces sent the puck into the Oilers’ net, and others just missed going in. A couple of different bounces, and it would have been a completely different game. That isn’t to say the Oilers would have won, but they wouldn’t have lost 8-1 either.

Also, a big part of the team’s success last season was out of the lineup: Mattias Ekholm. In 2022-23, he proved that he could change the whole complexity of the defence after the Oilers went 15 games without a regulation loss (14-0-1). He makes whoever he plays with better, which means better play in front of Campbell or Skinner. Without Ekholm in the lineup, the defensive pairs were different than what is expected for the entire season, and the team is a lot weaker.

Mattias Ekholm Edmonton Oilers
Mattias Ekholm, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ekholm is arguably the biggest force from the team’s blue line, and he contributes in the offensive zone. The Oilers came out flat for the most part last night, and the chemistry wasn’t right. Goalies don’t have a perfect season without a really bad start (RBS). Although Campbell had eight RBSs last season (fewer than his final season with the Toronto Maple Leafs – 10), even Linus Ullmark, who finished 40-6-1 with a .938 save percentage, had an RBS last season.

Should the Oilers Be Worried About Campbell Again?

There is some reason for concern about Campbell’s play, but nothing was going right for the team or being executed well against the Canucks. Those games happen, and it might be a blessing in disguise that it happened in the season opener so that the Oilers wake up quickly. There’s a lot of time for Edmonton and Campbell to figure it out (from “Has Jack Campbell fought his way back to the Edmonton Oilers starting job?”, Edmonton Sun, Oct. 8, 2023). The team is going to come out swinging in their second game of the season against the same Canucks team.

Related: Oilers’ Attempt at Acquiring Lafferty Reveals Trade Intentions

Latest News & Highlights

The Oilers’ goalies were expected to split starts heading into the season. While Campbell struggled, Skinner let in the same number of goals when he took over the net in the 2023-24 season opener. The Oilers had a bad night and will also look forward to Ekholm’s return to the lineup. While preseason is a different game, Campbell proved he is up to the task and should be better overall. He should be aiming for at least 20 quality starts this season and fewer really bad ones. The Oilers will be fine. On to the next game. If this play in net for Campbell continues, then there is cause for concern.

Substack The Hockey Writers Edmonton Oilers Banner

Articles You May Like

Unsinkable Monsters force Game 7 with more late heroics
Desperate Oilers remain defiant: ‘We can do it’
Panthers not assuming anything with 3-0 lead
Firebirds draw first blood in Finals
Six Nations is not Oiler country — watch party Saturday will cheer on hometown hero Brandon Montour

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *