Ex-Maple Leaf Jack Campbell & His Season with the Oilers
On July 1, 2022, Jack Campbell walked away from the Toronto Maple Leafs to sign a five-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers for an average annual value of $5 million. During 2021-22, based mostly on his strong start, Campbell had put together a solid season with the Maple Leafs, posting a 31-9-6 record, a 2.64 goals-against-average (GAA), and a .914 save percentage (SV%) in 49 games.
The Oilers saw in Campbell the answer to their goalie problems. Mike Smith was injured and couldn’t play, and Mikko Koskinen had signed to play in Switzerland. When he was signed, Campbell was expected to play a significant role in helping the Oilers take their next postseason step.
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With the Oilers, Campbell joined former Maple Leafs’ teammates Zach Hyman, Cody Ceci, and Tyson Barrie.
Campbell’s Start to the 2022-23 Season
Campbell started the season poorly. Although October wasn’t horrible, it left much to be desired. Campbell ended the month with a good-enough record of 4-2-0. However, his GAA of 3.89 and SV% of .888 were less than stellar.
In speaking about his performance over the first two months with the Oilers, his own word was “pathetic.” However, Maple Leafs’ fans who know Campbell shouldn’t be surprised by a harsh self-assessment. He always wore his emotions on his sleeve.
For example, in a November game, Campbell gave up six goals against the Dallas Stars. In his next start, he allowed a career-high seven goals against the Carolina Hurricanes. It was that kind of a season.
Campbell Struggled with Rebounds
Campbell was struggling, and his advanced statistics clearly pointed out the issues. He allowed more goals than expected in his first 10 starts, and that was the worst in the NHL. Furthermore, although the Oilers’ defense was not as solid as the Maple Leafs’ defense had been in 2021-22, issues with Campbell’s play were not the fault of poor defensive play in front of him.
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Specifically, his rebound control had declined, and opponents generated far too many rebound shots on net per 60 minutes. Campbell couldn’t stop enough of them. He gave up an NHL-worst eight second-chance goals in 10 games on the season, which were half as many as he did in 49 games last season. Campbell needed to improve his rebound control, stop more shots, and prevent more goals. But he wasn’t.
Campbell Was Not Meeting Expectations
As the first two months of the 2022-23 season ended, Campbell’s performance with the Oilers had not met expectations. Campbell had represented the Maple Leafs at the All-Star Game last season, but his performance dropped off during the second half of the season. He had continued that same swoon.
Fortunately, the Oilers had received strong play from backup goalie Stuart Skinner. Suddenly, Campbell found himself backing up the 24-year-old rookie. Given Skinner’s .932 SV% in his first seven games on the season (including a 40-save game against the Florida Panthers), that was fair.
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As December rolled around, Campbell’s poor performance and Skinner’s strong play fueled a goalie controversy, with many Oilers’ fans beginning to rue general manager Ken Holland’s haste to sign the 31-year-old Campbell.
December Wasn’t Much Better for Campbell
Throughout December, Campbell’s performance remained inconsistent. In a Dec. 1 game against the Minnesota Wild, he allowed five goals on 30 shots – a 5-3 loss for the Oilers.
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Campbell’s inconsistency affected his team’s performance as he played only four games in December. He lost three of them. He finished the month with a 1-2-1 record, a GAA of 3.49, and an SV% of .877.
In January, Campbell Finds His Game Again
As January began, Campbell’s record was 8-7-1, with a 3.80 GAA, and a .877 SV% over 17 games. January didn’t start well for the Oilers, as they lost 5-2 to the Seattle Kraken. However, that loss was Skinner’s. Campbell came in as a reliever and didn’t allow a goal in three shots.
Campbell made 20 saves in a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Jan. 5. It was his first win since Dec. 13. Over the next few games, the crease became Campbell’s as Skinner took personal leave to be present for the birth of his first child.
Campbell then started two California road games against the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks. He took advantage of Skinner’s absence. He allowed two goals on 23 shots in a 6-2 win over the Ducks. Next he allowed only a single goal on 26 shots in a 7-1 win over the Sharks. It was the third win in his last four games.
Campbell was beginning to play better. He had allowed two or fewer goals in six straight games, although two of those were relief appearances against weaker Pacific Division rivals the Ducks and the Sharks.
Campbell Gets Tested Against Two Strong Teams
Campbell had upped his record to 11-8-1, his GAA to 3.46, and his SV% to .883 in 21 games. With Skinner away, he started the next game against Vegas. He gave up three goals on 30 shots to beat the Golden Knights.
He had another solid game against the Seattle Kraken, stopping 29 of 31 shots. In his most recent outing, Campbell beat the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-3.
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With the win, Campbell had won five games in a row and surrendered only 11 goals on 141 shots in those games. His January record thus far has been a huge improvement at 6-1-0, with a 2.15 GAA and a .916 SV%. His solid month so far pushed his season’s record to 14-8-1, with a 3.35 GAA and a .887 SV% in 24 games.
Campbell’s 2022-23 Season to This Point
To this point, Campbell’s 2022-23 season has been inconsistent. Early, he struggled and failed to regain his form from early last season. He was nowhere near the goalie who represented the Maple Leafs at the NHL All-Star Game.
His rebound control was poor, and he gave up far too many second-chance goals. Recently, however, he’s seemed to find his game again. Fortunately, the Oilers also have found a good tandem goalie in Skinner.
Sometimes goalies go through tough stretches. In addition, Campbell had entered yet another high-pressure situation with the Oilers. He had to know his new team had made a significant investment by signing him. Furthermore, his “way” of suffering losses and poor play openly might not have helped.
It’s hard not to root for Campbell. His generosity of spirit is attractive to fans. I’m certain a number of Maple Leafs’ fans hope he continues to have a solid season (with Zach Hyman) for the Oilers.
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That is unless the two teams meet in the Stanley Cup Final. Then, he’s the bad guy.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf
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