Unless I’m reading things completely wrong, and that’s happened a time or two, indications are Connor McDavid’s much-anticipated return to the line-up of the Edmonton Oilers after having surgery Nov. 4 to repair a broken clavicle is a matter of days, not weeks.
That read, for me, is based on McDavid participating in limited contact drills during the team’s skate at Rexall Place Wednesday — an event that didn’t go unnoticed by those who’ve been eye-balling every move he’s made in recent weeks – protocol I’ve seen employed with players returning from injury over the years and what McDavid himself has said.
McDavid involved in one-on-one battle drills to stay inside the circle. Looking stronger and not favouring shoulder/clavicle. #Oilers
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) January 6, 2016
As for McDavid: “I’d say I’m definitely ahead of schedule,” he said after skating with his teammates for the first time Jan. 1. “There hasn’t been any pain basically since the surgery or a few days after. There’s a process I’m going to have to go through, taking contact and all that. (This) was the first step. It’s good to feel normal and be out there again.”
McDavid, injured against the Philadelphia Flyers Nov. 3, had been skating on his own for three weeks before he took a twirl with the team on New Year’s Day. He progressed to taking face-off drills last Monday and to taking limited contact Wednesday.
Framed in a diagnosis that recovery time could be anywhere from 10-12 weeks, the drills McDavid took part in Wednesday came 64 days after his surgery. There’s still another step to navigate. The drills Wednesday involved leveraging and pushing an opponent with the puck out of the face-off circle. McDavid still has to work through taking more impact in coming days.
That said, even allowing that no two injuries are exactly the same and that no two players will recover from surgery at exactly the same pace, I don’t recall an Oiler player taking more than 10 days to return to game action after being cleared for contact by team doctors — barring a setback because of that contact. Ten days from Wednesday puts McDavid back in the line-up Jan. 16 against the Calgary Flames, 74 days after his surgery.
For context, Patrick Kane returned from surgery to repair a broken clavicle after 50 days last season. He had surgery Feb. 25. He was cleared for contact April 13 and was in Chicago’s line-up against Nashville for the first game in the first round of the playoffs April 15.
While I wouldn’t be surprised to see McDavid back before Jan. 16, next Tuesday in Arizona or Thursday in San Jose, the Oilers absolutely have to err on the side of caution. I expect they will. I see the back end of that 10-day window, the game against the Flames, as the likeliest return date.
WHILE I’M AT IT
With a 17-21-3 record and 37 points through 41 games, the Oilers have exceeded my expectations at the halfway mark of the season, given they’ve played 28 games without McDavid, 13 without Jordan Eberle, 19 without Nail Yakupov and 11 without Oscar Klefbom.
I had the Oilers pegged for 82 points, a .500 points percentage, this season. For them to be just four points off that pace with the injuries, time to adjust to coach Todd McLellan and some patches of sketchy goaltending at the halfway mark is pretty good in my books.
- Actions rather than words have to be the bottom line with Zack Kassian, but he sounded very committed to making the most of what amounts to his last chance to play in the NHL when Jason Gregor and I talked with him Wednesday. Kassian, acquired by the Oilers from Montreal for Ben Scrivens after completing the second step of the NHL’s substance abuse program, brings the size and degree of nasty the Oilers need up front. He’ll get that chance if he flies straight. You can listen to the interview here.
- Interesting debate on ON yesterday about the Ryan Johansen trade from Columbus to Nashville for Seth Jones and whether the Oilers would’ve been wise to trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for Jones. As much as the Oilers need what Jones might become, he’s still a kid and isn’t there yet. I wouldn’t have traded RNH for him and I wouldn’t have traded Johansen either. He’s a superior player to RNH.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.
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