138

Off the Top of My Head

Friday, in his first availability with media at Rogers Place since being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks by the Edmonton Oilers, Duncan Keith made it known he found it “frustrating” that he had to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to play hockey. In a province that just two days earlier recorded 34 pandemic deaths, it was obvious Keith hadn’t bothered to read the room.

Keith offered that take in the nation’s COVID hotbed right after his release from quarantine. To be fair, he was asked a question and he answered it. Keith, who’ll be relied on to be a big part of Dave Tippett’s blue line group this season, has the right to an opinion and to express it as he did. The bottom line is Keith did get vaccinated — a case of better late than never.

“For me, I look at it like I put so much time over the years into trying to feel good on and off the ice and to prepare as best I can and be professional,” Keith said, responding to a question by TSN reporter Ryan Rishaug. “I think as you get older, you take that time and you learn a lot on what it takes to try and continue to play at a high level. A lot of that is building up your immune system so . . .

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“For me, I guess the frustrating part was that I’ve done so much to try to keep my immune system strong and healthy and firing on all cylinders, so, you know, to have to basically take the vaccine to play hockey, for me, was frustrating in a lot of ways, but at the same time I’m excited to be here. I’m excited for this opportunity and this challenge here.” For full context, the complete video of Keith’s availability is here.

The old saying is you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Framed in the circumstances we find ourselves in, I didn’t much care for what the two-time Norris Trophy winner and three-time Stanley Cup champion had to say off the top. Maybe you didn’t either. The thing is, if Keith delivers what the Oilers are paying him handsomely for out on the ice and in the dressing room over the next two seasons, what he said Friday won’t matter a bit.

Onward.

BEAR SLOTTED HIGH

Ethan Bear, the price the Oilers paid to acquire forward Warren Foegele from the Carolina Hurricanes, has been paired with Jaccob Slavin to start training camp. Where Bear ends up on a blue line in transition has yet to be determined, but it sounds as if coach Rod Brind’Amour has liked what he’s seen.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“I think there’s a lot of untapped potential here, offensively, getting involved in the rush and playing the way we play,” Brind’Amour told Chip Alexander of the News&Observer. “He can skate. I think it will be a good fit for a long time to come, hopefully.”

Slavin led Carolina skaters in ice time last season at 22:59 and it sounds at this point like Bear will get every chance to stay paired with him into the season. In recent years, Slavin most often played in Brind’Amour’s top pairing with Dougie Hamilton, who is now in New Jersey.

It’s understandable some Oilers’ fans have been beefing about trading a potential top-two blueliner in Bear for a third-line winger like Foegele. I get the sentiment, but I have a feeling that Foegele will be a pleasant surprise where he’s slotted. There’s more here. As for Bear, let’s see if he sticks in that top pair.

PERLINI BRINGING IT

Sep 28, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Brendan Perlini (42) tries to screen Seattle Kraken goaltender Joey Daccord (35) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

With four goals in four pre-season games, including one in a Friday’s 2-1 OT loss to Seattle, keeping things simple is obviously working for Brendan Perlini. I wrote about Perlini just a few days ago, but he keeps building on his bid to earn a job with Tippett’s fourth line. He’s been impossible to ignore.

“I’m grateful to be here,” said Perlini. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity and for Tipp and the coaching staff to, you know, give me an opportunity. I try to play my game. Come in, shoot the puck and skate. Really not too much else. I know it sounds simple, but it’s really just going and playing hockey.”

After adding an assist on Devin Shore’s 2-1 goal in a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets Saturday night, if Perlini’s name isn’t written in ink on Tippett’s line-up card by now to start the upcoming regular season, I don’t know what it’ll take.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

AND . . .

BOWDEN INSTITUTION, ALTA. — His name is Jaskirat Sidhu. Most people know him only as The Humboldt Driver. This update by CTV Managing editor Avery Haines ran Saturday night. It’s worth a read.

Previously by Robin Brownlee