Off the Top of My Head
Photo credit:Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
10 months ago
Seeing Kailer Yamamoto take a twirl with the Edmonton Oilers Thursday for the first time since he played against the Anaheim Ducks Jan. 11 was a good sign, but there’s a long way to go as he makes his way back into the line-up.
Yamamoto, 24, won’t be back from LTIR until Feb. 12 against Montreal at the earliest — if his post-concussion symptoms ease up. The Oilers haven’t identified what’s ailing Yamamoto beyond an upper-body injury, but the problems that began in the conference final vs. Colorado last spring, as reported by Jason Gregor, are the result of a concussion – on a hit by Gabriel Landeskog that put him out for the final two games of the series.
Then, in pre-season against Vancouver Oct. 3, Yamamoto was tripped into the end boards by Danny Dekeyser and missed the season opener against the Canucks with what was again called an upper-body injury. All told, Yamamoto has played in just 31 of 50 games for the Oilers this season, scoring 4-8-12. It’s been a tough stretch since a 2021-22 season in which he scored 20-21-41.
The challenge now, with the Oilers headed to the all-star break after waxing the Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 last night, is for Yamamoto to get back in the lineup when he’s good enough to go and to stay there. The second part is easier said than done, especially for a player as diminutive as Yamamoto, who does not shy away from traffic.
WHAT THEY SAY
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Yamamoto said. “Anytime you’re not playing, it’s tough. You want to be out there battling with the guys that you see every day, so it’s tough, but at the end of the day, it is what it is and you just kind of keep looking at it day-by-day and not getting too frustrated.”
As for the exact nature of the injury that has kept him out of the lineup, Yamamoto, like the team, isn’t spilling the beans. “I’m feeling good. I’m feeling a lot better. Obviously, I’m probably not going to tell you guys, but I’m feeling better every day.”
“I thought it was a really good sign that he was on the ice and team practice,” coach Jay Woodcroft said. “He didn’t partake in every drill, but it was it’s a good sign and step forward for him, which I thought was positive.”
There’s already been plenty of talk about what it’ll take to get Yamamoto back into the line-up in terms of the salary cap, and that’s a legit bit of business on GM Ken Holland’s plate. First things first, though. That’s having Yamamoto get healthy during the all-star break and stay healthy when he gets back.
THE BOA PLAYBOOK
Sep 28, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm (28) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Calvin Pickard (30) battle for the puck during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff has written a really thorough series of stories about the wants and needs of teams heading into the NHL trade deadline on March 3, including looks at the Oilers and Calgary Flames. A couple of snippets:
About the Oilers: “Edmonton’s deadline approach (in 2022) signaled that GM Ken Holland wasn’t sure the Oilers were ready to win. Remember: less than a month before last year’s deadline, the Oilers fired coach Dave Tippett and promoted Jay Woodcroft.
“That likely isn’t the case this year, not after a Final Four appearance. The clock is ticking on McDavid and Draisaitl in their absolute primes, and they’ve shown that they can get you the majority of the way to a Stanley Cup Final almost by themselves – even while not fully healthy.” The entire item is here.
About the Flames: “You can curl up and play woe-is-me, or dust yourself off and get after it, and that’s what we did. Everyone remembers the drama-filled summer that drastically reshaped the Flames. After Johnny Hockey walked and Matthew Tkachuk forced his way to Florida, the Flames didn’t sulk. They acquired Huberdeau and Weegar, signed Kadri and doubled-down on the trade by shelling out $134 million shekels to the former Panthers without them playing a game in the C of Red.
“Yet, more than halfway through the season, there have been growing pains. Calgary is clinging to its playoff life, on the outside looking in, behind Minnesota in points percentage.” Seravalli’s complete look at the Flames is here.
He’s In The Books: By the way, it was a nice touch by Woodcroft to put local lad Matt Berlin in the net for the final 2:26 against the Blackhawks. Berlin, 25, a member of the Alberta Golden Bears who dressed as the Oilers emergency back-up with Stuart Skinner out, goes into the NHL books with one save.
WHILE I’M AT IT
It’s been over a week since Flames’ coach Darryl Sutter decided he’d crap all over the NHL debut of rookie Jakob Pelletier against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Family Day. I didn’t get the point of Sutter showing up the kid then – on a day his parents flew in from Montreal for the game – and I still don’t get it.
I had many conversations with Sutter over my years on the beat beyond the scrums. I understand the old school takes for public consumption. I know he’s not that much of a hard-ass when the media crowd isn’t around. I’ve watched the post-game clip a half-dozen times and I still don’t understand why Sutter went this way such a big day for the kid and his mom and dad. That was brutal.
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