The human side of unlocking Edmonton Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto: 9 Things

The Edmonton Oilers are 7-3-0 in their last 10, and with just 12 games to go look to be a lock to make the playoffs.

But while the club looks to be on a very timely late-season roll, there are still a couple of cogs to get going…

You are reading: The human side of unlocking Edmonton Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto: 9 Things

One of them the diminutive Kailer Yamamoto.

That and more in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Turns out the Oilers taking an extra day off the ice may have been a difference in the victory over a game but ultimately overmatched Seattle club. And now, having taken 3 out of the 4-game season series, Edmonton also owns the tie breaker over its divisional ally.

8. Leon Draisaitl registered 3 more assists on Saturday. Those included a spectacular backhand feed across the neutral zone to Evander Kane. With them, Draisaitl passes Doug Weight’s 420 helpers and into 7th place on the all-time franchise list. Leon is now just 38 behind the legendary Paul Coffey.

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7. If you were an Oilers fan scoreboard watching on Saturday, you mostly liked what you saw. While Edmonton was creating a 3-point gap between them and the Kraken, the Flames were losing in O/T (yet again) and the Kings slid to Vancouver in a shootout. The Jets did manage an O/T win over the Predators.

6. Edmonton is the only team in the NHL so far with four 30-goal scorers, Connor McDavid (58), Leon Draisaitl (44), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (31) and Zach Hyman, who notched his 30th Saturday. In franchise history this last happened in 1989-90, when Mark Messier had 45 goals, Glen Anderson 34, Jari Kurri 33 and Esa Tikkanen 30 in the same season.

5. 2021 4th Round draft pick Jake Chiasson has signed a 3-year Entry Level Contract with the Oilers. It has been a long and winding road for Chiasson, being a prospect through a pandemic and then injury. But he has turned himself into a point a game player for the Saskatoon Blades this season. Edmonton will be glad to have another natural right winger in Bakersfield.

4. Evander Kane looked as close to the 2022 Kane on Saturday as he has all season long. What a time for him to be 1) Finally healthy and 2) Hitting his stride. Ken Holland was much maligned by some a while back for describing a healthy Kane as another deadline acquisition. But this is what surely was going through the General Manager’s head. He was not wrong. By the way: Evander Kane has 48 goals in 87 regular season games as an Oiler. An almost 50-goal scorer for $5.1m per season is a bargain.

3. Stuart Skinner looked right pissed off after the 6-4 goal on Saturday. Now, I have no way of knowing exactly why. Perhaps Skinner simply thought he should have stopped it. Or maybe he was not thrilled with the defensive effort in front of him on the play. Knowing what I do about Skinner, it was almost certainly the former. Although the latter might not have been the worst message to send to an Oilers team that still gets careless in its own zone. It is great that they can outscore their mistakes. Until they can’t…

2. There are a lot of things to like about Evan Bouchard. I think he has a chance to become a legitimate top-pairing defenceman. He has the wheels, the shot, the passing. He oozes natural talent. But if there is one thing that is holding him back it is a lack of intensity. The Jordan Eberle goal on Saturday is the perfect example of that. If Bouchard bears down, there is a very good chance of a different outcome. I think back to when Evan played junior. He would not be the first young D-man who is better than everybody else on the ice to play massive minutes at 7/8th speed. But bad habits can set in and they can take a while to shake. Some say if a player does not naturally have that intensity, they cannot develop it. But I am not sure I agree. Really good players get that way because they have the ability to elevate. I expect Bouchard to do the same.

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1.It was a relief for me to see Kailer Yamamoto score Saturday. Not just because it was in front of his folks in his home state. And not just because it helped the Oilers win a game. But because it is a sign that perhaps he can determine his own future, You see, Yamamoto has not been good for a while, now. And it has gotten to the point where I am genuinely worried about him. We are all aware of the “upper body” injuries Yamamoto has suffered. When I see any player endure those and when they return they simply do not look like themselves, I get concerned that the injury is still with him. That they are no longer the same player they once were. And Yamamoto has not looked like himself, with just 9 goals and 18 points while being limited to only 46 games this season. That is why I am worried. I do not want that for this young man. Forget on a hockey level, but on a human level.

The fortunes of players rise and fall all the time. It is a cruel part of this otherwise beautiful game. All these players are good or they would not have gotten this far. But the margins between making it and not are razor thin. And I really hate it when the decision is made due to an injury. Something a player could not do anything to prevent. Due to Yamamoto’s troubling injury history, it is reasonable to be concerned that one too many hits to the head may result in more lasting damage. It is no doubt why team doctors have been so cautious with him. Well they should be.

I understand the frustration of fans watching Yamamoto continuing to get Top-6 minutes without producing. This is a business of winning. But I do not get the vitriol. If you have been paying any attention at all you will know that Yamamoto has battled injuries. The effort is there, just not the results (at least not until Saturday). And Yamamoto’s coach will understand that just a year ago this was a 20-goal scorer in a league where it is damn hard to do that. Which good coach or organization would just give up on a player like that? Not Jay Woodcroft, not easily, at least.

Yes, unlocking Kailer Yamamoto would be good for the entire team’s fortunes right now. But I am mostly cheering for that to happen for him on a human level. We all should be. Let his skill and determination determine his future and nothing else.

After all, is that not what we would want for ourselves?

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, on Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and now on Mastodon at [email protected]

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