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The Slightly Past Midseason Copper And Blue Roundtable: Staff Edition, Part I

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Our staff offer their takes on the first half (or so) of the 2019-20 Oilers’ season

Arizona Coyotes v Edmonton Oilers
Has Kailer Yamamoto seen the last of the AHL?
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Hi everyone. How’s your week off treating you? Good? That’s great.

The Oilers are right in the thick of the Pacific Division playoff race. We’re a little late this year for the midterms, but we’ve got a week off and it’s roundtable time.

This week, you’ll hear from some of the brightest voices here at Copper and Blue. I’m talking about Preston, Czechboy and Shona. They’ve got the answers, all of them.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

  1. Right now, the Oilers are right in the thick of things when it comes to the playoffs. A five game run could give them a big cushion in the crowded Pacific, an 0-4-1 could really rock the wheels off. If there’s one move that the Oilers can make to improve the club for a stretch run, what is it?

Preston: I think Edmonton needs to make a move to improve their wings in the top 9. There are a few ways they could go about it including a trade or maybe calling Tyler Benson, but it needs to be solved sooner rather than later. The injection of Kailer Yamamoto has completely rejuvenated the team’s second line so maybe giving Benson a shot is worth it. Trading for a guy like Anthansiou might work as well.

Czechboy: We were in a playoff spot at American Thanksgiving, the Christmas break and the All Star break. We’ve just finished a scorcher of an 8 game segment going 6-1-1. That is our second heater. That might have been enough to make .500 hockey enough to make the dance. If I’m only allowed to pick 1 move it would be to call up Tyler Benson and move Kassian to line 3 with Chiasson and Has. We’d have 2 solid forward lines and a killer 3rd line.

Shona: I’m not sure there’s one move I think is the answer. There’s two I would like. The goaltending situation has been real inconsistent. I’d like some sort of move that provides at least a consistent chance to win each night instead of this either amazing or dismal see-saw we’ve got going on. I mean I do like the amazing parts of it. The dismal parts not so much. Another thing that might be good is to find some low-cost scoring options which can help with secondary scoring.

2. An especially unkind December could have pushed Mike Smith off the roster. Since January has begun, he’s compiled four wins in his last five games. Will his usage go up? Does this change anything for Mikko Koskinen? What should we expect from MIke Smith between now and the end of the season?

Preston: I am having a really hard time trying to find a solid beat on Mike Smith this year. There are times where he doesn’t seem capable of stopping a beach ball and then there are times where he is absolutely unstoppable. I expect Dave Tippett to ride Smith’s hot streak as long as he can until it burns out....which I am sure it will at some point. I am going to hold strong to my belief that Mikko Koskinen will cement his status as Edmonton’s starting goalie by season’s end.

Czechboy: He really is a battler! He looks like a street hockey goalie half the time. When he makes a stop it is sensational. When he doesn’t he looks like, um, a street hockey goalie. He was a huge part of both our heaters. He’s not consistent but when he’s on he is winning games. His save percentage hasn’t improved much from last year and he is a .900 goalie. That’s a lousy backup percentage. I wouldn’t trust him with any major duties personally. Koskinen is the better goalie. I wouldn’t trust Koskinen much either. They are both doing a tremendous job in getting us wins but I’d say Smith is a great 3rd goalie on a deep team and Mikko would be an excellent backup.

Shona: My hopes are that the goalie see-saw holds out until the end of the season. I see Tippett playing whichever one has the hot-hand (and Smith a bit when he’s not) and then I hope Smith retires and the Oilers are looking for starter again. Honest assumptions, we can expect more of the same.

3. As of January 19th, 2020, Kailer Yamamoto has been with the big club for eight games. In his time, he’s scored six points (2-4-6). Has he seen his last game in Bakersfield? Why, or why not?

Preston: I have been waiting for this day since the day we drafted him....Kailer Yamamoto won’t see another game in the AHL for a loooong time. Since being recalled he has injected all sorts of life into this lineup and helped cement Edmonton’s best 2nd line since Jordan Eberle was shipped out of town. He is an intelligent hockey player who can make plays in the offensive zone and is absolutely ferocious on the forecheck. He might be an undersized played but he plays like he’s 6’4 200lbs.

Czechboy: He should have seen his last game in the AHL. It’s 3 years post draft and he’s a winger. Wingers develop the fastest. The callup coincided with the 8 game heater. It might turn out to be the most important acquisition of the season as we now have a great first line that Connor is carrying and Kailer gets to play with Drai and RNH and provide secondary scoring. It is as dangerous a Top 6 as I can recall for the Oil in a very long time. It is amazing what happens when you callup potential Top 6 players and play them with other Top 6 players. Eg. If Kailer got the call and was playing 10 minutes a night on line 4 he’d be labelled a bust right now.

Shona: I don’t think he has. Yamamoto is small, he’s quick, and he’s doing well now. If he starts to slump (like the majority of rookies do at some point), he goes back to Bakersfield. The Oilers seem to believe more time seasoning young players is better recently. However, they’re also walking like line of missing talent because they’re being stubborn. And also there are pieces of the current roster I think they’re waiting to be able to move.

Thank you to Preston, Czechboy and Shona for their time. Part II of our staff roundtable concludes on Friday when we talk contracts, Zack Kassian and the (gasp!) playoffs.