May 11 2013 05:53PM
One of the things Oiler fans should look for this summer is massive overhaul and improvement on the blue. One of the key indicators may be where Oscar Klefbom ends up this fall. If he's in Edmonton as a top 6D, it'll be very hard to argue the rebuild is over and the turn north secure. Should he start in OKC? Best for player, best for team.
At age 20, Tom Poti was playing defense for Boston University in the NCAA. The next season, he was an NHL rookie with the Edmonton Oilers. He was so good with the puck that Poti made the jump, but he had major issues defensively and never did develop into the player expected when he arrived in the NHL.
Part of the problem for Poti was he'd never had to play in a game where there were men more talented; that changed in a quick hurry when he arrived in the NHL.
The Edmonton Oilers current blue features young Justin Schultz, who at age 22 made his debut in the NHL this season. Although it's clear that he's an outstanding talent, it's also true that the learning curve is a steep one even for a highly touted prospect like Schultz.
THE KIDS KEEP ON ARRIVING!
In the case of Oscar Klefbom, there's an added issue: injury. First, his most recent injury in the fall was serious.
- Ryan Dittrick: Back on Oct. 9 in a Swedish Elite League game vs. Vaxjo, Klefbom was nudged from behind with what he deemed to be a “dirty hit,” sending him heavily into the boards. On the six-hour, through-the-night bus ride home to Karlstad, the defenceman experienced bleeding in the surrounding muscle and required the use of a sling.
All is well now according to reports but the young man hasn't played in months and has lost some valuable development time. The prudent thing would be for the organization to send him to OKC and wait for him to force his way up the depth chart, possibly earning a callup for an injury replacement or struggling regular.
I think Craig MacTavish put the Klefbom situation into perspective recently when discussing improving the defense.
- MacT: "Klefbom is a guy everybody is anxiously awaiting to come into our lineup. It's always dangerous to have too high of expectations for a young player, but he's a very complete player for such a young player, so I think he's going to really help back there"
That's a very reasonable take, one that suggests he's going to have an impact, but also saying immediate results are unlikely.
IT WORKED FOR BRODIN
Klefbom (above) was a teammate of Jonas Brodin back in Farjestad, and Brodin's impressive NHL debut has some believing that Oscar can do the same thing. The problem with that idea is this: Brodin was paired with Ryan Suter, one of the NHL's best defensemen. I've read in several places (mostly Minnesota, though) that Brodin inspired the Suter turnaround this season. However, this graph indicates that Suter is far more effective without Brodin than with--which makes sense based on their experience and ability.
Still, that's an excellent pairing--veteran blue with rookie D--but surely if Edmonton acquired a "Ryan Suter" type they would pair him with Schultz the younger--still a developing talent and in need of mentoring.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
In the first installment of this series (Hartikainen--A False Spring?) we discussed the possibility that Harski doesn't deliver enough offense to merit NHL employment. The issue with Klefbom is twofold--experience and readiness--but the long term answer is far more promising.
There is little doubt Oscar Klefbom will have an NHL career. Only injury or a trade will keep him from being an Oiler.