Oscar Klefbom “the best player on the ice” in Oklahoma City Barons win

Jonathan Willis
January 18 2014 10:51PM

As he has far too often since the Edmonton Oilers drafted him, Oscar Klefbom spent time on the shelf this month due to injury. The coaching staff worried that the significant progress he’d made over the season might be set back, but judging by his play since his return there was no need for fear.

I thought Klefbom looked pretty decent in his first game back on Friday, though he wasn’t perfect; he had a couple of turnovers (one off a hard hit) but showed flashes of exceptional talent too. One shift in the third period on Friday where he held the blue line and dealt a punishing hit really stood out, but it was little things like his ability to skate the puck out of trouble in a hurry and his strength in puck battles that mattered more. Still, as we’ve noted, those were interspersed with some poorer plays.

He was significantly better on Saturday, showing the same ability to skate and move the puck and that same strength in the defensive zone. He was more solid defensively though, even bailing out David Musil at one point when his partner got into trouble. So I knew the answer was probably going to be ‘yes’ when I asked Barons coach Todd Nelson if he was happy with Klefbom’s play. What surprised me though was how enthusiastic Nelson was in endorsing the player.

“Absolutely,” the Barons coach said. “I thought Oscar tonight was probably the best player on the ice, or one of the best.”

According to the coach, it’s just the latest bit of good news in an encouraging run.

“Last night he was excellent,” Nelson added. “You’re always worried about a guy coming back off injury, if he can get back to the level he was at just before he was hurt. He played three good games before he got injured, but tonight he was exceptional. Hopefully that continues and he has that consistency because he was a horse out there. I talked to Gerry and we both agreed ‘let’s put him out there as much as we can, because he’s playing so well and he’s a horse and he can handle it.’”

How much ice-time did he get?

“I’m sure he got at least 20 minutes. When he plays like that if we’re not giving him at least 20 minutes than we’re not doing our job right.”

Why This Is Surprising

In my experience Nelson’s generally supportive but understated in describing his players. Several times this year he’s acknowledged the struggles and weaknesses of certain individuals, even if he does take pains to stress what they’re doing well right after. He isn’t afraid to praise a guy who is doing well, but in this case his clear enthusiasm for Klefbom’s work stood out as unique.

Klefbom has had struggles this year, but it does seem like he’s turned a corner. No other player on the blue line, or even on the team for that matter, has a wider gap between where he was at the start of the year and how he’s played the last few games. Taylor Fedun has been excellent throughout, Martin Marincin has made progress and Martin Gernat and David Musil have both evolved, but only with Klefbom have the strides been so large.

Now the trick is consistency, as Nelson indicated. Klefbom has had strong games, even several of them consecutively, at other points in the season, but they haven’t lasted. If this one does, the Oilers are going to have little choice but to give Klefbom his first taste of NHL action.

It's not the only choice the team is going to be forced to make. Between Klefbom and Marincin and Fedun and Darnell Nurse, there are a lot of rookies vying for a spot on next year's team. There simply isn't room for all of them.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Drowning in Oil
January 18 2014, 11:00PM
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If the kid looks this good, what the hell is the big club waiting for. This organization works more backward everyday.

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#2 Nowuknow
January 18 2014, 11:09PM
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Wow!!who would thought that? Stop selling hopes!!!! Everyone knows this team does not need rookies and soft D men at the back end!!! Not this year or next year, year after period!! May be you should write something about who should be on the team any more......

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#3 bazmagoo
January 19 2014, 01:38AM
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@Taylor Gang

Not interested in your opinion dude, that trade suggestion/comment was directed at Serious Gord. Prefer to converse with guys who understand hockey.

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#4 Nowuknow
January 18 2014, 11:11PM
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My bad should be " who should not be"

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#5 bazmagoo
January 19 2014, 12:27AM
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@Taylor Gang

"This season is a throwaway anyways"

Exactly why you give him 5 games up in the bigs if he keeps playing well.

You think overlooking him for a meaningless call up doesn't have the possibility of affecting his confidence or souring him on the organization? Come on fella, give your head a shake.

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#6 Andrew
January 19 2014, 05:06AM
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If Oil fans are facing 35 to 40 more dismal games until the end 'o season I for one would much prefer to watch Klefbom play D at the NHL level and be learning his trade than a continuing debacle with Petry-bom, Schultz-bom sr and Belov- bom floundering around on the ice.

Stauffer says Petry is playing over his pay grade and that is why his play is so hideous. I beg to freaking differ bulging Bob.

Petry will be just as weak and error prone whether he is 1st pairing or 7th D. He has been making the same mistakes since he arrived in Oiler blue. If we are going to see the Oil continue with one indifferent game after another bring on the kids. Park the feckless vets in the press box or the AHL I don't care. They clearly have no respect for themselves or the fans so who cares about how they feel.

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#7 Taylor Gang
January 19 2014, 12:26AM
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bazmagoo wrote:

Have to give Klefbom at least a look on the big team this season if he keeps playing well. Don't you guys think it might be discouraging to the player if he's playing great and doesn't get called up? The Oilers have the worst defence core in the league, you'd have to give him a cup of coffee in the bigs for crying out loud.

And ruin his development? This season is a throwaway anyways. Just try to win with the team we got, take the high draft pick which will be either Draisatl or Ekblad, and address defensive issues in the offseason.

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#8 bazmagoo
January 19 2014, 12:15AM
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Have to give Klefbom at least a look on the big team this season if he keeps playing well. Don't you guys think it might be discouraging to the player if he's playing great and doesn't get called up? The Oilers have the worst defence core in the league, you'd have to give him a cup of coffee in the bigs for crying out loud.

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#9 Taylor Gang
January 19 2014, 01:23AM
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MessyEH wrote:

8 games doubles his yearly salary. Wouldn't you get a little bitter if your boss refused to give you an opportunity like that?

Being bitter and having his confidence crushed are two different beasts entirely. Learn the difference.

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#10 Jay
January 19 2014, 12:48PM
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Can't wait til the jersey toss game against Vancouver

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#11 MessyEH
January 19 2014, 08:02AM
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Taylor Gang wrote:

Being bitter and having his confidence crushed are two different beasts entirely. Learn the difference.

Learn some class.

Stupidhead.

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#12 2004Z06
January 19 2014, 10:05AM
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Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves folks. He will likely be injured again before the end of the season and he hasn't even started playing against men yet.

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#13 Serious Gord
January 19 2014, 12:39AM
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If he can be part of a deal that addressees one of the teams immediate pressing needs that it is going to have next year - seasoned top line defense being the most significant (but a 1/2 physical centre, a real established starting goalie being very very close seconds) then trade him.

This team cannot wait two years or more (200+ games in the NHL) for him to develop. That is the cold hard reality of the mess that this organization has gotten itself into - dreaming about prospects is not a luxury it can squander time on.

It's like picking out curtains when the house is burning down.

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#14 Taylor Gang
January 19 2014, 01:02AM
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bazmagoo wrote:

"This season is a throwaway anyways"

Exactly why you give him 5 games up in the bigs if he keeps playing well.

You think overlooking him for a meaningless call up doesn't have the possibility of affecting his confidence or souring him on the organization? Come on fella, give your head a shake.

You're making Klefbom sound like an entitled, selfish player that thinks the Oilers "owe" him something. If he doesn't get called up, so be it. You think that Klefbom's confidence will be shattered because the Oilers don't call him up? YOU, my friend, should give your head a shake.

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#15 bazmagoo
January 19 2014, 01:31AM
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@Serious Gord

Personally I'd like the Oilers to trade Yakupov, Gagner plus whatever it takes to Columbus for Ryan Johanssen and Ryan Murray. Said it leading up to the draft in 2012, this trade would do a lot to balance out the Oilers lineup. Back then it was the #1 pick plus Gagner for the #2 pick plus Johanssen straight up, now I'm sure there would have to be a plus from our end (if Columbus would even contemplate it) as Johanssen has progressed nicely over the last 2 seasons.

Forget I even wrote that, not even close to being able to happen. Another opportunity blown by Klowe and his crew

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#16 Taylor Gang
January 19 2014, 01:35AM
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bazmagoo wrote:

Personally I'd like the Oilers to trade Yakupov, Gagner plus whatever it takes to Columbus for Ryan Johanssen and Ryan Murray. Said it leading up to the draft in 2012, this trade would do a lot to balance out the Oilers lineup. Back then it was the #1 pick plus Gagner for the #2 pick plus Johanssen straight up, now I'm sure there would have to be a plus from our end (if Columbus would even contemplate it) as Johanssen has progressed nicely over the last 2 seasons.

Forget I even wrote that, not even close to being able to happen. Another opportunity blown by Klowe and his crew

Experience! Experience is the name of the game.

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#17 Walter Sobchak
January 19 2014, 03:39AM
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bazmagoo wrote:

Personally I'd like the Oilers to trade Yakupov, Gagner plus whatever it takes to Columbus for Ryan Johanssen and Ryan Murray. Said it leading up to the draft in 2012, this trade would do a lot to balance out the Oilers lineup. Back then it was the #1 pick plus Gagner for the #2 pick plus Johanssen straight up, now I'm sure there would have to be a plus from our end (if Columbus would even contemplate it) as Johanssen has progressed nicely over the last 2 seasons.

Forget I even wrote that, not even close to being able to happen. Another opportunity blown by Klowe and his crew

Ryan Johanssen would have been great, the Oilers really should have moved on him when they had the chance, far too late now.

However, if you could move Gagner + prospect for Jenner, or Yakupov + prospect for Jenner, I make that move asap.

Then the Oilers could think about drafting Ekblad, but only if a legit second line center or future second line center is already in on the roster.

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#18 Taylor Gang
January 19 2014, 12:14AM
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I have a wonderful dream that Klefbom, Nurse, and Ekblad will give our team not only a stable defense, but a position of strength. 5 years from now, in the brand new Rogers Place, I think back at where we are right now and laugh as I look up at the scoreboard reading a 5-1 blowout over Vancouver. Then I wake up and I look at the standings...

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#19 bazmagoo
January 19 2014, 12:50AM
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@Serious Gord

In my opinion, the only forwards I'd keep currently are Hall, RNH, Eberle or Yakupov, Perron and Gordon, everyone else would be on the market. You can build a reasonably good offence around those guys with a big, physical and defensively sound 2nd line centre needed to complete the offense. All the other components are interchangable/can be found via free agency/trade in my opinion.

We need a #1 stud d-man on the left side specifically. Belov likely needs to go, or be resigned as a 7th - 8th guy. Nick Schultz will be offloaded for a pick/picks at the deadline. Ference has his no movement clause, and is a good leader. I'm sure MacT will sign Grebeshkov again so no worries there. Realistically Ference can probably play 2nd pairing minutes effectively and seems to be doing well with Justin Schultz recently but in an ideal world he'd be playing 3rd pairing minutes. We are likely going to get another asset in Ekblad to add to the right defence "depth, lol". That #1 left spot is WIDE open. Klefbom, Marincin, and Nurse are all 2-3 seasons away at the very earliest so that leaves a pretty big hole on that left side.

Goalies are interchangable these days, fix that via free agency don't bother trying to fix it through a trade.

Lots of options for the Oilers, but no big deals happen until the offseason I'm afraid. Hoping it's Yakupov + for a left-sided #1 d-man, but my guess is it will have to be Eberle to get a reasonable rate of return.

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#20 MessyEH
January 19 2014, 01:13AM
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8 games doubles his yearly salary. Wouldn't you get a little bitter if your boss refused to give you an opportunity like that?

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#21 Taylor Gang
January 19 2014, 01:47AM
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bazmagoo wrote:

Not interested in your opinion dude, that trade suggestion/comment was directed at Serious Gord. Prefer to converse with guys who understand hockey.

Ah the old "you don't agree with my opinion, therefore you know nothing about hockey" slur. Never gets old man, good slam.

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#22 Aitch
January 19 2014, 11:38AM
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Venom... Klefbom's already bringing out a lot of it, eh?

I don't have access to the Staples' articles, but didn't MacT say the plan was to bring Klefbom up after the Olympics? (Someone with access, please check it out.) If that's right, I've always assumed that "after the Olympics" could be stretched out to the trade deadline when Nultz could be traded for anything other than another live NHL dman.

Whether or not that's the right thing to do, I don't know. I think the only time I've seen him play was a world juniors game. But it can never hurt to give the guy a taste of it. If his confidence is so fragile that abad couple of games ruins him, he's not the right player anyhow.

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#23 nullterm
January 18 2014, 11:19PM
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"It's not the only choice the team is going to be forced to make. Between Klefbom and Marincin and Fedun and Darnell Nurse, there are a lot of rookies vying for a spot on next year's team. There simply isn't room for all of them."

Unless MacT pulls out the magic wand he used to get Perron and uses it to get 2/3 legit D men for first and second pairs, I don't think those guys are necessarily a downgrade on what we have.

Ference J. Schultz Marincin Petry assume they keep him

Belov, Potter, Larsen could easy be replaced with a couple rookies ready for the next step.

N. Schultz is a UFA, guessing he walks or trade deadline move.

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#24 Sisyphus
January 19 2014, 06:25AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

"In my opinion, the only forwards I'd keep currently are Hall, RNH, Eberle or Yakupov, Perron and Gordon, everyone else would be on the market"

That’s basically all the Oilers have worth trading?

The rest of the Oilers are filler.

Grebeshkov was and is a wasted roster spot.

I wouldn’t bet on Ekblad ether, it’s been a constant debate since I can remember but if there is a center involved and he’s close to all the other players in the top 3, you chose the center 9 times out of 10, the Oilers would be nuts not to draft Draisaitl despite needing Ekblad.

God love you for saying it. We cannot sit here and demand trades, make moves for Pete's sake, then list as "untouchable" every player that might be interesting to another team. We have a bunch of AHL guys, which no one is going to trade with us for--unless they're just giving us another AHL guy in return.

Hall, RNH, Ebs, Perron, and maybe Yak are the only guys who we actually COULD possibly make a trade for a genuine NHL player with. Everyone else has zero value, at least for roster players or top-quality guys.

And unfortunately, even that list above isn't a sure thing. We have 3 of them signed on for a sizeable chunk of money, for many years to come. And given their play, do you see many teams wanting that? They may be the best we have on the Oilers (and most tradeable based on that), but they're still good ON THE OILERS. Would they be any good at all on a real NHL team?

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#25 Loweblows
January 19 2014, 08:02AM
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Please keep klefbom as far away from Eakins as possible.

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#26 PimKing
January 19 2014, 09:58AM
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For the love of F*ck, leave these guys on the farm and let them win!!!!!!! Maybe if we would develop our players, then we wouldnt have to watch this sh*tshow every 9 out of 10 games. Last 5 games of the season, call em up, otherwise just leave them be barring debilitating injury.

call up the whole farm team and bench the regulars, that would be entertaining and we still wouldnt get the 2 points.... or just call up Nelson

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#27 Sketchy
January 19 2014, 12:47PM
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Who cares anymore?? Lets play the entire barons defence. I'd find it hard to believe they'd suck anymore than the current group

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#29 S4H1
January 18 2014, 11:24PM
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I'm with several Prior posters. Do NOT bring that kid anywhere near Edmonton this season. Let him come into camp when everyone is refreshed from the offseason. Nobody needs the frustration of this locker room.

I'd also like to hear Mr. Willis' thoughts on Pitlick.

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#30 outdoorzguy
January 18 2014, 11:30PM
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So is it Klefbom or Fedun? Or both? Or nobody?

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#31 bazmagoo
January 19 2014, 01:15AM
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@MessyEH

Yep

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#32 Walter Sobchak
January 19 2014, 03:28AM
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bazmagoo wrote:

In my opinion, the only forwards I'd keep currently are Hall, RNH, Eberle or Yakupov, Perron and Gordon, everyone else would be on the market. You can build a reasonably good offence around those guys with a big, physical and defensively sound 2nd line centre needed to complete the offense. All the other components are interchangable/can be found via free agency/trade in my opinion.

We need a #1 stud d-man on the left side specifically. Belov likely needs to go, or be resigned as a 7th - 8th guy. Nick Schultz will be offloaded for a pick/picks at the deadline. Ference has his no movement clause, and is a good leader. I'm sure MacT will sign Grebeshkov again so no worries there. Realistically Ference can probably play 2nd pairing minutes effectively and seems to be doing well with Justin Schultz recently but in an ideal world he'd be playing 3rd pairing minutes. We are likely going to get another asset in Ekblad to add to the right defence "depth, lol". That #1 left spot is WIDE open. Klefbom, Marincin, and Nurse are all 2-3 seasons away at the very earliest so that leaves a pretty big hole on that left side.

Goalies are interchangable these days, fix that via free agency don't bother trying to fix it through a trade.

Lots of options for the Oilers, but no big deals happen until the offseason I'm afraid. Hoping it's Yakupov + for a left-sided #1 d-man, but my guess is it will have to be Eberle to get a reasonable rate of return.

"In my opinion, the only forwards I'd keep currently are Hall, RNH, Eberle or Yakupov, Perron and Gordon, everyone else would be on the market"

That’s basically all the Oilers have worth trading?

The rest of the Oilers are filler.

Grebeshkov was and is a wasted roster spot.

I wouldn’t bet on Ekblad ether, it’s been a constant debate since I can remember but if there is a center involved and he’s close to all the other players in the top 3, you chose the center 9 times out of 10, the Oilers would be nuts not to draft Draisaitl despite needing Ekblad.

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#33 K_Mart
January 19 2014, 08:27AM
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It's important that Klefbom stays away from the losing, and stays away from D coach S Smith. If Nelson can turn at least one of Marincin, Gernat, Musil, or Klefbom into a stud that will be huge. I hope the Barons get in the playoffs and make another good run.

Ya know what's funny? The Barons are a better team without Hall,Huge,Ebs, and Jultz. They had 4 of the AHL'S top 10 scorers including the #1 and #2 scorers but were a bubble team. Seems clear that for as many scoring chances as they create, our top end forwards do not prevent many. Trading one of Hall, Huge, Ebs, Yak, or Perron seems like the only way to acquire what this team needs. Those are the five guys logging all the offensive minutes, and that combo isn't winning games. Until they learn to prevent goals against, they are just as much part of the problem as the rest of the team.

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#34 pkam
January 19 2014, 10:57AM
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Drowning in Oil wrote:

If the kid looks this good, what the hell is the big club waiting for. This organization works more backward everyday.

Isn't that what we did to Petry? He has spent half a season in OKC, we called him up for an injury and then kept him here because he seemed to be better than some of the veterans we had 3 years ago. The result? You guys are now asking for his head.

Bring him up now so you have another head to call 2 years down the road, right?

You know what is worse then Lowe? It is fans like you.

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#35 Alsker
January 18 2014, 11:09PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Well, let's be fair to the Oilers here. Yesterday was Klefbom's first game back, and there was some obvious rust. He was noticeably better tonight, but I'd want to see him keep it up for a little longer before recalling him.

Agreed, a call up after the trade deadline for a looksy would be good. No sense in rushing another prospect into a position to fail. Though good to hear a positive on the K'bom front for a change.

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#36 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
January 18 2014, 11:17PM
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Leave him on the farm this year for sure. Let the defencemen develop. Waiting an extra year I believe will go a long way in his development

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#37 Walter Sobchak
January 18 2014, 11:27PM
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Drowning in Oil wrote:

If the kid looks this good, what the hell is the big club waiting for. This organization works more backward everyday.

To me this is one of the biggest fault's of the Edmonton Oilers.

They draft kids and insert them right into the lineup, the famous sink or swim method the Oilers have employed.

It clearly doesn’t help the development, the kid has been injured off and on all year, the Oilers are so far out of anything resembling respectability they should just let him finish the year off in OKC, play him 30 min a night if they can.

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#38 Mack Strong
January 18 2014, 11:34PM
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Oscar need to stay in OKC for this season at the very least. The big team should bring him up for the preseason and the first 9 games of the 14-15 season. Get some NHL time…if he shows consistency and good decision making and doesn't get flustered by the speed of the big league, let 'em stay.

No point rushing him and burning a year off his contract if he's not ready for the show.

Nurse Kelfbom and Elblad will look good going forward!

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#39 jay
January 18 2014, 11:45PM
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hemsky's already been done, that leaves a choice between smyth or eberle? maybe i'll go buy a lowe jersey just for my toss. what do you boys think??

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#40 Mason Storm
January 19 2014, 12:03AM
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jay wrote:

hemsky's already been done, that leaves a choice between smyth or eberle? maybe i'll go buy a lowe jersey just for my toss. what do you boys think??

I wouldn't waste the money. Lowe doesn't care what the fans think

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#41 Jay
January 19 2014, 12:10AM
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Mason Storm wrote:

I wouldn't waste the money. Lowe doesn't care what the fans think

Lowe jerseys cost money?? I thought they were handing them out for free to clothe the homeless??? It'd be the best 250 I ever spent

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#42 ValleyviewSports
January 19 2014, 01:13AM
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Alsker wrote:

Agreed, a call up after the trade deadline for a looksy would be good. No sense in rushing another prospect into a position to fail. Though good to hear a positive on the K'bom front for a change.

looksee*

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#43 Walter Sobchak
January 19 2014, 03:04AM
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@Oilanderp wrote:

If by call up Kelfbom for a look you mean Fedun, then I agree.

^ This^

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#44 gm_armchair
January 19 2014, 10:10AM
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I am all in favour of bringing players up for a few games, sending them back down a few games later for several years before they become fulltime NHLers..I think it gives them a better idea what it takes to get to that next level and keep the dream alive. You leave a player down in the minors to long in a row and eventually thats what he becomes, career minor leaguer. Anton Lander has been up and down for three seasons now, and with his offence finally coming along he still has a good chance at becoming a longtime NHLer, I like how patient Oilers have been with him and hope they stay just as patient with their young dmen down in the farm.

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#45 Chainsawz
January 19 2014, 11:25AM
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“He’s developing well. He’s had a couple injuries including a bit of a shoulder injury right now. But he’s making strides. We’re going to see him up here last quarter of the year." - MacTavish, January 6th.

I would prefer if he stayed in the minors this year. I don't know why MacTavish wants to bring him up to this mess.

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#46 Chainsawz
January 19 2014, 11:27AM
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PimKing wrote:

For the love of F*ck, leave these guys on the farm and let them win!!!!!!! Maybe if we would develop our players, then we wouldnt have to watch this sh*tshow every 9 out of 10 games. Last 5 games of the season, call em up, otherwise just leave them be barring debilitating injury.

call up the whole farm team and bench the regulars, that would be entertaining and we still wouldnt get the 2 points.... or just call up Nelson

Too bad we don't have a winning farm team. 4th last in the AHL as of Friday.

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#47 Naky
January 18 2014, 11:07PM
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I'd keep him far away from the loser mentality and indifference going on in the big club right now.

I'd rather see Fedun finally get his chance to prove what he's got based on his age, performance, and how hard he's had to work to get to this point. Keep Klefbom down there to dominate and demonstrate consistency and let him go into camp next season on a big confidence high without a giant cloud of suck hanging over everyone's head.

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#48 @Oilanderp
January 19 2014, 01:46AM
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If by call up Kelfbom for a look you mean Fedun, then I agree.

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#49 oilabroad
January 19 2014, 08:41AM
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If they dont address the d through trade or signings, I dont think there is any doubt we will be looking at a blue with Klefbom, Nurse and Marincin next year. As much as another year of development would do these guys some good, you simply cant keep them down if they are the best 3 defensemen you have.

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#50 a lg dubl dubl
January 19 2014, 09:03AM
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I wonder when Nelson will get a chance at a HC position in the NHL, Im beginning to think he should have been the BOLD move MacT was talking about last summer instead of Eakins.

The players just cant seem to play Eakins system.

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