This deadline is going to tell us a lot about the Oilers blue in 2013-14. How much are the Oilers counting on Oscar Klefbom?
The fact that the Oilers have Laddy Smid hanging out to dry a little as we approach the deadline suggests to me that the club may feel Oscar Klefbom can stick in a big way come fall. If you read his draft day scouting report it does make some sense in terms of skill set:
- Redline Report: Klefbom is a real Red Line favorite. He’s certainly the most overlooked of the top prospects, but is the best pure passer of the bunch, and his skating ranks only behind Murphy. He already makes pro style passes — crisp and with touch — and excels at breaking the trap with tremendous stretch passes through the neutral zone, showing great vision. He was also the natural leader on Sweden’s national under-18 team. All this comes wrapped in a 6-3, 196-pound package, and Klefbom has really stepped up the physical aspect of his game over the last 12 months. At Red Line, we believe he might ultimately become the best all-around balance of offensive upside and physical strength in this year’s class.
That part that I’ve underlined puts Klefbom on another level from Smid if he play against the other team’s better players and be an effective defender. That’s a massive item: Klefbom has never skated in the NHL and is probably years away from being able to handle the workload Smid faces every night–if ever.
Defensemen like Smid do not grow on trees, and are rarely free agents when they’re 27. Why? Good teams lock them up with long term deals before they push the free agent button.
Why did Edmonton wait? I hear crickets at my house.
LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER
When it comes to throwing rookie defensemen into the deep end, the Edmonton Oilers have been eager to move in lock, stock and barrel and get things going right away. As a for instance, the club didn’t wait more than a heartbeat after Jeff Petry showed an ability to play good opps at par before offloading Tom Gilbert, and Justin Schultz has been playing big (and tough) minutes as a rookie.
I think the club wants a more mobile, passing savvy option on LD for the top 4, someone like Klefbom who has a wider range of skills. The problem is that when it comes to rookie defensemen–and I’ve been watching this for 40 years–mistakes happen until the game slows down and they become comfortable with multiple sorties and making good decisions at speed.
The smart plan (imo) is to sign Smid to a long term deal and enter the fall looking something like this:
- Klefbom-veteran RH D
It’s going to cost a lot, very likely north of $4M a year to sign Smid. That is the price of waiting this late to sign a capable 27-year old defenseman. When Klefbom finds his way, the club can move him up to the second pairing–maybe as Nick Schultz has his contract expire–and then Klefbom can move up with someone like Marincin arriving.
The problem isn’t that Klefbom can’t handle NHL defense, the problem is that he isn’t proven. It’s like Smid in 2006 fall, or Justin Schultz now; Schultz is flagging and struggling but there’s no real option that allows coach Krueger to put Schultz in the pressbox for a night or two. It just isn’t available.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Playing NHL defense is a damn difficult job, and if you don’t do it well there a millions watching who know what you did wrong. The only real way to succeed is through this simple equation: skill married to experience. The Oilers have the skill, but the moment Ladislav Smid leaves they’ll take another hit in the experience department.
It won’t work. It never has.
Today at noon Edmonton time, we hit the airwaves of Team 1260 with two hours of hockey talk. Scheduled to appear:
- Scott Cullen from tsn. We’ll talk about first half surprises, Oilers who are kicking butt, Calder chances for Yakupov and Schultz, and of course your questions are welcome.
- Ellen Etchingham from Back Hand Shelf. We’ll talk about Ellen’s unique view of the game, what fascinates her these days and her unusual relationship with the rabid fandom that is Oilers Nation.
- Corey Graham from team 1260′s Oil King broadcasts. Corey’s the hardest working play by play guy in junior hockey, because the Oil Kings keep winning! A massive blowout last night kicked off the playoffs for the OK, we’ll talk about the game, the incredible depth and the Memorial Cup.
- Travis Yost from Hockeybuzz. Travis is the Senators columnist for the buzz, and he’s exceptional. His tee up for today’s game is here. We’ll talk Senators, Oilers, playoffs and the impact of coaching on a roster.
Hope you can tune in. Questions and comments welcome, best way to get hold of me (even during the show) is on twitter @Lowetide_ but I check the blog too for questions and comments.