LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER

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:

  1. Smid-Petry
  2. Schultz-Schultz
  3. 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.

  • OilersBrass

    This kid comes highly touted………we all get that and for all the reason mentioned. JS was also very highly touted, and for the most part worth the praise.

    Playing in the NHL is difficult especially coming from the European system and size of ice surface……….there is much less time and space to make decisions here at the NHL , and spending time in the AHL should be seriously considered for Klefbom. Give him some time to get use to the NA game in the AHL……..just makes too much sense. Please let’s not rush this kid because Mr. Dithers is incapable of making a deal for a left shooting defenseman.

    I’m with AM on this one……….great article on an exiciting prospect.

  • Eulers

    It’s not crickets you are hearing, but fans like me pulling their hair out!

    Klefbom needs at least another year in Sweden or the AHL before being thrown to the sharks—especially given his injury.

    This tendency to push the Blue into service too early is a strong argument in a large case for tossing management.

  • This management team makes way too many big gambles. Let Klefbom grow organically. Sign Smid to the most reasonable deal you can. If things don’t work out then offload him for assets later. You can never have too many quality D.

  • Citizen David

    I’ve become more a fan of Fistric and less a fan of Nick Schultz. I wouldn’t be surprised if Klefbom’s ready to step in as a third paring D next season. But Smid doesn’t play on our third pair so that’s not a good swap. Everything I’ve every read about Klefbom makes me so excited for him come dominate. Injuries scare me though.

    • GVBlackhawk

      I think we reversed ice team and Fistric was getting more then the 16-18 minutes a night and essentially changed roles with Schultz we may see more problems in his game. I love the fact that a guy like Fistric can handle the Joe Thorton’s as a third pairing guy. I like how Fistric’s being used, Schultz on the other hand is playing a little too much and has never seemed terribly comfortable here. Both are solid 5/6 guys.

  • OilersBrass

    Why hasn’t tambo put a defense core together to give time for kleffbom, Musil, maurancin, garnet, etc to develop in the AHL. Oh stupid me, our management hasnt made a tough decision for five years. Expect to go with the same squad next year. Maybe kleffbom in the squad. Crickets crickets……

  • The Soup Fascist

    Thanks LT. Matt Foley, More Cowbell, Celebrity Jeopardy and Chippendales are my favorite SNL skits. Hadn’t seen this in awhile. If Tambo thinks Klefbom can walk in to this lineup without a Smid type in the lineup, he will soon be living in a van by the river.

  • OilersBrass

    I remember Tambi saying that Klefbom was guaranteed a spot on the roster if he leaves Europe to come play for the Oilers.
    I really want to see Klefbom on the team next season, but after coming off an injury that put him out for a year, it would be best for his development to spend one more year in Europe or the AHL.
    I really hope they don’t screw up with this kid.

  • Rocket

    Still, my only question remains…. In 2 years when he’s our third pairing guy, will you be able to find a team willing to trade for him at 4mill a year with 2/3 years left, without taking a contract back?

      • StHenriOilBomb

        Whatever we keep of his salary to make a trade goes against our cap. Essentially you are conceding that signing smid is a deal that could be a loser for the team right about the time when the oils cap troubles will be acute.

  • justDOit

    How many GMs does it take to rush a European player into the most difficult job in the NHL?

    Well apparently, four – but there’s still time to add more. Does the trade deadline apply to management too? Hmmmm – better get Ricky to google that!

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I hope Klefbom goes to the AHL next season, at least to start off, with his shoulder problems this year and not playing for most of this season pushing him into the line up would hurt his process.

    If Dithers chooses to trade or let Smid walk, and Klefbom makes the team out of training camp, that will tell me that he is happy being in the lower end of the conference every year and doesntwant to help this team win when it matters most.

    The time is now to get players that push the team into the next level, not picks.

    Dithers must go!!