High-Wire Act No Longer

The addition of Andrej Sekera is going to impact the Oilers
in a number of ways. He’s an adept puck distributor who plays 22 minutes a
night on the left side. He brings experience and ability to the Oilers. His
impact will be felt not just through what he does when he’s on the ice, but
also by who he keeps off the ice. Namely, by being the top left handed defender
on the team Sekera will keep Klefbom down the order. And that’s fantastic.

Klefbom emerged last season as an everyday player. By season’s
end he was, by my eye, the best defenseman on the team. He was playing on the
top pair and was the defensive anchor of that unit. Not bad for a guy who didn’t
make the squad out of camp and began the year in the AHL.

Despite the success he experienced last year it is important
to remember that this is the very first season he will be an NHL player on
opening day. He just now shed his call-up number and took 77 in its place. In
his combined two seasons he has played in only 77 NHL games.

His development has been extraordinarily steady so far, and
that’s a testament to Klefbom. Taken 19th overall in 2011 he was the
8th defenseman drafted that year behind Larsson, Hamilton, Brodin,
Siemens, Murphy, Oleksiak, and Beaulieu. He’s passed Siemens and Oleksiak in
games played already and that looks good on the Oilers. The trio of
Larsson, Hamilton, and Brodin are in a different class at this moment, but Klefbom has a chance to be considered well in the next tier of blueliners.

With Klefbom the real concern for his development was the
amount of hockey he wasn’t playing early on. The Swedish Elite League never did have a
long schedule to begin with and being a young player means sitting a fair
amount in Europe. In 2010-2011 he logged only 23 games with Farjestads BK
Karlstad. In 2011-2012 it was only 33 games. In the 2012-2013 season a
catastrophic shoulder injury limited him to only 11 games. That’s a combined 57
games over three years in the SEL.

Light on experience, Klefbom is nevertheless heavy on
resilience and talent. He is an incredibly fluid skater. I would like to say
that he is a good skater for a man who is 6’3” and 210 pounds, but that would
imply by the standards of a smaller player his abilities would be less
impressive. That would be wrong. He can flat out fly. It’s by virtue of his
skating that he has climbed up the depth charts so quickly.

The straight line in which he has developed since coming to
North America and playing in 134 games over the last two years is certainly
remarkable. From the bottom pair in the AHL to AHL stud defender to the rookie
with the highest TOI/G (21:59) in the entire NHL in two seasons is truly
impressive. So much so that MacT believed there was almost nothing the Oilers
could do to the young Swede that could derail him.

When you talk about Oscar, I don’t think there is one facet
of the game where you can put him in and hurt his development. There are guys
that I see that are just going to be really good players and potentially star
players. I see that in him. I don’t think there is one area, when you have
meetings with players at the end of the year, there are normally four or five
things you can point out that they’ve got to do better. You’ve got to improve
on your fitness. But I’m at a bit of a loss for him, with the exception of
experience.

MacTavish might have been right. There might not be a
situation that could hurt Klefbom’s development. Then again, I’m happy
Chiarelli made sure the Oilers were not going to test that theory. Andrej
Sekera comes in clearly ahead of Oscar on the depth chart. He will absorb a
lot of pressure that Klefbom would otherwise face.

The developing rearguard should find himself in a more favourable position to
grow his game than he did last year. The Oilers threw Justin Schultz to the wolves when he
arrived. The former college defender took on huge minutes from the get-go and
has stagnated under these conditions. Klefbom might see his minutes drop a bit this coming season but ultimately increase his
effectiveness as a result.

Last year McLellan’s Sharks only had four defenders average
more than 19 minutes per game (Edmonton had six). They were:

Brent Burns 23:36

Marc-Edouard Vlasic 22:06

Justin Braun 21:01

Brenden Dillon 19:13

Burns, Vlasic, and Braun are all 28 or older (and Burns also has multiple roles). Dillon is 24.
Klefbom doesn’t actually turn 22 for another ten days. He is exceptionally young
compared to the defensemen that McLellan and his staff are used to running out
there on a nightly basis. Offensively he seems to be more adept already than
Braun or Dillon, but Klefbom was also playing prime offensive minutes with the
Oilers.

We might expect the new staff to lean a little more heavily
on veterans like Sekera and Fayne at first until they have a better handle on
the limitations of the younger players. This will not be a disservice to
Klefbom.

Without the addition of Sekera the Oilers would be counting
on young Klefbom to continue his straight line of development. They would need
it to survive in the west. Now they are prepared for the eventuality of him
hitting a rough patch or two. The Oilers and Klefbom aren’t doing a high-wire
act any longer. He can learn from tried and true NHL coaches without needing to
be perfect along the way.

In the long run, this might end up being one of the most
important ways Andrej Sekera impacts the Oilers. The team has talented young
defenders set to learn their trade in appropriate situations today because he
was signed as a free agent. The franchise stands to reap the benefits of this arrangement
for years to come.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    just spent a couple hours watching archive footage of Reinhart’s 8 games last year, and a few Sekera games in LA…..

    Reinhart may not be mean but he plays hard between whistles, aggressively clears the front of the net. Skating issue wasn’t glaring. He seems VERY sound positionally both defending and attacking (gap control was excellent)

    Sekera >>> Petry

  • Reg Dunlop

    Some advice to Oiler fan that are tired of the banter caused by the presence of flame fans here: visit flamenation. There is no chance you run into anybody there,just tumbleweeds, as they are all here looking for a chance to be near something relevant. Have a great Mcweekend all you pretend cowpokes.

  • 916oiler

    I worry that we as fans are putting a little bit too high of expectations on Klefbom.

    He had a great year, no doubt. But he had reasonably soft minutes (58% OZS).

    To expect him to have the same success playing tougher minutes at his young age might not be realistic.

    Hopefully Sekera/Fayne? can take some pressure of of the kid so he can develop slowly. So far, so good for sure.