Oscar Klefbom was the Oilers best defenceman for the first 30 games of the season. The Oilers were 13-15-2 with him in the lineup, and they were 18-28-6 without him. They need him healthy and in the lineup next season.
I spoke to Klefbom yesterday on my show and he discussed his “nightmare” season, the need for a specially fitted skate and what his prognosis looks like for next season.
Gregor: Walk us through how
you got the staph infection and then the subsequent months after and how frustrating,
maybe even scary, it has been for you?
Oscar Klefbom: Yeah, I mean the whole
season has been a really weird, tough situation for me. It’s been tough
especially mentally, it’s been a crazy season overall. But it all started
actually in the pre-season, before this season started I got some… the skate
was rubbing on my ankle in a special way. There were some rubs on my ankle and
we had it under control. I got some antibiotics right away and we had it under
control. It was fine for a couple of weeks, but then it came back again. We
still had it under control and I got a bunch of antibiotics but then when I
broke my knuckle, I got some days off and the ankle was pretty good too.
But then Christmas morning, the knuckle
felt pretty good and I was actually supposed to go with the team to Calgary, or
I don’t know if it was Vancouver or something, but the first day after Christmas
break and then the ankle just blew up. It was crazy, it was so big and so red. I
was actually really scared and I had to go to the hospital right away and get
some strong antibiotics to keep it under control.
And then the next couple of days we just
had to wait and see what was going on with the ankle and it didn’t get that
much better really so we had to go in and clean it all up with this surgery at
the Royal Alexandra to get this over with. The knuckle was fine at that point. I just wanted to get this over with and probably play two or three weeks after
the Christmas break.
The surgery went pretty good and everything
was fine, and then I don’t know — two, three weeks after the surgery it just
blew up once again and it got so red and so big and there was a lot of swelling
going on. I got really scared again and I went to several doctors to see what
was going on and they all told me that we had to have another surgery and clean
it all out again. The second one was a little bit bigger obviously; they had to
go in and take a bit more out and graft some new skin and stitch it all up
again. And at that point the skin is so fragile, it’s so thin. So every time
I’m in the skate it just breaks and starts to bleed again.
So that was the biggest issue we had
because I mean after I think it was late January, February I was really, I
wanted to come back so badly because the guys had a really tough time and they
were losing a lot of games and it was so frustrating to be on the side and
watch a lot of games from home. But every time I went on the ice and skated it
was, the skin wasn’t thick enough after the surgery. So we just had to wait it
out and I mean every time I went out there we waited one more week. I went on
the ice, it broke, I had to wait another week. We tried a different skate, all
kinds of solutions, just to get the pressure away from the ankle, from the
actual incision but I mean the skin was so thin and so fragile so every time I
went on the ice it was just bleeding once more.
It came to the point where it was not worth
it, risking anything else to have another, a third infection and another
incision and another rehab session. So we just made a decision, we just take
one day at a time and if it’s not good enough we just have to wait a couple
more days. It’s tough with infections. Right now I just want to get this over
with and focus on the next season right now.
Gregor: You mention how the skin was so
thin. Have the doctors told you by next year it shouldn’t be an issue, or are you going to
have to change your skate?
Klefbom: Yeah, I think I have almost four
or five skates going on right now, just to find a good solution for the
off-season here. I’m probably going to go to Montreal sometime in June to see
the guys at the Bauer factory to make another skate, just to get this over
with. I mean the skin is really, really good right now and I mean if we would
have played a couple of games in a couple of weeks I think I should be good to
go, but we’re just going to make sure I get the best possible skate for next
season so I don’t have the problem when I come back to Edmonton and when I
start the season next season.
Gregor: Is the rubbing on
your ankle in your skate at a pressure point? What are they going to
have to do to manipulate your skate?
Klefbom: Exactly, it’s right on the edge
where the skate is on the outside of the ankle. So the skates I’m going to
get right now have so much padding and there’s, I don’t know, I guess there’s
some different material that is going to take away some of that pressure that I
had in my old skates. And they’re going to make a new cast, a mold of my foot
so I get the best possible fit for my foot. So hopefully that’s going to take
the pressure point away from the surgeries.
Gregor: You mentioned it was very tough
mentally. When you hurt your shoulder you had a timeline to return, but was
this harder because you never really saw much progress for three months?
Klefbom: Exactly, that’s what was so tough,
especially when I came to the rink and I met all of the media and I got so many
questions from people in the city — ‘When are you going to be back?’ ‘When are
you going to be back?’ And like you said, when I had the shoulder injury, the
major injury, I had a timeline to go after. When I have an infection like this
you just have to go day by day and it’s so tough to answer all of those
questions — ‘When are you going to be back?’ ‘When are you going to start playing
again?’ It’s really, just take one day at a time and see what happens with a
staph infection. Like you said, it’s serious stuff, and you don’t want to mess
around with it. So I think it was a lot of stuff going on this season, it was
really tough mentally for sure but right now as you said I just want to look
forward one hundred percent, and take one day at a time and get this over with.
Gregor: Some people were concerned this
could bother you long term. Is it true once you find the right skate, there
should really be no lingering effects?
Klefbom: Absolutely. What I’m thinking
right now, let’s find a good solution during the summer and I should be ready
to go, one hundred percent. It’s not going to be bothering me at all next
season. And what it feels like now and what it looks like right now, it’s been
so much better the last couple of weeks. So I’m not concerned of anything for
the next season actually. It’s just going to be a lot of preparation and a lot
of different kinds of skates to try to find a good solution for the next
Gregor: Will you make both skates even or
is it only on the one side where it’s an issue?
Klefbom: I think I’m going to go where the
left skate is a little bit more different because I’ve never had any problem
this season with the left skate, it’s only been the left skate that’s been
bothering me a little bit, and then it got worse and worse, obviously. So we’re
just going to modify the left skate with a lot of padding. And like I said they
are going to take a mold of my foot so that I have the most comfortable fit of
the foot. And they are going to create some more space for the scar on the
ankle. Let’s mess around a little bit and find a good skate.
Gregor: What did you learn though while you
watched the games? Is there anything that you could take from that long of a
stretch in the press box that will make you a better player next year?
Klefbom: For sure, I’ve been watching so
much hockey during the winter, it almost seemed to a point, it was nuts. I was
looking at hockey every day, almost the whole day just to be in the game still.
It’s like I said, so frustrating to see the guys play a lot of games and just
lose by one goal. You just want to be out and help the guys, especially with
the situation we were in, especially when the Oilers signed me for seven years,
you want to show all of the fans and all of the people in the city that it was
a good decision. I wanted to have a really good season and show everybody that
I’m a really good defenseman. So it’s been tough, but I’ve been looking at a lot
of games and lot of good players like Chicago — Duncan Keith had a pretty good
season so far. So I’m looking at all of those players that I can learn from and
hopefully develop my own game and hopefully be an even better player next
Gregor: What about learning? Did it allow
you to have more time with Jim Johnson to understand what he wants from you as
a defenseman? Was there any benefit in that?
Klefbom: Oh yeah, for sure. I’ve been
watching a lot of clips that I can do better, a lot of games where I played
some solid games for sure. To get all of those small details that can help me,
even if it’s just a little bit better, I’ll do it for sure. I think Jimmy is a
really good guy who cares about me as a person and as a player for the Edmonton
Oilers for sure. He helped me a lot this season and I mean I’m going to have to
prepare myself the best possible way for next season and watch a lot of hockey
and be mentally prepared and physically prepared.
Gregor: He got injured right before you and
then he came back, what were your thoughts on your new teammate Connor McDavid?
Klefbom: He’s been unreal. I think that
everyone in the world right now understands how good he is as a player and it’s
been really fun actually just to be around him in the locker room, and get to
know him. I was on the road, he was my roommate before I got injured. It’s been
a very fun time to get to know him as a player and as a person. He’s a really
good person outside of the rink too and I’m really glad that we got him as a
first pick. He’s such a humble guy and really good hockey player, so he’s going
to be, hopefully be here for a really long time and he’s going to be really key
Gregor: So you roomed with him on the road,
can you tell early on as far as what type of movies a certain roommate likes?
And because you are the older guy, and you’re not even very old, did you get
all of the remote control powers?
Klefbom: Exactly, [laughs] after a couple
of times I figured out he watches a lot of series like How I Met Your Mother
and stuff. It was fun, I mean he’s a really good guy and he’s a really funny
guy and we spent a lot of time together at the beginning of the year before he
got injured, so I really like him as a person and I’m really glad that he’s
going to be here for a while.
Gregor: I know that your teammates have
always marveled at just how good of shape you are in. Even amongst NHL players,
you kind of standout physically. Did you lose any of that during these three
months or have you been able to train like you usually do?
Klefbom: Oh yeah, I would say I’m more fit
now than ever. I spend so much time in the gym just to keep the physical part
in shape. I mean we have so much good stuff going on at the rink in the gym. I
think that the trainers helped me a lot this year, especially Chad our trainer
has been unreal for me. I think I’m in really good shape right now and I think
that it’s very easy, especially when you’re out for such a long time that you
maybe slow down a little bit and maybe you go the easy way because you know that
you’re not going to play anymore this season, but I really want to focus and
just be in the best shape I can be and prepare myself the good possible way.
Gregor: Well if you’re in better shape than
ever that’s impressive considering you were a guy who was always in tip top
shape. Was being able to train the only thing to keep you going
Klefbom: Exactly and like you said, if I
cannot be on the ice and skate and show some progress there, I just want to put
all of my effort and all of my energy in the gym and try to be better there. I
do all I can to be a better hockey player and the situation this season is that
I am going to spend a lot of time in the gym and that’s what I’ve been doing. I
try to prepare myself anyway I can for the next season for sure.
Gregor: What are your plans now? Do you
need to get this skate issue fixed right away or are you going to wait and give
your ankle and skin a little bit more time to heal?
Klefbom: It’s a little tricky situation
right now. I mean, right now we are just going to leave it to let the skin be a
little bit thicker so we don’t have to worry about that part. I mean we are
going to go back home to Sweden and just let it rest for a month, month and a
half maybe, see if a different environment might be nice as well — it feels like
I’ve been here forever right now. I’ve been in Edmonton since early December.
So it’s going to be nice to see something else except hockey for a while. And
then next year try to come back to Edmonton and find a really good skate
because like I said, when next season starts I don’t want to have anything to
do anymore, I want to be one hundred percent and get this problem over with as
soon as I can. It’s going to be a good summer hopefully. I mean there is so
much stuff to do and I mean hopefully the big thing is going to be to find a
really good skate so that I don’t have to worry about this problem anymore.
Gregor: Had you ever had this problem prior
to the start of this season?
Klefbom: Never actually. It’s been a new
experience for me and I just try to find all of those problems to my advantage.
Stuff like that happens. It’s been a very weird situation with all of the
surgeries and stuff, it’s been tough mentally but I mean, I just have to do
what I have to do. If I can spend time in the gym to be a better hockey player
I’ll do that. Like I say, stuff like this happens and I just want to move on
right now to be better hockey player and play a really good season, a full
season next year.
Gregor: Oscar, I really appreciate you joining
us to let fans know how you’re feeling. I know they’ll all be excited
to hear that it was just a temporary setback and you’ll be back next year with
no lingering effects and enjoying the new arena.
Klefbom: Oh yeah for sure, we were actually
there for a tour a couple of weeks ago, or a week ago and it’s going to be
unreal. It’s going to be really good for the whole city of Edmonton and I
really look forward to it.
Klefbom was very upbeat despite his tumultuous season. He is confident a new skate will solve his problem and he’ll be fine next year. The Oilers need him in the lineup, and if he and Brandon Davidson can stay out of the infirmary, their chances of competing for a playoff spot increase significantly.
Klefbom has the ability to be a dominant defender, and the biggest move this off-season for the OIlers might be the move Bauer makes in designing a skate boot to alleviate the rubbing in his left skate.
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