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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Andrej Sekera is the indispensable everyman on an inexperienced Oilers blue line

2016-17 Edmonton Oilers: No. 2 LD Andrej Sekera

Andrej Sekera played to mixed reviews in his first season with the Edmonton Oilers, but in 2016-17 he was one player that seemingly everyone agreed brought real value to the team. His ability to play in any situation at even-strength or on special teams, to provide value with and without the puck and complement any kind of partner made him exactly the kind of veteran presence every team needs on its blue line.

That is almost exactly the player that GM Peter Chiarelli said Sekera would be when Edmonton signed him in the summer of 2015:

He’s a real versatile D. Very strong. He could play in our top pair if need be. You’d like to spread it out so he could be a lynchpin in the second pair. Plays both sides. Played most of the year on the left but when he was traded he went to his right. Plays first or second power play, probably natural on the second pair. Lot of options with him. He is a first-pairing defenceman, it’s a tool the coach has to put him in the first pair. Doesn’t mean he has to be in the first pair. With him it’s about versatility, he’s very strong, he’s just a solid player who has good sense with the puck, he can play a lot of positions, he can defend and he can push the puck.

I’ll take a moment here to point to the one thing Chiarelli was wrong about, which was Sekera’s ability to play his off-side. Prior to his arrival in Edmonton, Sekera had a long history of being more successful with right-shot partners than with left-shot partners. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a lot of the criticism of Sekera in 2015-16 was a direct result of him playing on the right side of a pairing with Darnell Nurse.

The Oilers learned from that mistake, though. This year, when Sekera was paired with fellow lefty Kris Russell, it was Russell who moved to his off-side.

Otherwise, Chiarelli’s assessment looks really good and reflects Sekera’s usage this year. He averaged 2:11 per game on the power play, starting on the first unit before ceding that role to Oscar Klefbom. Both defencemen were among the NHL’s top 30 rearguards in terms of points/hour on the man advantage.

Sekera also averaged two minutes per game on the penalty kill, making him the only Oilers defender to play at least two minutes per night on both special teams. He and Russell were on the ice for the fewest shots and fewest goals against of regular penalty kill defenders in Edmonton, while mostly drawing first unit opponents. The PK is one of those places where experience seems to really matter, and Sekera was a rock.

Even-strength is where things get a little more interesting. Sekera played mostly with Russell and rookie Matt Benning, though he also snuck in a little over an hour on a pairing with Adam Larsson. His on-ice results are worth breaking down by those partners:

I don’t really want to get into the Russell debate here; there’s going to be enough of that when we look at his season shortly. For those who believe that Russell has real and massive save percentage-boosting abilities, the goal count for that pairing looks good. For those who rely on the shot metrics, Sekera’s other partners make it clear that he’s capable of being part of a positive puck possession pairing.

Sekera worked well with Benning, and was arguably part of the reason Benning looked so good as a rookie defenceman. That pairing did play softer minutes than the others on this list but provided value.

The really interesting combo to me is Sekera/Larsson, which played absolutely brutal minutes in its brief time as a unit. Klefbom/Larsson had good chemistry this year, but with Klefbom emerging as an offensive threat, it’s possible that Edmonton might want to move him off the shutdown pairing and into a more general minutes role that allows him to really explore his scoring ability. If so, Sekera/Larsson could be formidable in a purely defensive role.

At some point, Sekera’s $5.5 million contract may become an issue, but then again it may not. He turns 31 in the summer and has four years left on that deal. His skills will likely erode to some degree, but his actual salary in the final two seasons is just $4.5 million and the deal will end before he turns 35. In the meantime, he’s an indispensable everyman on an Oilers defence that still leans toward inexperience.

Bottom line: Some players are worth paying real money. Sekera, a low-maintenance veteran who fits with any partner and in any situation, is one of them. He should be the cornerstone of the Oilers’ second pairing for the foreseeable future.

Previous year-end reviews:

  • Sir Dudeinstein

    I think that Nurse has a chance to challenge Sekera for that second pairing which should keep Sekera pushing himself.
    Next years pairing or even the next couple pairings I see personally:
    Klefbom-Larsson
    Sekera-FA/Trade
    Nurse-Benning/(maybe Reinhart)

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    Oil have a lot of pieces that they can get rid of in order to add to a formidable core. Ebs, Nuge, Pou, Griffin, DD, Hendo…… is about 20 odd million dollars in cap space and some value (Nuge, Griffin) that could be turned into gold through trades and Free Agency.

  • Gravis82

    would have been nice to have Davidson instead of Gryba when Sekera went down! I will never understand why we shipped out a depth D man with a great shot on the eve of the playoffs.

        • AJ88

          Great shot resulted in 0 goals in 41 games between the Oilers and Canadiens. Depth Dman? Come on, he was injured most of the time. Armchair critic I guess is your forte.

          • Gravis82

            Explain to me why we trade Davidson. Lose him? Sure, ok but we trade him for another player we also lose. Ok, and now we lose another player. That is a net loss. Armchair gm=fan. This site wouldn’t exist without them.

            I’m actually seriously asking, someone explain the Davidson trade in a way that makes logical sense.

          • I am Batman

            Gravis: my theory is that they wanted a center to win face offs and w playoffs experience and saw Davidson as expendable (which he is). Maybe a bit more was expected from little D but this is not the trade that broke the season…. I’m still fine with it

          • Gravis82

            Agreed that it didn’t make or break the season, just seemed like a mis calculation , which is cause for concern a bit. Nothing suggested that little d was that guy this season, and the Davidson trade had the concequence of leading to another player on the oilers getting claimed. Keep Davidson, let him get claimed, this way JJ does not. Lander would have been better in faceoff role, for free. Just my assessment . Seems like bad asset management, even though minor. I get the trade on a one for one, but it’s actually dAvidson + someone else for little d.

  • Petrolero

    I thank Russell for his service but for the money he will be asking the oilers could get an upgrade with more offensive upside and a right shot. and younger

  • I am Batman

    Can we make a contest in ON about when will Eberle be traded? We can all enter our guess and whoever is the closest gets a prize and bragging rights?
    I think he gets traded the same day if the draft.
    And yeah: I mean the actual draft, not the expansion one. Edmonton won’t protect but Vegas won’t bite