Oscar Klefbom is struggling. The Oilers top-pairing left defenceman had an October to forget.
He produced very little offensively and looked challenged defensively.
Many felt the injury to Andrej Sekera would hurt the Oilers second and third pairings, but it is the Oilers top pairing who have struggled the most.
Klefbom looks out of sorts.
He is a team worst -6. His decision making has not been elite.
He made an ill-advised pinch fifteen seconds into the game versus Carolina. The Oilers had lost three straight heading into that game and their top defender made an extremely risky play early in the game.
On Saturday versus Washington, with the Oilers leading 2-0 late in the first period and in complete control of the game, he lunged for a puck in the neutral zone, didn’t get it, and the Capitals raced up ice and scored with 18 seconds remaining. One could argue that was a 50/50 play, but why try it at that point of the game? When he is on, he would either get a piece of the puck, or sit back and force Carlson to beat him.
Your top defender can’t make those decisions at key times in game. Klefbom has shown he is better than how he’s playing thus far, and I expect him to improve, but it needs to happen quickly.
Every aspect of his game is off.
Offensively, he has no goals and two assists in ten games. He had 12-26-38 last year for the Oilers.
Klefbom fired 201 shots (2.45 shots/game) on goal last season, ninth best in the NHL among defenders, and he’s shooting more this year, with 34 shots (3.4/game). But his shot has been erratic.
He leads NHL D-men with 22 missed shots. He had 84 (1.02/game) last year, but so far he’s averaging 2.2 missed shots per game.
I could see how a finger or wrist injury could impact his accuracy, but neither should impact his decision making. Klefbom simply has not played smart enough through ten games. When I asked Klefbom if he has a injury or if anything is hampering his shot, he replied:
“They have a lot of guys in the shooting lane. Last year I started shooting the puck more and maybe guys didn’t know who I was, but they’ve done their scouting work. Sometimes I shoot for sticks or tips and I’m not shooting for the net. If I’m just going for a high shooting percentage (accuracy), I’m not going to shoot as much and I’ll hit the net a lot more, but most of the time I’m shooting for sticks,” said Klefbom.
An interesting response, in part because avoided the injury question. He does shoot for sticks and sometimes it will go wide, however, he has missed some shots and I’m sure last year there were times he was shooting for sticks and tips as well.
He, like most players, admitted he is pressing. When players are playing well, they can ride the wave of confidence. When they are struggling, the wave engulfs them.
“It is tough. If you are out there and you make one mistake you start thinking what you could have done better and it is turning into bad momentum. I have to be better for sure. Right now it isn’t good enough for the whole team, but for me, my personal level, is not good enough,” said Klefbom.
McLellan has seen his fair share of players go through stints where they lack confidence.
“Confidence comes from making the right reads. Not feeling good about your game comes from making the wrong reads. It goes together,” said McLellan.
“In my opinion, Klef is a little indecisive right now. He is indecisive defensively and offensively. Shooting…he has a tremendous shot, but it is not getting to the area he is targeting, whether it is blocked or he is missing the net, and those are individual struggles which affect the team play. You mentioned him as an individual, but there are others who are impacting team play,” continued the head coach.
Klefbom has company on the bus of players playing below their capabilities, but when you play as much as he does, the reality is he impacts a game more than guys playing 12 or 14 minutes.
Klefbom and Adam Larsson were very solid last year, but early on they’ve been on for far too many goals against. Klefbom was on for 58 5×5 goals last season, but he’s already been on for ten against this year, and noticeably at fault on a few of them.
He is a good enough player to rebound from a tough month, but like many others on the Oilers, Klefbom needs to find his game in November in order for the Oilers to pick up some wins.
Todd McLellan switched up his defence pairs at practice today. Klefbom was paired with Matt Benning, while Darnell Nurse skated with Larsson.
A change can be good, but Klefbom’s biggest challenge will be between his ears. He can’t think too much if he makes a mistake. It is easier said than done, but Klefbom has the ability to be an impact player and heading into November they need him to rediscover the level of play he had last year.
1. McLellan switched up his lines today:
Khaira and Jokinen looked to be the odd men out. These aren’t major changes, as the first and fourth lines have played together before, while RNH and Lucic have played together most of the season.
The bigger change came on the powerplay units, which have really struggled.
“This way they (McDavid and Draisaitl) get their own units and I think it will create a competitive environment between the two units. If one unit gets hot and keeps going they will get the icetime and the other will need to pull up their socks,” said McLellan on splitting up McDavid and Draisaitl on the PP.
2. Let’s be clear Ryan Strome is not the main reason the Oilers are 3-6-1. Of course he hasn’t replaced Jordan Eberle’s scoring. He isn’t as talented offensively. No one should have expected him to, including management. I actually think Strome has gotten better the past few games, but people need to remember he is a complementary forward. He isn’t a highly productive player, and he isn’t paid like one. If you want to question Chiarelli for making the trade, go ahead, that is fair, but Strome should not be expected to be something he isn’t.
3. I could see using Nurse and Larsson in a shutdown heavy role, while you could play Klefbom/Benning with McDavid’s line to create more 5×5 scoring. In theory Klefbom and Benning should be able to produce more offence, although Nurse has always done well transporting the puck when he’s on the ice with McDavid. Both pairs should be able to move the puck up from the backend.
4. Kris Russell leads the Oilers defence corps with four points in ten games, including two on the powerplay. He is tied for the team lead in PP points with two, which illustrates the PP struggles. Russell has only played 14:47 on the PP, ninth most among Oilers. Klefbom has played 38:22 and has one assist. McDavid has played 38:19 and has two points. The first unit has been the main culprit early on, and switching up the units makes sense. McDavid should be able to generate more than two points in 38 PP minutes. He has only been on the ice for two PP goals this year, which is tied for 175th in the NHL. The PP runs through McDavid and when he amps up his game I suspect the PP goals will follow.
5. Our second annual Oilers/Flames road trip extravaganza goes Saturday, December 2nd. We only have 20 seats remaining. Jason Strudwick and I will be hosting the bus. It was a blast last year. Oilers fans were loving it, especially when the Oilers crushed the Phlegms 7-4. All the details for the trip are here. Call Heather to reserve your seat. We encourage Fun Sponges to not sign up.