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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A word about Andrej Sekera

I figured I would kick off my OilersNation debut by defending one of the Oilers underrated players — Andrej Sekera.

Uncle Rej has been struggling since returning from an ACL injury, and last night’s abysmal performance (18% Corsi For in an injury-shortened performance) was the poo icing on top of the feces cake of his 2017/18 season.

As a result, some of the Sekera chatter I see occasionally float across my Twitter timeline has been amplified. Comments (paraphrased) like:

  • “What’s wrong with Sekera?”
  • “We should trade him, not Klefbom or Russell”

And one my personal favourites

  • “See, it *was* Russell carrying Sekera after all”

To which I shout at my screen through gritted teeth (the kids are asleep) … “This isn’t surprising! It’s the injury, dammit!”

Should this surprise? Is it the injury? Let’s dig into the recent past of the man whose legs alone justify the moniker Seksy.

Emcee Ell

On March 30th of 2015, in the middle of a heated battle for a playoff spot with the Los Angeles Kings, Andrej Sekera’s MCL was injured, putting him on the shelf for the remaining two games of the season. Though the Kings tried to re-sign the pending UFA, their cap crunch made it impossible. And, thankfully, in one of the moves made by Peter Chiarelli that I can actually laud, Andrej Sekera became an Edmonton Oiler.

Now, many of us will remember his solid 2016-17 season, in which Rej was not just the heart and soul of the second pairing at even strength, but was also the No. 1 penalty killing defenseman, and the guy tasked with quarterbacking the No. 2 power play, after Oscar Klefbom.

His Oilers stint didn’t start so brightly though.

2015

The summer of 2015 was spent rehabbing that crusty MCL, which thankfully did not require surgery. Nonetheless, an injury of this sort puts a player quite far behind the eight-ball in terms of training, and when Andrej made his debut in Oiler silks, the rust was obvious.

In fact, to my eyes, I thought it took about two months before Sekera started to look like the player we hoped we would be getting when he signed his sturdy free agent deal. Rather than relying on my fragile memory, I pulled Sekera’s chart from his first season with the Oilers, and … yup yup yup, those early struggles are pretty apparent.

Sekera Rolling CF% for 2015-2016 – Chart from @BarloweAnalytic

In fact, the chart suggests that there was an early burst of goodness (which I don’t remember) and then right around two months worth of struggles before Andrej’s silky smooth game kicked into high gear.

Which brings us to …

2017

In a playoff (what are those again?) game against the Ducks (boo! booooooooooooooooooo!), a fairly innocuous hit took Andrej Sekera out of the game. And, I would argue, the resulting gaping hole on the blueline in large part took the Oilers out of the series and into golf season.

This injury, though, was quite a bit more serious than the 2015 injury.

This time it was a torn ACL.

An ACL that required surgery.

And a timeline for return that was six-to-nine months long.

An astute observer might have put that situation together with Peter Chiarelli’s subsequent inability or unwillingness to backfill the resulting massive blueline gap as putting the team’s playoff hopes at risk before the season even began. Some did.

Return of the Reji

Sekera returned to action near the end of December 2017 – about 7 and a half months after the injury, or basically right at the mid-point of the original six-to-nine month estimate.

The results haven’t been pretty:

Sekera Rolling CF% for 2017/18, to Feb 9, 2018 – chart from @Barlowe Analytic

Now that should look familiar. A bit of a rough start, a short burst of goodness, and then … well if Donald Trump’s hair were a hockey stats chart, that’s about what it would look like. If we compare the first month or so of the 2015 chart with this chart, the similarities are highly … um … similar.

‘History don’t repeat, but it sure do rhyme’

Now, I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you for sure that the similarity of these two traces is really anything more than a coincidence.

What I will say is that, the second trace is not a surprise. Over the years, observation and interviews with players recovering from knee injuries tells a fairly consistent story. Knee injuries not only impact mobility, but they impact confidence. As a result, they can hamper a player for quite a long time after the knee itself is recovered.

In fact, I remember an Oiler from the 90s (it was either Smytty or Dougie Weight, and you know neither of those guys would have been dogging it) saying it took him almost a full year after a knee injury to stop thinking about the knee as he was playing.

From Here

Dec 23, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Andrej Sekera (2) skates against the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

OK, so that brings us fully to the present, at which point I will reiterate that none of what we’re seeing from Seksy should be surprising. The guy couldn’t train the entire off-season, missed training camp, and now he’s thrown into the crucible of a badly faltering team in regular season games where all the players he’s facing are already in mid-season form.

His past, and the history of other players recovering from serious joint injuries, suggests that the struggles we see now will continue for a month or more. It may be even longer given the severity of the injury, and the worst may be yet to come!

After that, we should see a steady return to the smart, mobile, do-everything, all-phases defender we’re used to seeing. It will be too late for this season of course. But I will bet 100% that it will happen.

That player, the guy who was a rock on the top four last season, is a valuable and important commodity.

Bear that in mind when you think about trading him based on the still-recovering carcass we’re seeing right now.

He’s going to be useful for another few years is my bet. My point is not that we shouldn’t consider trading him, now or in the future. Every player is fair game for trade. It’s just a matter of what you get back in return. And the Oilers perhaps more than any other team cannot afford to lose yet another trade. If we do trade Seksy, we better get a hell of a lot more back than Cap Space (who is necessary and maybe even good in the room, but I hate that guy).

  • Oilers_1978

    Keep him…oilers need experience in their back end…the season is lost…so shut him down and let him recover and get back to his normal shape…he will be still be a 3-4D for next couple of years…

  • I wasn’t overly surprised to see Sekera struggle after missing the better part of a year recovering from surgery. The only reason he should get moved is because of the cap, which is possible considering Chiarelli can’t grind anyone down in a negotiation apparently.

  • LAKID

    Nothing wrong with Sekera or Klefbom they are both coming off injuries. The defence is not as bad as it seems (considering they are out of the playoffs). The season is lost and those 2 in paticular willbe ready to go next year.

    • nijames

      Sekera will be better next year he’s the best of an average lot. I am so tired of hearing Klefbom is coming off of an injury. Seems to me he has had more injuries than games played. Get over it Klefbom is an average 2nd pairing guy and he is not coming off of an imjury he is having a brutal year. Somewhere between last year and this year is where Klefbom will be.

  • camdog

    I expect Sekera to return to his old form and then get injured again. It was a big loss for the organisation when they let go Petry and diverted the money to the left side especially considering the prospects the Oilers had in the system on the left side. That was my position then and it won’t change now.

    I’d hate for the organisation to trade a Nurse or Klefbom and bet on Sekera. I don’t like either of these 3 players on the right side. 5.5 million for a third pairing d-man is too much cap hit. Now if people don’t think Klefbom is the answer than I guess he could be the odd man out. I think when healthy he will get better next season.

    Nurse is here to stay, so who’s stays Klefbom or Sekera? Move might not happen for 2 years but something has to shake out.

  • Clayton

    The problem for Sekera is he is a quality #3/4 pairing D-Man being expected to play #1/2 D-Man minutes. If the Oilers had a legit #1/2 pairing then he would slot in the 3/4 role and fill in for 1/2 minutes in the event of injury etc. If slotted properly and be far more successful.

  • Goobie

    All the players people want to trade (Sekera, Lucic, Russel) have that pesky NMC attached to them, so I don’t see why it’s even in discussion. Let’s accept that they are Oilers and figure out feasible options to move this team forward.

      • Goobie

        Only 10 teams for Russel that first year, 15 for Sekera on the NTC. That is a big restriction for a player who might not be desirable to even 10, let alone 15 teams. It gives us more options as far as burying a contract, but that offers little cap relief.

  • Big Nuggets

    If we have to trade a big ticket player this offseason my firat choice would be Russell followed by Lucic then Sekera. bc of the NTC Russell and Lucic are unlikely to be traded so to my mind Sek is best trade bait by default. Im a fan of Sekera and I think he will return to form but I just think its bad form to give up on Klefbom as he is entering his prime years. I’d say Klef is a better bet to return to form and cheaper. Its in Chia’s hands, we’ll see what happens.

    • RJ

      All of those 3 have no-movement clauses. You can’t trade any of them without their consent and you can’t send them to the minors either. If you did want to trade them, you’d have to let them pick where they want to go, and then the Oilers would get smoked in that deal.

      • Big Nuggets

        I said would not trade Klef.

        I dont really want to trade Sekera either. Am I the only one that stares at the contract spreadsheets on nhlnumbers.com and contemplates the future? With McDavid’s new deal and Nurse needing a new deal its going to be a tight fit under the cap next year. I also dont think Oiler fans will be content to bring back the exact roster from this season next year. I expect something will have to give, and I dont want that to mean trading any of McDavid, Drai, Nuge, Nurse, Klef, Larsson, and even Kaira. If we trade Nuge because Chia couldnt help but sign a 30 something Russell for 4 mil with a NTC I will be disgusted. I know the return for Nuge might be nice and we might be able to have a successful team with Rusell on it, I’m okay with Russell, I just want to see some of the players we draft and develop to stay with the team and find success. I think Chia signed one too many long term contracts and we have to see what the fallout is going to be this offseason.

        I think Sekera, if he would agree to be traded is most likely to garner a return with some value without giving up anyone that is entering their theoretical prime years.

        Also, to the other poster RJ, I get how no-movement clauses work. thanks.

  • braddos

    Completely agree with the article. He was a heavy lifter for us before this. NExt season he’ll be back to being an asset again. To many knee jerk Chiarelli type traders here lol.