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Photo Credit: © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Seriously, Klefbom?

Tuesday on Hockey Central the venerable Elliotte Friedman speculated that the Oilers were not shutting Oscar Klefbom down because they wanted to showcase him for a potential trade. Naturally, this is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. In any sane and rational world, it would be unbelievable. Because Peter Chiarelli is the Oilers’ General Manager and the Oilers are…well…the Oilers, it isn’t just believable – it’s almost probable.  

Rationality isn’t Chiarelli’s strong-suit. Take, for instance, his assertion that he needed cap space this past summer in the event of an offer-sheet made to Leon Draisaitl. He traded Eberle for Strome (savings) but then immediately signed Russell which meant he had less cap space to defend against an offer sheet than what was available just 24 hours prior — it doesn’t make sense.

PLAYING INJURED

So too does it not make sense to force an injured player to continue playing injured so you can get more eyes on him playing injured because you think that will help you in a trade. If Oscar Klefbom is at a point in the season where shutting him down for several weeks is a legitimate option, then surely it’s affecting his play. I think we can all see that he has avoided overly physical situations in favour of a shoulder and that his shot has less zip on it than it did a year ago.

Assuming then that it is unlikely a player who COULD be shut down will start to improve drastically over the final 15 or so games of the season (especially as the Oilers play almost every other night), Oscar Klefbom’s trade value is unlikely to improve. If management is praying that Klefbom has 10 good games to prove he’s as good as ever then this decision is based on hope, not rational thought.

Oh, and as a fun side note, Klefbom and Russell were paired together in practice yesterday, but they have a 35.3% GF ratio when paired together this season. If Klefbom is being showcased, the team is putting its absolute worst foot forward in showing what he can do.

Of course, this doesn’t even begin to scratch at the real issue here, which is that trading Klefbom is – most likely – a colossally stupid idea. I’m not saying that there is no trade that the Oilers can make with Klefbom that cannot be a win. I’m simply saying that there is nothing the history of Peter Chiarelli or the Boys on the Bus who lurk in the head office that gives even the slightest hope of winning such a trade. The modern Oilers are a franchise built on a bedrock of failure at the defensive position. Chiarelli’s past is almost exclusively filled with lost hockey trades.

Who among us has confidence that the Oilers can trade their top minute defenseman and come out the other side a winner? I certainly do not.

PLAYING POORLY

Oct 19, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (77) controls the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period at United Center. Oilers won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

“But Klefbom is awful this season! Trade him now.”

First of all, I thought maybe some people would have learned their lesson after trading Jordan Eberle after a single bad season – at his lowest possible value. Apparently, I was wrong about that. The only lesson that was learned by some is, I guess, that now the Oilers need wingers so trading their top defender is necessary. Frankly, I blame Alberta’s teachers for failing the children they were tasked to impart some wisdom into. What excuse do these people have when there are real people roaming the streets trying to tell everyone that Klefbom is to blame for this poor Oiler campaign?

Oscar Klefbom is an Oiler draft pick who they actually tried to develop properly. He was kept in Europe for two seasons. He was brought into the AHL where he started from the bottom and had to earn his ice. He eventually became their top defender and only then did he become a full-time NHL player. He rose through the ranks in the NHL until he became the Oilers’ top defender. It was all a straight line of development (which NEVER happens) until this season, where he’s struggled.

This is the first sign of trouble in Klefbom’s actual game. He’s had injury problems, no doubt. He has had shoulder issues (like what’s allegedly bothering him now), he’s had a strange infection while in Sweden brought on by a skate cut, and he had a staph infection in his foot that required surgery and re-fitted boots. But in terms of his actual quality of play, this is the only season where he’s been questioned.

When we look at Klefbom’s stat line there are a few things that jump out at me. Among the five regular Oiler defenders (Klefbom, Benning, Larsson, Nurse, Russell), Klefbom is second in unblocked shot attempt percentage and second in shot percentage, but he’s last in goals for percentage. When you drill down into what is really wrong with Oscar’s season, the biggest issue appears to be the fact that he has an on-ice save percentage of just .901 behind him. It’s the lowest of all the Oiler defenders.

On-Ice Save Percentage is one half of the combination that makes up the stat known as PDO (named after the user who devised it). PDO is an expression of luck, essentially. It’s the shooting percentage and save percentage while a particular player is on the ice and it combines very closely to 1.000 (or 100 depending on how you record your numbers). For reasons the universe likes to keep secret, the pull to 1.000 is incredibly strong. Klefbom’s PDO is 0.971 this year. Last season, the only defensemen (min 1000 minutes) with a lower PDO were Ekblad, Krug, Gostibehere, Martinez, Tyutin, and Muzzin.

It’s also very difficult to make the claim that skaters can control the save percentage of their goaltenders. Nobody has been able to link defensemen to tangible, repeatable changes in save percentage. So if someone insists that’s the case then they have to provide some real evidence for it. This would mean that Oscar Klefbom is not to blame for Cam Talbot’s problems behind him, even if it’s Hockey tradition to blame the defence for the shortcomings of the netminder.

MONEY TROUBLE

Oct 19, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (77) blocks a shot against the Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) during a game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

But if we ignore the fact that this is Klefbom’s first bad season AND the fact that it seems to be heavily influenced by things that are out of his control (injury and questionable goaltending, we STILL haven’t touched on maybe the most compelling reason why trading Klefbom is a terrible idea. The NHL is governed by a Salary Cap and Chiarelli has placed Edmonton into a tough place moving forward because he’s definitely overpaid for Russell and Lucic, he probably overpaid for Draisaitl, he’s rightfully paying McDavid a league-high salary, and injury has reduced Sekera’s rate of return to negative value. With Nurse and Benning also needing new contracts along with several others, money is tight. Oscar Klefbom is a valuable contract.

Klefbom makes just $4.167M on the cap for the duration of his prime years. He is 24 today and is signed for 5 more seasons. The Salary Cap is potentially going up to 80 million next year. The likelihood that the Oilers will find a defenseman who can play 23 minutes a night, on both special teams, and move the puck at less than Klefbom’s salary is pie-in-the-sky dreaming. There’s no guarantee the Oilers can even sign Nurse to a lower salary.

Because the Oil are paying so many players at or above full market value, the team needs to find under-valued contracts. Over the next 5 years, the chance of Klefbom NOT returning value for that contract is extremely low. Even this year where his personal shooting percentage is half his career average and his PDO is in the tank, it’s hard to argue that Klefbom isn’t playing like a four-million-dollar defender. That’s before we even get into what Chiarelli thinks four million buys on defence.

When it comes to the prospect of trading Oscar Klefbom, I ‘m not surprised this is something Chiarelli would consider. He, of all NHL GMs, has a history of bailing on good young players at the first sign of trouble. He’s extremely prone to falling for the wild swings of PDO. Overall, he’s generally bad at his job. However, playing Klefbom through an injury for the sake of showcasing him is just as bad an idea as trading him at all. And trading him is just a really, really bad idea. I mean, unless you can get a signed Karlsson.

  • JimmyV1965

    This article is truly pathetic. Because Friedman speculates, you write an entire article on it? It’s gross and creepy and a sad excuse for journalism. But of course you’re not a journalist.

    • TomahawkThought

      This comment is truly pathetic. Because Henderson writes interesting material, you write a pointless comment about it? It’s gross and creepy and a sad excuse for commenting. But of course you’re not competent at commenting.

      Note: This is the one non-oiler related post I will allow myself to post. I just find it increasingly agonizing to constantly scroll through these trite comments that have no value to the conversation established by the topic of the article.

      C’mon man.

    • That's My Point

      Friedman also said Draisaitl was trending in the wrong direction this year.
      2016: 0.71 pts/game
      2017: 0.94 pts/game
      2018: 0.97 pts/game
      He’s not watching the Oilers so he shouldn’t comment on them.
      No sense selling Kleff low.

      • lobby91

        To be fair, Drai had a slow start and he’s gotten most of his points playing on Connor’s wing, I may assume by trending in the wrong direction he may have meant trending toward becoming a full-time winger

        • crabman

          @lobby91, van you please, or anyone else, tell me the name of the site you use to look at points players score with and without other players? I know I sound like I’m being a jerk but I’m really not trying to I honestly would like to know where this information comes.from because I know it is out there. I know I read in an Oilersnation articvle this week they have played less together this year, 44% I believe. Down from 53% last year. And Draisaitl’s pp points are way down but he is on pace for the same amount of points as last year. That would lead me to believe that he isn’t just scoring as a result of playing with McDavid and is in fact playingv more at center as well. But like I said I don’t have access to a website that shows me the difference. A point in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

      • crabman

        @ That’s My Point, when did Friedman say Draisaitl is trending in the wrong direction? Not saying he didn’t I just didn’t see/hear this. A few weeks ago on HNIC when the panel talked about if they would trade Draisaitl he urges them to put on the brakes because the likelihood of winning a trade involving trading away Draisaitl is unlikely. And praised how good he is.

  • Anthony Harmon

    Matt, just a little piece of career advice to help you out. When you constantly focus only on the negative side of a situation and never take a moment to explore the reason something is being considered, you lose all credibility. You really need to drop the ‘old boys’ schtik, it is tired, inaccurate, and lazy. You could have some good material, then you ruin it by focusing solely on problems, never solutions. Be better than that, Matt, your readers deserve it. I think you really do have some good stuff, it’s just lost way too often in the endless ramblings of doom and negativity. All the best, Matt.

    • PimpTaco

      It’s the same old Henderson story over and over and over again. This is why Henderson will never have any credit as a writer for ON or any other media outlet. Evolve.

    • Svart kaffe

      It actually helps to try to understand the reason behind a decision instead of settling for the gut instinct of crying “ur stupid waah” all the time. Makes for a more interesting read for sure.

    • Rebuild3.0

      ya it would be way better if henderson sat by and happily sucked farts straight from the organizations cheeks. why matt are you upset about probably loosing another trade? cant figure that one out. dumb comment

        • Bills Bills

          Seriously it is not about writing positive. It is about looking at the other side of the story. Everyone has an opinion. If that is all you are going to write, then you are doing a disservice to the readers and your opinion that is ALWAYS saying the same thing, will tire people quickly.

          • Bills Bills

            Well he hasn’t actually done that yet. You are speculating based on what someone else thinks. Also the loses more trades than he wins is your opinion. I am not a fan of the return for Hall or Eberle but they both addressed needs and both players have played as they are billed. The Reinhardt trade was bad but something tells me MacT and Klowe were pulling the strings on that one as they loved him as an Oilking. The Maroon and Talbot trades were steals.

            Now the other side of that conversation is that Klefbom can’t seem to stay healthy and we have depth on left side. I hope he can stay healthy and an Oiler but there is another side Matt. Trade him for an equal the dman about the same age
            and address another need. So stop letting your bias dictate your opinion. It is weak.

          • The OTHER side to the idea of trading a quality player on a great contract having a down year due to an injury he is playing through and weak goaltending behind him at the hands of a GM who loses a lot more trades than he wins and has a history of selling low is WHAT exactly?

        • oilerjed

          Maybe its time to recognize that you aren’t any smarter then the rest of us and have no greater insight then most. There is a difference between writing “happy articles” and being balanced. Lets be honest, Chia’s record doesn’t support your assertion that he has lost all of his trades, not that winning a trade should be the point. Making your team better is the only concern I would want a GM to have. Let bloggers like you keep score. No one in the hockey world is that is for sure.

        • Anthony Harmon

          Not happy all the time, not just balanced. Nothing’s good all the time nor bad all the time. You can put out a lot of good stuff, you just need to quit degrading yourself with the constant, never ending, the world is over negativity.

        • Anthony Harmon

          He doesn’t. There are sometimes reasons guys get traded that are different from the fact that they are the problem. He’s a good player and if we need a good player in a different position, you have to give to get.

        • Anthony Harmon

          Since you asked the question why in your last message without opening it for replies, I will reply here. The reason it should be considered, at least, is because he is such a good player and the Oilers have strength in left d. To get a power play right shot guy or possibly and offensive top-six Winger, you have to give something up from your area of strength, which is left d. Sekara’s not going anywhere because of his contract, I don’t think anyone wants to trade nurse, and there are some left shot prospects. You seem to always forget that another reason to trade someone is because they are a strong trade chip, not just because they are playing poorly. You consistently say this management group has shown they can’t make a good trade. Are you suggesting we should just stand pat and not change anything? Another in the endless string of GM and Coach changes is not what we need. We finally have some depth coming in the system with the Juniors we have, coincidentally drafted by Chiarelli.

        • Svart kaffe

          You don’t have to write happy articles. You just don’t have to be redundant and several months/years late all the time. I can complain about my teams perfectly fine by myself, but I log on to hockey sites to educate myself and get perspectives. You’re not giving anything. Regular Joe at the bus stop provides exactly the same level of insight. This site has a couple of good writers providing worthwhile material but you’re not one of them. Sorry.

  • Bills Bills

    Bla bla bla Chía suck. Bla bla bla, worst GM in history. Bla bla bla PC Is stupid. Bla bla bla he can’t win a trade. Bla bla bla….. Did I just sum up this blog? Thanks for another masterpiece MH.