Many players and trainers have said there is a distinct difference between being hurt or injured. “You can play hurt, but usually you don’t play injured,” is what they’ve told me. It is far from clear what exactly that means and each player’s pain threshold might impact it as well. I’d say each case is different.
Most NHL player’s bodies have some sort of wear and tear, or nagging injury, at this time of the year, and then many play with even more pain in the playoffs. Each player is different when it comes to how much discomfort or pain they can play with. Joe Thornton allegedly played with a torn ACL last season.
As the Edmonton Oilers play out the string in another disappointing season, the topic of Oscar Klefbom’s health has become a major talking point. His shoulder has bothered him from the beginning of the season. He sat out for a game in Buffalo on November 24th, then returned to play eleven more, before sitting out another three games on December 21st, 23rd and 27th.
“I haven’t felt this good in a long time,” Oscar Klefbom told me in January. Klefbom had a cortisone shot injected in his shoulder in December and he was pain free when he returned to the lineup December 27th. He admitted he was playing with some pain earlier and after receiving the cortisone shot he felt much better.
However, a cortisone shot will only mask the issue for so long. It won’t completely fix it.
On Tuesday, Elliotte Friedman made a comment regarding Klefbom that has many people talking.
“It’s pretty clear that he’s been playing hurt. And players who have played against him say that he’s been really protective of his shoulder, the way he turns, the way he goes into the boards… he’s played pretty hard this year considering he has really been hurting. The fact that they haven’t shut him down, I think, that’s leading to some belief that they are showcasing him. If you want to trade something that can get you value in Edmonton, Klefbom might be the guy. And I think the fact that they haven’t shut him down when clearly he’s been playing with pain is leading to some wonder that he could be a guy that other teams are looking at.”
Friedman didn’t say he knows the Oilers are shopping Klefbom, but that “there is some belief they are.” That is a big difference, so let’s not try and twist his words.
I’ll admit I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of the “showcasing him” philosophy. Are you telling me opposing scouts and GMs will see something different in Klefbom in the final 20 games of the season that they didn’t already know about him earlier?
Secondly, if he is seriously injured, why would you play him when he isn’t at his best, thus devaluing him?
Klefbom didn’t skate this morning. It was an optional skate and he had left the building by the time media availability occurred. This isn’t new. It happens often with veteran players, so let’s not read anything into it.
I did ask Todd McLellan this morning about Klefbom’s health.
“He’s been healthy enough to play. He went through a bad spell early in the year. He had a treatment that kept him out of the lineup for a while. He’s been good now for two months since he’s had that treatment, but it eventually wears off and that’s where he’s at right now,” said McLellan.
TSN’s Ryan Rishaug asked if Klefbom will require surgery at the end of the season.
“Well, like anybody that’s playing right now on the 31 different teams, there are a number of players who need procedures and he could end up being one of them. So we’ll see how that goes from now until the end of the year. He’ll have to make some personal decisions and doctors will have to consult with him as well.”
SHUT DOWN KLEFBOM?
Should the Oilers shut him down? They could, but do you think the organization and player are willing to have him inflict more damage to his hurt or injured shoulder just to win meaningless games? It is hard to answer until we know the full extent of his issues with his shoulder.
Last season in a must win game six of the Pacific Division Final versus Anaheim, Klefbom sat out with an injury. He played 32 minutes in the doubt OT thriller in game five, then sat out game six two days later, but then played in game seven after the Oilers won game six. So the potential elimination factor hadn’t changed. Also, Andrej Sekera tore his ACL in game five, and wasn’t available in game six. So the Oilers were willing to protect Klefbom and not play him in the most meaningful game in a decade for the organization, but now nine months later they are willing to risk him causing further damage to his shoulder? I guess it is possible, but it seems like a very different line of thought.
The other main factor is Klefbom. No one can force him to play. I realize there is always pressure to play, and much of that comes internally from not wanting to let your teammates down, but if Klefbom felt he was risking long term damage, why would he play?
We’ll likely discover the true extent of his injury/pain at the end of the season. If he needs a procedure that requires a month rehab, that is one thing. But if he requires surgery that leads to a four or six month rehab, then it will be fair to question why the Oilers were playing him.
But I question what any GM would learn in the final 20 games about Klefbom, compared to what they’ve already seen. Is his value really going to change? If anything, playing banged up means he likely isn’t as effective, thus not looking as good and lowering his potential trade value. The idea of showcasing a player now seems odd to me.
Last month the Oilers sat Patrick Maroon out for three games leading up to the trade deadline while he nursed an ailment. They didn’t showcase him, knowing full well they would trade him.
Lucic missed practice yesterday with an illness, but he will play tonight. I’m not sure who plays on the fourth line, but it looks like Matt Benning is out. I can understand if they sit Benning for a game, but he only has 123 NHL games. He needs to play. He is in the early stages of his development.
I understand why some fans get enamoured with a new shiny toy, which is Ethan Bear right now, but the organization shouldn’t. If you want to play Bear, fine, but don’t sit a young player for a younger player. Bear’s offensive instincts and skills are great, but his defensive zone coverage needs a lot of work. And that’s fine — every young D-man will struggle there — but right now there is a better chance Benning helps you early next year instead of Bear.
For Bear to help the Oilers, it will be on the PP and on the third D pairing, but in order for the Oilers to protect him properly they would need a dominant #1 RD who can eat a lot of minutes so Bear can be sheltered. Right now the Oilers don’t have that player, and it is very difficult to acquire one. If you want to keep playing Bear, fine, but don’t do it at the expense of another young D-man who needs to play.
Andrej Sekera is very rusty. He won’t be back to his normal level of play until next year when he can shed his knee brace. He has spoke openly about how it limits what he does on the ice. He has not been as good as Benning. Not close. Benning has three points in his last four games and is +5 without playing any special teams.
If Benning is out for one game, okay, he wasn’t great versus Arizona, but neither were many D-men. But late in the season young players like Benning, Drake Caggiula, Anton Slepyshev and Jesse Puljujarvi need to play. They don’t need to be given extra minutes, but at they should be in the lineup.
There seems to be a reluctance from the coaching staff to play young players consistently.
Gibson makes his 2nd NHL start. He made 47 in his first start against Pittsburgh, but lost in OT. Oilers will try to avoid another backup goalie stoning them.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: These teams have only averaged a total of 4.75 goals/game in their last four meetings, including a low-scoring 2-1 game earlier this year. Tonight, though, we are treated to a lot of goals. Oilers win 5-4.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Jordan Eberle scores against his former team.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Cammalleri a late scratch. Milan Lucic has 12 career goals v. the Islanders, that is more than the rest of the 17 Oilers skaters combined, who have eight. Two Oilers score their first career goals vs. NYI tonight: Slepyshev and RNH.
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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 03/08/2018 – 3:00 pm MST