To borrow from Captain Obvious, if the Edmonton Oilers intend to rebound from what’s been an unquestionably disappointing season, they’re going to need better years from a lot of players in 2018-19. Right near the top of this season’s lengthy list of guys who didn’t get it done, behind only runaway leader Milan Lucic, is defenseman Andrej Sekera.
Sekera, who missed the first 34 games of this season recovering from off-season surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee suffered in the playoffs last spring, knew he’d be playing catch-up this year and that he was in for a struggle. I’m not sure, though, he imagined it would be as difficult as it has been. He’s never really looked right this season and it’s unlikely he’ll get there with only two games to go. It looks like it’ll be another off-season working his way back.
Sekera limped off during Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild and didn’t return after catching his skate in a rut. We don’t know if it’s just a minor tweak or something more that will keep him out of the Oilers final two games, but throw it on the pile that’s added up to a lost year. He’s had the comeback from surgery to contend with. Then, after being hit in the face by a puck against Anaheim on Feb. 9, he missed five games. Now, this.
“I knew what it would be like from Day 1 when I got the surgery,” Sekera said last month. “I’m not putting my head down and I’m not worrying about it. I know the kind of player that I am and how I can play. I believe in myself. That’s all I can do. I knew when I came back I wouldn’t be playing like I did before because of the missed time, but I know what I can do and I’ll just keep trying to play to my strengths.”
PIECE OF THE PUZZLE
Sekera, who turns 32 in June and is in the third year of a six-year contract worth $33 million, was a key piece of the Oilers blueline puzzle last season. In 80 regular season games, he tallied 8-27-35 and averaged 21:29 of ice time per game. In 11 post-season games he added 1-2-3 and had averaged 21:10 a night before tearing up his knee against the Ducks in Game 5 of the second round.
He’s barely been a shadow of himself in this shortened season with 0-8-8 in 36 games. Understandably, Sekera’s played fewer minutes at 16:20 per game in Todd McLellan’s third pairing while trying to get his legs back. The problem for the Oilers is Sekera’s struggles have unfolded during a season in which Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson have been less than what they were last season. That’s a pretty big chunk of the back end.
Can Sekera get back to where he was last season? Can he live up to the contract he signed? Maybe, but we won’t know for sure until we see it. Of course, Sekera’s circumstances – recovering from surgery – are different than those of Lucic, who hasn’t been able to get anything done during the second half of this season, but that’s the fine print. The bottom line is that both Sekera and Lucic top the list of players who need a big bounce for the Oilers next season.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- After showing some life with a 7-2-2 run, the Oilers have lost five straight games and looked like they’d hit the wall, not that it matters at this point, in Minnesota. That third period, even allowing for the loss of Sekera and Johann Auvitu on the blueline, was about as feeble as the Oilers have looked this season as they were outshot 21-3.
- Daniel and Henrik Sedin have fed on the Oilers like no other opponent over the years, so it’s somewhat fitting they’ll wrap up their remarkable careers in Edmonton’s season finale at Rogers Place Saturday. I remember them breaking in as kids in 2000-01. Seventeen years and over a 1,000 points each later, they’re done. Magnificent players. They’ll get a great send-off Saturday. Edmonton does it right.
Has it really been 10 years since OILERSNATION started? Surely we would have more playoff memories and gaps in our memories due to playoffs. No matter, the Cup wins are right around the corner. Here’s to the next 10 years and the 10 after that and on and on forever. Order Nation Vodka by Rig Hand Distillery online now.