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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Long Road Back

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.

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“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

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

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.

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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.

ARTICLE BROUGHT TO YOU BY RIG HAND DISTILLERY

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.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  



    • Kneedroptalbot

      I think Lucic’s time in Edmonton is up, just like Arnott , Horcoff, and Schutlz before him. Once the fans have spoken it’s a downward spiral. Now management has to find a way to move him. Easier said then done.

    • Leo Tard

      A lot depends what happens from now till July 2. If the Oilers do nothing (many don’t want any changes at all), then we can expect a similar result. This team will not improve if it plans to use internal solutions only.

      • Serious Gord

        the oil can’t make any changes without selling off assets with good to great potential at the bottom of their market value. thus they have to largely keep this roster in place; hope for the best and also to build depth…

        The scary part that Bob and Spect kind of alluded to this afternoon is that this off-season is Chiarelli’s last kick at the cat – either he imporves the team via moves and a lot of luck he will be gone. That means Alex
        anthopoulus type moves – selling off big chunks of the future for a better result in 18-19.

        • M22

          Can’t see that happening. Chiarelli will have every eye in Oilers upper management upon him. If there are any big moves to be made, be it players, coaches, or “selling off big chunks of the future”, it will happen only with the approval of Nicholson. Yes, I realize that most moves in the NHL involve some level of discussion among management and coaching staff, but in the Oilers’ case, it’s even more so. PC is on thin ice here. If he survives this off-season, he is still only one bad start next season from unemployment.

        • Big Nuggets

          That is also my greatest worry, that its do or die time for Chia and so has no incentive to plan for after next season. With the make-up of the roster right now I think the best course of action is to build for 3 or 4 years in the future and hope that success comes earlier. We have McDavid and Drai for 8 years, potentially Nurse as well. We want to contend for as much of that tike as possible. Chia’s bold moves have not paid off. In fact he has diminished our potential. Although he appears to have drafted well at least. We desperately need another good showing at the draft table this year.

    • Big Nuggets

      I’m optimistic. Sekera is not too old to recover so he should be better next year. Klefbom will be better next season too. Our biggest wildcard is that Draisaitl hasn’t come close to reaching his ceiling yet. With Nuge on McDavid’s wing I think we give Drai a lot of o-zone starts, as well as a new winger, and hopefully he will take another step. And of course we also need a Talbot to be better. If all goes right next year we will be good again.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        My Gord, you guys. They aren’t bad players, like the media is making them out. They aren’t being properly developed and coached is all. Tell me how, with the talent on this team, just considering the top two lines. That they have the worst PK in NHL History?
        As well as one of the worst power plays. How is that possible? I can tell you that is not for lack of skilled players. That’s just one of the areas affected by the aforementioned coaching staff. There are others. Why did it take two years to create the McNuge line? The most obvious combination for the top line amongst the fanbase.
        Don’t trade away, what everyone is saying can’t play. These thoughts are strengthened by everyone feeding off each other, it’s just not true… We’ll have to start the rebuild again.
        I believe that they are almost there now, without any subtractions.
        Look what a coach can do in Vegas as an example. Over the years we have all seen mediocre talent excel due to coaching. This team does not have mediocre talent.

  • The Future Never Comes

    In Lucic’s case, I truly believe his road back to success is working daily in the summer on his rudimentary and most foundational puck handling skill-sets. People speak on end about losing 15-20 pounds for next year, when in a realistic perspective at his age, he is not likely to gain anymore noticeable foot speed. Come back maybe 7-8 pounds lighter for an extra split second of get-up-and-go. In the summer he should work on his hand-eye to deflect pucks in front, on his basic stick handling skills, taking and making a pass in stride or from a stationary position. Have a coach or player pressure you in drills and having to hit a target in a game like scenario. He has a wicked hard shot, maybe not accurate, but find drills to work within the hashmarks down to get that shot off; by brute force some will go in due to pure strength alone. Work on winning puck battles down low with a quick stick, the days of cycling aimlessly on the boards are all but over, innovate and get with the times or get left behind. I don’t think foot speed is the biggest culprit people liken it to be, I think his blind passes, inability to win puck battles, and satisfaction with always diverting to his linemates is his biggest demise.

    • RJ

      The comments that he should just train differently or hire a skills coach may work if we were talking about Benson or Yamamoto, but he’s 29 and played 800+ games as a power forward. His 5×5 points are steadily declining, he’s not making it to the hard parts of the ice anymore.

      It’s time to stick a fork in him. (Hope he reads this and he feels compelled to prove me wrong).

    • A-co

      It sounds like your describing the lazy coaches son on a pee wee team…he got paid and his pockets are full and you want him to work on the fundementals of hockey…LTIR and move on

    • he shoots he scars

      Milan is a straight line skater only. He needs to work on his edges for tighter turns, spins, backward movement and tight maneuvers. And doing so with two hands on his stick. This would help him both in front of the net and along the boards either end.

    • The Yam Hammer

      Trade bait is one of the big reasons I hope he gets back to his form. The season after next there should be at least one leftorium defender pushing for a spot, and Sekera will be hopefully the third best LD. If he bounces back, he’s worth plenty in a trade, if not….

    • RJ

      Maybe if the Oil agreed to eat half his salary, and if they could sucker the Habs into trading for him and if the Oilers agreed to take back a brutal contract and if Lucic could be convinced the easier travel helps rejuvenate him, then maybe he won’t need to pull a Ference and LTIR his way to the end of his contract because he can’t play anymore…

      Then maybe you ask him to waive his NMC.

  • McDavid's Comet

    Gotta have some faith that the players that had a miserable season this yr. can bounce back to last yrs. form. This yr. was terrible for the team for so many reasons it’s hard to keep count. Between bumbling management and players whom were injured, sick or just plain frustrated, it just didn’t go very well. As Mr. Layhe would say “when s*** clings to the air, you know a s*** blizzard is coming!”.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    The Deal? Does this make any sense?
    Edmonton wants to win now, need more skilled wingers, and is Cap space hell. Vancouver has all kinds of cap room (22M).
    Edmonton trades Draisaitl (8.5M x 8yr) and Milan Lucic (6M x6yr)
    Edm retains 50% of Lucic salary. So -11.5M off the books.
    Vancouver Trades Chris Tanev (D) 4.4M and Sven Bartschi (LW)1.85M.
    So +6.25M on the books. Net Savings 5.25M.
    Oilers gain a winger and D-man in his prime, get rid of Lucic and have 5.25M Cap space. Cheers (yes) Trash (no)

  • Ssseth

    For the last 7 or 8 years I forgot what expectations are like. It hurts a lot more when you actually expect something good out of something (or someone).

    Agreed on the Sedins. I know some of us called them the Sisters over the years but it always in good fun. At least to me. Classy players. Too bad they had to play for the Canucks the whole time.

  • Deezy

    Totally agree about the players needing to be better. Management and coaching needs to be better, as well. Can somebody ask Oilers insider/managment groupie, Bob Stauffer, if the fans need to be better as well?

      • 24% body fat

        Barzal is not the reason his team did not make the playoffs, and he would be the 2nd leading scorer on the oilers in desperate need of secondary scoring on value contracts. Barzal right now could fetch you a top 4 right handed defenseman as well, yet another thing the oilers could use. So say his team doesnt make the playoffs, how does that effect his ability to help the oilers if he were here?

          • so Barzal and Eberle in edmonton would have fixed the power play, fixed the penalty kill, fixed the goaltending, and fixed the general ineptness of the first 5 minutes of every game this season? Or if those 2 were still Oilers, would the plan be to win a lot of 7-6 games?

  • Heschultzhescores

    Seems, other than McDavid, you oay guys big money on a long term deal and they don’t live up to expectations. Solution. Short term deals for everyone other than McD. There is always another good player you can sign for 6 million. Not sure what the panic is all about.

    • Big Nuggets

      who isn’t living up to expectations? Nuge is now earning that 6 mil, Remember when evryone belittled our best players dubbing them as the 6 million dollar men. These long term deals to young players don’t give value until the last few years of their contracts. With potential to big huge bargains in the last years, between rising salary cap and player development. If you are complaining about Drai’s contract then your a dummy. Of course he isn’t earning 8.5 million this year. The deal is he continues to improve and it turns into a good deal in the later years. I know Chia could have bargained a better price, but as regards Drai earning the salary, revisit it in 5 years and see what it looks like. Hall is getting Hart trophy votes on a contract signed by MacT, Nuge is a gem that any GM would make room to fit in that 6 million. Nashville just signed Turris to a 6 million dollar contract and Nuge is a superiorplayer. Eberle is the least valuable of the 6 million dollar men but even he is delivering market value. Compared with many other players across the league, Bobby Ryan, Okposo and others, Eberle is doing well enough.

      The only players not earning their contracts are Lucic arguably Russell, Sekera gets a pass because injuries are part of the game. Klef probably wasn’t worth 4 mil this season but I’m confident he will live up to his contract before its over.

  • JayTee

    I’m hoping we do what the Canucks did during Smytty’s retirement, allowing the Sedins to have the ice to themselves and Connor leading the team back on to the ice to congratulate them

  • Serious Gord

    Milan Lucic turns 30 in 2 months. Sekera turns 32 in 2 months as well.

    Both need to completely turn around their declines this year. and return to their former peak abilities for the oil to progress next year.
    And the Year after.

    And the year after.

    What are the odds that either of them can do that let alone both of them.

    Thinking about the future of the oil while sober is a grim activity…

    • 24% body fat

      the thing is Sekera has always been and above average skater, where lucic never has. Sekera is a better bet to get back closer to his average than lucic, because a resonable amount of time is likely to help sekera, where with lucic time is his enemy. History shows, lucic type players fall off harder and faster at a younger age.

  • KennyG

    Of course Lucic and Talbot have a great chance to do better next season. How could it be worse!!!! Nobody hopes for anyone to fail at this level but let’s be realistic. Two games left and Mcpoints has gone Mcpointless. WAKE UP

  • Odanada

    Another point for Kucherov tonight. The Bolts play Buffalo, then Carolina then they’re done.
    If the Oilers mail it in against Vegas and the Canucks and Connor loses the Art Ross, that room is deader than a doornail and McLellan should resign.

  • Rama Lama

    If this guy did not have bad luck he would have no luck at all……….sums it up for the team as well.

    Well our Stanley cup is the draft…….maybe we can find a top 1 defenseman for Connor to play with. A man can dream.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      or maybe the Oilers take yet another forward like they always do in the 1st round and pass on the obvious high end defensive talent that is available where the Oilers are likely to pick. funny thing is when they do actually take a d-man in the 1st, they end up with Klefbom and Nurse ! get the message here Oilers?

  • Heschultzhescores

    “Long Road Back” would imply we were somewhere at some point. I’m not sure we have left the basement confines completely yet. It’s comfy down there.

  • Up North

    Am I the only one who sees it? Drai needs to be better at both ends of the rink not just the offensive zone, 8.5 M brings huge expectations that he didn’t deliver. He has been a huge disappointment to myself this year and if Chai was going to have any trade value and actually try to win a trade it would be with Drai as the Center piece.

    But then again 8,5M hmmm….. that might be hard with a non- playoff team

    • Big Nuggets

      if you were expecting Drai to give 8.5 mil of value in year 1 of his 8 year contract your disappointment is your own fault for having wrong expectations. He will begin to earn the contract as the years pass. Let the young man develop I say.

  • crabman

    1•Sekera has been a good defenceman in the past and one would hope that with a full offseason to train and come into training healthy he can rebound next year. Robin is absolutely correct that we won’t know if he will ever be back to where he was last year until we see it. But he is a prime candadite for a bounce back season and there has been no news to indicate that he won’t get back to that playing level.
    2• Klefbom should also be healthy to start next year barring another injury or a trade. My concern is that if Chiarelli is back next year he may feel pressure to turn things around quickly and move Klefbom with the expectation of having a healthy Sekera. It might be in the teams best interest to wait 1 more year before moving out a LD, when the option to move Sekera or Russell is available, but a GM in self preservation mode doesn’t always look at what is best long term.
    3• Earlier in the year when Lucic started slumping I was less concerned and thought he would bounce back next year with some offseason training. But I think it is time to start to lower the expectation of what a bounce back season will look like. This isn’t just 1 bad season. this is his 2nd season in a row to score this poorly at evens. Lucic scored half of his 50 pts last year on the pp. leaving only 25 pts at evens. This year he has scored 27 even strength points but his pp production fell back to slightly above his career average percentage of points at 20% this year. without the career high 50% points on the pp to hide his lack of 5×5 scoring this year he is being exposed as a diminishing scoring option. It isn’t just 1 year and it isn’t likely he fully turns it around next year. If he can regain a bit of 5×5 scoring and chip in a few more pp pts I think he should expect 40-45 points to be the best we could expect. But if he loses OP time and finds himself on the 3rd line next year I think it will be closer to another season in the 35pt range.
    4• Talbot with the other holes in the lineup and only so much cap room and so many assets the Oilers can move I fully expect him to be back as the starter next year. I hope Chiarelli can address the need for a goalie to back him up and play 20-25 games. I think the work load is too much for him and it would be nice to give him a few games off of he goes into a cold streak. But with a lower workload I think Talbot is another great candidate for a bounce back season.
    Talbot was one of the main reasons the Oilers were so good last year. And for people saying he had 1 good season that just isn’t the case. before this year he had a career 2.32 GAA and a .922 S% that would put him 6th and 12th respectfully this season. Last year he was 2.38 GGA and .919s% 14th and 12th out of goalies that played at least 25 games. Both slightly below career average at that time and still good enough to backstop the Oilers to 103 pts. Goalies have down years. We don’t need him to be all world. We need him to be average and his career numbers say he can be average. He is set for a bounce back year.
    5• And last coaching. I am of the belief that no matter what changes are made to the roster without a coaching change it will all be for nothing. With the talent on this team there is no excuse for the pp to be this bad and the pk has been awful for the better part of 2 years. They need to be fixed. The team defense was awful this year toss well as the lack of effort and preparation many nights. I know the players play the games and a lot of this is on them but I think it is time for a new voice and a new system and that will make the biggest difference next year.
    If a coaching change is made I think with just a couple tweaks this team is back in the playoffs next year. I don’t think the immediate future is as bleak as many people around here seem to think it is.

    • DXB

      Great points, logical, well thought out, non emotional, rational. There may still be hope for intelligent discourse on this site. And I fully agree with your assessment, Talbot playing to his career averages and the teams PP and PK reverting to rational expectation and this teams in a completely different position. I don’t think any of the above are unrealistic with a healthy team next year.

    • DannyGallivan

      I agree generally with what you said but these players may bounce back but others will have a poor season. Hoping for a bounce back will not fix the problem the biggest of which (aside from Chia’s horrible trades) is coaching

      In 2017/18 (2016/17) PP: 31st at 14.1% (5th at 22.9%) and PK: 26th at 76.2%(13th at 80.7%). Total collapse! Worst PP with the best offensive player in the world. How does that even happen (I know there are more players but CM drives others to be better)? Special teams coaching – horrible. Start there.

      The diff between winning/losing is tiny. Players are human. Winning drives winning and losing drives losing. That is why there are team winning/losing streaks and in-game “momentum”.

      Fix the special teams coaching is a good start. That will drive more wins which in turn will drive the players to work harder which in turn will drive more wins. One certainty is it ain’t working.

      • crabman

        @DannyGallivan,
        I completely agree. That is my last point. A coaching change would be the biggest and most important change this team could make this offseason.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      I don’t pretend to have the answers. I just know that lack of accountability results in failure. Always. Bringing back people that failed to do their job has a corrosive effect.

  • Sekera’s injury reminds me of Ryan Whitney. Whitney never fully recovered from his knee/ankle? injury, couldn’t skate well. Fortunately, Whitney’s remaining contract wasn’t as long as Sekera’s. With three more years to go, if he doesn’t heal to 100%, he’ll be on the 3rd pair for another year and then a buyout is eminent. It’s too bad. He was absolutely stellar in the previous season and gave Klefbom and Nurse time to improve in their proper roles.