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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Bounce: Oscar Klefbom

Patience is a virtue when it comes to waiting on prospects to develop. History tells us that’s especially true – the reality is it’s much easier to talk about than to actually put into practice — when it comes to bringing along young defencemen looking to establish themselves in the NHL. It’s been no different for Oscar Klefbom of the Edmonton Oilers.

So, after 107 games over parts of three seasons watching Klefbom make his way along the development curve, a journey slowed by injury, there was a fair bit of excitement in 2016-17 after he played all 82 games for the Oilers, amassing 12-26-38. It looked like he’d arrived – early, if you believe it takes 300 games for young D-men to find their game. Klefbom looked like a legitimate first-pairing guy and the power play quarterback the Oilers needed. He was worth the wait.

Well, not so fast. In what became a familiar and frustrating refrain around here last season, Klefbom took a big step back due mainly to a nagging left shoulder that limited him to 66 games and ended his season early because he needed surgery to repair the problem. His numbers (5-16-21), like his play, fell off. Now, as is the case with so many of his teammates who pushed the Oilers into the second round of the playoffs in 2016-17, he’s looking for a bounce back season.

HURRY UP AND WAIT

Mar 18, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (77) skates with the puck during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Klefbom, who turns 25 this Friday, went under the knife last March 22 to clean up a previous surgery on his shoulder. While it wasn’t enough of an aggravation to keep him out of many games, it was a constant factor when he did play – at both ends of the ice. He simply wasn’t the same player who put up 38 points, including 3-13-16 from the point on the power play. This past season, he managed just one goal and six points with the Oilers on the man-advantage.

Defensively, he wasn’t the same steady player it looked like he’d become in tandem with Adam Larsson. Klefbom is never going to win a Norris Trophy based on his defensive play, but he wasn’t as good in his own end last season. It’s difficult to win one-on-one battles for the puck or to stake out position in front of the net with one arm tied behind your back. That was the case for Klefbom.

“Me and Larsson played a hell of a season last year,” Klefbom told reporters last March. “We showed everyone we are a (pairing) to count on. When we play good hockey we can get within a game of a conference final. I want to get back to that, but then I have to be 100 per cent. I cannot go back and be 75 per cent, stay out of battles, and wait. I have to be 100 per cent.”

Klefbom actually took more shots in the 66 games he played last season than he did in 82 games the previous season, 203 to 201, and averaged more ice time, 22:51 to 22:22, while playing through the injury – he had a cortisone shot during the year. At the same time, his shooting percentage last season dropped to 2.5 per cent from 6.0 the previous season. For what it’s worth, he dropped from being a plus-7 to a minus-12. Simply put, he wasn’t the same.

WHAT’S NEXT?

While Klefbom is expected to be ready for training camp, there’s almost always a lag between being healthy enough to play and being back to 100 per cent. How quickly that happens, or doesn’t, is going to be the most significant factor if Klefbom is to bounce back and look like the player everybody saw playing effectively alongside Larsson in 2016-17.

If he’s healthy, I don’t see any reason why Klefbom can’t return to the form fans waited to see. If Klefbom (and Larsson, who had to cope with the death of his father during the season) can contribute offensively on the power play and at even-strength as he did two seasons ago, the blueline group has a chance to be adequate. If Klefbom takes half-a-season to get back to where he was, or can’t get there at all, this group has no chance to be good enough and that means GM Pete Chiarelli has a problem.

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  • SRELIOFAN

    Chiarelli’s best move so far this offseason was not trading Kelfbom. I still think he is going to be the powerplay quarterback the Oilers have needed. It’s what I call “Addition by doing nothing”

  • Kelly Youngblood

    I’m glad Klefbom wasn’t traded. Still think he’s the Oilers best all around D-man. I’d still love to wake up & see that Edmonton signed a proven scorer for McDavid though. Maybe a guy like Panarin might sign for a few years after a playing out the last year of his contract on Connor’s wing. Payday!!!!!!!!

  • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

    Hopefully Yawney and the new assistants help McLellan get off the “shoot everything” train. The fact that Klefbom took more shots last year (in 16 less games) than he did in 2016-17, and his shooting % dropped 3.5 points shows that there is no point in taking a shot when there’s no good lane there. The league is all about puck possession now, and giving up the puck just to blast it from the point makes no sense. The Oilers were 7th in the league in shots for last year, but 20th in goals. 6 of the teams that were in the top 10 in shots for missed the playoffs, so hopefully the new coaches can help the team by taking away the philosophy of quantity over quality.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Perfect analysis. Was it just me or were also most of the shots in the offensive zone from the perimeter last year? Other than the first line it seemed very little scoring chances were from the slot or in close from the wings… We may have shot more as a group, but always held to the outside.
      Is there a stat to show that?

      • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

        I know that Lowetide likes to use Dangerous Fenwick as a stat to show what you’re talking about, it basically values the type of shot that was taken and the distance that it was taken from (ie. 10 foot slapshot is valued higher than a 30 foot wrist shot). And there is the Expected Goals stat that pretty much just weighs where the shot was taken from in order to calculate quality of shots.

        I think Dangerous Fenwick is a little bit better of an indicator, its just not as publicly available as expected goals. The top 10 teams for Expected Goals last year included 8 of the 10 teams that were top 10 in shots also, so I don’t think there is much merit in that based on where teams finished in the standings.

  • OilersGM

    Lots of young players early in their career get injured but eventually find away to stay healthy… good example Hall last year. I’m sure Klefbom will find a way to do that as well and will be productive I have no doubt.

  • I think Darnell Nurse was the only defensemen who didn’t miss any time last season. Health is the biggest thing for this defense. When guys pop in and out of the lineup every 5-7 games and are on different pages it’s hard for the group to find its groove. We might not have that Karlsson type guy but when everyone is healthy and playing at their best we have guys we can rely on in almost any phase of the game. With Trent Yawney coming in let’s hope we get some luck on their health to cap it all off.

  • Rysani

    I see Klefbom rebounding no problem, he says he feels great and sounds like he is committed to getting thing back to they way they were. Looks forward to see a healthy Kelfbom getting back out without fear for his shoulder.

  • Redbird62

    Certainly watching many games, Klefbom did not seem to play as well this past season except for the first game against Calgary. It is interesting to note, however, that despite his difficulties, most of Klefbom’s key stats at least 5 on 5, except for points and goals for and against, were as good if not better year over year. This includes hits, blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways, and most possession stats. Of course goals for and against determine who wins. According to corsica.hockey, Klefbom’s personal PDO dropped from 100.44 to 97.64. How much of that is Klefbom’s fault vs puck luck on offense or subpar goaltending behind him? The team’s results on the PP, which impacted Klefbom’s contributions, are more of a mystery and the fault/reasons can be probably spread around to all players and coaches. A healthier Klefbom being tutored by Trent Yawney I think should well outperform his last season.

  • Abagofpucks

    Klef will rebound this year im not worried about him larsson im sure will be fine . My worry is sekra im not hearing anything about his knee or if hes able to train properly . Nurse should be a better beast this year i think because of all our defense problems last year they stretched him a little thin . As for cam i hope he has his personel life with the new family and all in order and will have better focus on his game this year.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    When the Oil were out of it, I think they should have said to Klefbom go and have his surgery, the Oilers weren’t in the playoff so why let him keep playing hurt or aggravate the injury worse.. That way Klefbom could haven taken all the time he needed to recover from the shoulder surgery then resume his training and be ready for camp. I fear that like when Sekera came back that if Klefbom misses training camp it is going to take a lot of games to get up to speed.. Lets hope Sekera and Klefbom are good to go, or we may be in trouble on the back end

  • Kneedroptalbot

    I always thought there was a lot of risk signing Klefbom with all his previous ankle issues, it not healing properly and him having to get a custom made skate and all. Hope things work out for him??

    • OriginalPouzar

      I don’t think his ankle has been an issue at all for a couple of years now. Played two full years without the ankle being an issue – his skating was 100% fine last year.