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Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Year in Review: The Oilers’ blueline badly missed a healthy Andrej Sekera

This is one part of a player-by-player Year in Review series we’ll be doing over the next couple months as we look back on the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers season. 

2017-18 Edmonton Oilers No. 2: Andrej Sekera

GP: 36, G: 0, A: 8, PTS: 8

Andrej Sekera got injured just a few minutes into Game 5 of Edmonton’s second-round series with Anaheim last spring and the ripple effect was bigger than anybody expected it to be. Sekera’s injury obviously played a big role in the Oilers blowing a three-goal lead in the third period and dropping that game, and, eventually, the series, but missing the veteran blueliner’s steady presence was also key in derailing the team’s 2017-18 campaign.

Sekera suffered a torn ACL after being hit into the boards by Ryan Getzlaf. It was announced soon after that Sekera would have surgery and would need six-to-nine months to recover. He didn’t return to the team until Dec. 21. Even when he did get back in the lineup, Sekera predictably wasn’t the same player he had been in the past.

There isn’t much to talk about in regards to Sekera’s 2017-18 season. Like I said, he didn’t debut until right before Christmas, and then he only went on to play 36 games on a team already out of playoff contention. He managed eight points, logged just over 16 minutes a game, and was ultimately only there to get his footing back at the NHL level. When talking about Sekera’s season, and, ultimately, his value to the team, it’s best to look at what everyone else did without him at 100%.

When looking at the good things Peter Chiarelli has done since taking over the Oilers shortly after the team won the Connor McDavid lottery ticket back in 2015, signing Sekera is towards the top. In his first two years with the Oilers, the wildly-underrated Sekera logged just under 22 minutes a game and put up 30 and 35 points. His on-ice shot attempt differential was roughly even despite playing in defensive situations and against tough competition.

2016-17 was especially good for Sekera as he played a key role in Edmonton’s breakout season. He logged heavy minutes with Kris Russell, forming a pair that would take on difficult assignments in the defensive zone. The two of them posted a ridiculously-good 62.5 goals for percentage at even strength. I think Sekera’s value is particularly noticeable when you see that Russell had a 40.7 GF% without him while Sekera had a 56.0 GF% without Russell. That isn’t to say that Russell is some useless player, or anything, but it does suggest that Sekera was a big driving factor behind this pairing’s success.

Without a healthy Sekera last season, Edmonton’s blueline went into flux. Oscar Klefbom was originally asked with taking over the No. 1 lefty defender role that Sekera occupied, but he struggled, and Darnell Nurse eventually stepped up. Nurse was good in the role for a while, but petered off as the season went on, which is reasonable to expect from a young player taking on such a task. Without his defensive partner, Russell had a much worse season in 2017-18, posting a 44.6 GF% bouncing around the lineup.

Obviously there are more factors at play than simply Sekera’s injury derailing 2017-18 for the Oilers, but his presence was clearly missed. Without him, Edmonton lacked a true, stable, veteran presence on the top pairing on the left side. Without him, Russell wasn’t as effective in his role as a shut down defender because he didn’t have a partner who could very effectively move the puck up the ice in transition. Without him, Edmonton also lacked a defenceman who could move the puck up ice and take good shots from the point on the power play. Ultimately, everyone had to take a step up without Sekera, but they didn’t have the ability to do so.

Having a healthy Sekera will go a long way in helping the Oilers rebound in 2018-19. That said, it isn’t a guarantee that Sekera, who suffered an injury that isn’t easy to recover from after the age of 30, will bounce back and be the same player that he was before.

  • Jimmer

    He is a place holder on the left side for Nurse. We need Sekera badly this year….which will give Nurse more time to develop into a legit Top 4, 20 – 22 minute D man who can kill penalties and be on at least the 2nd PP unit. After that…Sekera’s contract becomes a boat anchor.

      • Redbird62

        Did you mean he won’t replace Sekera because he is a different style of player or do you believe he will never contribute as much to team success as Sekera could? Sekera did not consistently become the player the Oilers signed until he was 26 years old. Even 4 years into his NHL career at the age of 25, Sekera was the occasional healthy scratch from the Buffalo roster. Nurse is at least 3 years ahead of Sekera’s development at this point in his career. Nurse came into the league with much more promise than Sekera and through the age of 23 he is still tracking to be better. He may not be the same style of player, but I think Nurse’s prime has the potential to be considerably more impactful than Sekera’s has been.

  • Rob...

    Didn’t Sekera ‘re-tweak’ his knee in the last 10 games of the season? Do we know if he’s approaching 95% healthy or are we in for another half season of limited mobility?

    • Rob...

      A quick search of Sekera and knee returned this from Matheson: “Andrej Sekera has tweaked his surgically repaired knee.
      With so little time left in the 2017-18 campaign and nothing for the Oilers’ to play for, he’s just being shutdown for the rest of the season. He had eight assists in 36 games. Apr 4 – 4:17 PM”

      http://www.rotoworld.com/recent/nhl/2085/andrej-sekera

      If he isn’t 100% at camp, I’ll be ticked at management and the player for lack of commitment to team success.

      His performance at the Worlds could have more to do with quality of competition than the state of his knee.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Agreed, the World is just a “Post NHL Season Get together”…
        If you were to take any player seriously at the Worlds, then Nurse would still be playing junior… He was brutal at the Worlds, he may as well not have shown up actually… It’s just a party in Europe after the regular season.
        The only players that are scrutinized are the European’s being scouted.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I think we will see A much better Sekera than we saw last year. Sekera missed almost half the season and by the time he was back in the lineup, he was just playing catch up when the guys had already been thru training camp and in the games already. Sekera will have already been doing whatever off season raining that he does like mnay otyhers have , but he will be at Camp which will be a lot better and will be in the games from the get go which should help him and the Oil. I expect he will have his feet under him and playing steady hockey

  • FISTO Siltanen

    I am very excited to see what the Oilers defense looks like this year with improved health and new coaching. My gut tells me Russell and Sekeras will be improved enough that one will be moved out next summer to make room for Bouchard. And much of the hullabaloo about cap problems will start to evaporate.

  • OilCan2

    We need our best players to be our best players. That will improve everyone down the line and give the coach a chance to bring Bouchard along in a sheltered role. Reggie is going to rebound.

  • TKB2677

    Sekera before the injury was easily a #3 dman in the NHL. As an Oiler, he was arguably their best, most consistent dman before getting injured. After the injury when he came back, given he probably wasn’t 100% and he missed an entire offseason, training camp, all the practices and more half the games in the season which would put him significantly behind everyone, last season he was realistically a what, #6 dman?

    So even if he can’t return to being a really good #3 dman like he used to be, if he can return to be just a decent #4 dman which should be fairly realistic, that is a massive addition to the Oilers. For the Oilers roster this season, it would be like signing a really good free agent dman.

  • Bond

    The trouble with Sekera is no fault of his own. He got injured and that happens, teams are supposed to have contingency plans. Our problem was that right before the playoffs Chirelli traded Davidson away which hurt our depth and ability to cope. Had he NOT done that we may have won that game 7 against Anaheim. It left our defence with a much larger whole to fill at the start of last season. Bringing BD back was too little too late but he did begin to gel again just in time for Chirelli to REPEAT THE SAME MISTAKE . Chirelli keeps getting fleeced on the wrong players. He has made the same mistake to a different degree at least 4 times, Sequin, Hall and Davidson twice. Again our defence is weakened by the trading away of Davidson.

    • Bills Bills

      Do we score the game 5 OT goal without Desharnais? PC traded Davidson who was providing next to nothing for the Oilers for a 3rd line center that helped us get to the second round. Then claimed him off waivers FOR NOTHING less than a year later. (Because Montreal waived him, something teams do when they have no real use for the player and nobody will trade for him) Then PC traded him to the Islanders for a 3rd round pick in 2019. Which will likely be a pretty high pick considering the direction the Islanders are going. Is that really what you call getting fleeced?

      BTW, Davidson is currently an unrestricted free agent. He is completely unsigned, even by the team that just gave up a 3rd round pick for him. Your evaluation of hockey players and trades is pathetic.

      • Oilerz4life

        A #7 D man slides into the lineup in certain situations and affords the team options. After goaltending, defensive depth is key and was sorely missed last season.

  • TKB2677

    It’s kind of funny/sad. The only fan base who would still be complaining about the Oilers moving on from a #7 dman in Davidson is the Oilers fan. I like Davidson the person, I like his story but he is a #7 Dman. That’s it, that’s all he is. If he is in your defense core full time, your defense probably isn’t that good. Take out the story of what Davidson overcame health wise, there are TONS of Davidson’s available every single year. For the record, he currently remains unsigned and I would bet if he actually gets an NHL deal, he ends up being a late signing for around league minimum or goes to a team on a PTO.

  • jfk11

    This is the biggest misconception that continues to plague this organization and its media. One of the reasons Oilers have been perhaps the worst managed organization in pro sports over the past ten years. Sekera would struggle to make any other teams roster. He is an absolutely useless D man. Soft. Zero intensity and prone to major mistakes in his own end due to the lack of player he is in this league. He is the least feared D man around the NHL. Opposing teams and players love playing against Sekera. This non sense about Sekera returning to form means nothing. His deal is by far among the worst deals this GM has made. And he’s made a few. Lucia’s deal by comparison is light years better than the Sekera deal. At least Lucic provides other needs such as being a feared player to play against. Sekera and Russel combined salaries are an absolute embarrassment to this club and prevents the Oilers from being competetive.

    Again and again we hear the unqualified Oilers media drink the special koolaide GM wants you to believe… which is don’t worry, Sekera will be back to form this year. Like that is a good thing which is going to solve GM’s absurd mistakes.

    • Gravis82

      Too many things going on here. Yes, GM is awful. No, Sekera is not a bad player. Yes is not physical. No, just because you are feared doesn’t mean you are good player. Yes, he was our best defenseman when we made the playoffs. No, he is not a top pairing D man. Yes, he is probably worth his salary when it was signed. No he wasn’t last year. Yes, it is likely he will be next year. But no, we are not sure.

      • jfk11

        He is a bottom paring D man on any other roster. His contract is a bad one to put it nicely. Below average in his own zone is also putting it mildly. Being hard to play against doesn’t equate to being a physical force. In Edmonton only – can Sekera and Russel’s deals be considered reasonable if not disastrous.

          • jfk11

            Could not be more obvious. lets forget about the 8 points in 36 games for a guy with his contract. If reality doesn’t apply to Oilers media / management then Stevie wonder could tell you Russel and Sekera at 9.5 mil per year are most likely among the worst deals in hockey. period.