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. 77: Oscar Klefbom
GP: 66 – G: 5, A: 16, PTS: 21
Oscar Klefbom’s breakout was one of the many things that went right in a magical 2016-17 season. He played in all 82 games, a great feat for a player who had struggled with injuries in every season since being drafted in 2011, and appeared to be on his way to reaching his potential as a top-pairing defenceman.
Klefbom’s breakout showing was a key reason why Peter Chiarelli felt comfortable not adding a replacement for Andrej Sekera, who was set to miss the first few months of the 2017-18 season following ACL surgery. Unfortunately, Klefbom struggled in an increased role in Sekera’s absence and got bit by the injury bug again. Klefbom played through the majority of 2017-18 with a bum shoulder and ultimately had his season cut short early as he went for surgery.
Just as Klefbom was a key reason why the Oilers excelled in 2016-17, he was a reason why the team failed in 2017-18.
That said, Klefbom’s disappointing 2017-18 season can largely be pinned on the nagging shoulder injury he played through. He was a noticeably different player this season than he was during his breakout campaign. It was noticeable on the power play as Klefbom wasn’t as effective in shooting from the point as he had been previously and it was noticeable in his defensive game as got pushed around in his own zone more than in the past.
His poor results are evident not only from the eye test but also in the numbers. Klefbom clearly didn’t have the same offence as he did in 2016-17 as he scored just five goals on the season. He also posted a 43.6 Goals For percentage, meaning he was on the ice for way more goals against at even strength than he was on for goals for. Digging a little deeper, virtually all of Klefbom’s partners performed better without him last season than they did with him.
Per Natural Stat Trick, he and Matt Benning, who was his most common partner, had a 47.7 GF% together while Benning had a 60.6 GF% with anybody else. He and Kris Russell posted a 36.8 GF% together and Russell posted a 45.9 without him. He and Adam Larsson had a 39.1 GF% together and Larsson had a 54.1 GF% without him. This wasn’t the case at all in 2016-17 as Klefbom and Larsson, who were together for virtually the entire season, posted a ridiculously-good 55.9 GF% over the span of 1063 even strength minutes.
There was a point in which it seemed inevitable that Klefbom would be traded. There was a weird situation going on in March in which Klefbom was sidelined shortly for a minor procedure and then brought back into the lineup for a series of games in front of other teams’ scouts before being shut down for the season. If the team wasn’t shopping him, they’d surely have just shut him down rather than bringing him back for that short showing following the procedure, right?
“The fact that they haven’t shut him down, I think, that’s leading to some belief that they are showcasing him,” said Elliotte Freidman. “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.”
Selling Klefbom at a low point of value was a terrifying prospect. Chiarelli did something similar last summer with Jordan Eberle coming off of a poor showing during the team’s playoff run. But we’re into August now and it seems Klefbom is going to be back with the team next season. That’s a good thing.
After shutting him down early for surgery, the Oilers should have themselves a healthy Klefbom in 2018-19. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee he’s going to be as good as he was in 2016-17, but it’s reasonable to assume he’ll be closer to what he was in his breakout season than what he was during his poor, nagging injury 2017-18 season. Regardless, banking on a rebound season from Klefbom is a much, much more prudent decision than dumping him at his lowest point of value.
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