The Oilers had a great game against Colorado on Tuesday night, but the night was spoiled by the loss of Oscar Klefbom. After the game, it was revealed Klefbom will miss “weeks” due to a broken finger, which is obviously a massive blow to the Oilers.
Honestly, after Connor McDavid, Klefbom might be the Oilers’ most important skater. He’s emerged as the team’s No. 1 defender, thriving at both ends of the ice as both a rock-solid defender and a strong offensive catalyst, and he’s been a workhorse, logging just over 25 minutes per game. The Oilers will now have to navigate life without their top defender, replacing a large number of minutes at both ends of the ice.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. How should the Oilers navigate Oscar Klefbom’s injury? Should they just re-shuffle their current options to compensate him not being in the lineup? Or is his loss important enough they should explore external options?
As of right now, it looks like the Oilers would slide up Darnell Nurse to the top pairing with Adam Larsson, which creates a domino effect with the rest of the pairings. Nurse and Kris Russell have been the second pair, but Russell would presumably slide into the second left spot, meaning Matt Benning would have to jump up to the second pairing. That would then leave Kevin Gravel, Jason Garrison, and Chris Wideman to fill up the third pair.
I don’t mind Nurse sliding up with Larsson to the top pair. Nurse and Larsson played a lot together last year and he’s a competent defender who can handle an increase in minutes. It’s the next two pairings and the domino effect which is more worrying. Benning has been solid on the third pair with Gravel but, as we saw last year, he struggled in an increased role.
In the AHL, Ethan Bear figured to be the first call-up. We all assumed Bear would be on the team as soon as Evan Bouchard was returned to the OHL, but that hasn’t happened yet. There’s also Caleb Jones, a rookie in the AHL who has 12 points through 21 games. I don’t know if adding a rookie to the mix will help much, but Bear would be a nice replacement for Klefbom on the team’s first power play.
Then there are external options. It’s well known the Oilers should add to their blueline in some capacity to take the next step and become a contending team. I’m not sure if they can find their right-handed, offensive defenceman in the middle of the season, but there are rental options out there that can help deepen the blueline right now.
Names on rebuilding teams who immediately come to mind are Jay Bouwmeester on the Blues, Alex Edler on the Canucks, Niklas Kronwall on the Red Wings, and Alex Petrovic on the Panthers. Obviously, these players aren’t perfect, but they provide legitimate NHL veteran depth and are probably more reliable than giving Benning increased minutes on the second pair and having a third pair of Gravel and Garrison or Wideman.
What say you, Nation? How do you organize the blueline with Klefbom out? Can the Oilers patch it together internally or should they dive in and make an early rental acquisition?