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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports

Oscar Klefbom: 2018-19 Season in Review

As we continue to move through the summer towards the 2019-20 season, we also continue to look back at the seasons from some of the key players on the roster. Here, we’re looking at a guy who had a potentially decent season get derailed by injuries: Oscar Klefbom.

Klefbom played only 61 games this season after a series of hand and finger injuries. He had 15 points through 31 games at the time of his first injury, putting him on pace for somewhere around 16 goals and 40 points, something a team starved for secondary and tertiary scoring could’ve greatly used. Despite playing in three-quarters of the season, Klefbom still finished 7th on the Oilers in total Even-Strength ice time (1190:43) and first in TOI/GM (23:59), with Hitchcock pressing him immediately into service upon his return from broken fingers. A large contribution to this total stems from playing on the top power play unit, leading all defensemen in total PP time (162:01, ten minutes more than the next-closest d-man, Darnell Nurse) and scoring 11 PPP (1G 10A).

It’s pretty remarkable how much Klefbom was leaned on in contrast to Larsson and Nurse, both of whom played in all 82 games.

Now let’s look at Klefbom’s advanced counts (All counts are at Even-Strength):

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF% HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off. Zone Start%
50.22 44.21 49.81 49.89 48.00 6.74 .914 .982 42.45

Like most players not named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, Corsi numbers were positive for Klefbom, but goals were harder to come by, though the low offensive zone starts likely contributed to that. Although, despite the lack of offensive zone starts, the amount of scoring and High Danger chances trended in an encouraging direction. The on-ice shooting percentage is slightly low, but nothing entirely troubling, and the save percentage is near a sustainable rate too, which indicates that Klefbom was a stabilizing force on the blueline.

To look deeper at Klefbom’s individual impact, here are his relative counts (counts are at Even Strength):

CF% Rel CF/60 Rel GF% Rel HDCF% HDGF%
2.27 3.65 -5.21 3.37 2.95

Klefbom was a boon for a team that had trouble generating enough offence, but goals were rarely converted, which is not shocking for a team that only scored 229 goals. The relative goal disparity is disconcerting, especially considering he played 473:19 ES total ice with Draisaitl and 481:55 with McDavid– 590:12 with all three of them on the ice. But he pushed the pace from his own zone to the opponent’s end, which is really all that should be desired from a defenceman like Klefbom, who has an offensive bend, but isn’t cut from the same cloth as Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns.

Pairs on the Blueline

Like all defensemen, Klefbom’s individual counts have to be taken with a grain of salt, as they are ultimately (but not entirely) tied to defence partners. Here’s a look at the players Klefbom skated with the most at Even-Strength:

w/ Adam Larsson

Even-Strength TOI Together: 1023:51

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off. Zone Start%
50.00 37.31 48.28 181/198 47.76 36.84 4.79 .921 .969 48.61

The de facto top pairing for the Oilers, it’s nearly impossible to separate Klefbom from Larsson, as Klefbom only played 165:43 without his fellow Swede. The pair had an impressive on-ice save percentage, while still helping push the pace from their own zone to the opposing one. While goals were rarely seen, which is troubling for a top pairing, they were helping create a fair amount of scoring opportunities, the conversion just wasn’t there (as indicated by the low on-ice shooting percentage).

w/ Kris Russell

Even-Strength TOI Together: 61:58

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off. Zone Start%
42.34 83.33 59.57 13/8 61.9 100.00 15.15 .970 1.121 16.67

Even though Klefbom hardly paired with anyone else, he still played over an hour with Russell, which personally I found surprising that he was Klefbom’s second-most frequent partner. The offensive counts are almost the inverse from the ones with Larsson, with an egregious amount of goals scored with them on the ice, without really controlling possession. They were on the ice for 4 High Danger goals for without allowing one, which is actually pretty remarkable considering that Russell is often thought of as an offensive blackhole. Not to mention that the save percentage was ludicrously high, especially considering the pair almost exclusively started in their own zone.

w/ Matthew Benning

Even-Strength TOI Together: 41:49

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off. Zone Start%
53.85 50.00 53.33 11/9 55.00 50.00 7.69 .882 .959 41.67

Not a tonne of time together, but despite the low offensive zone starts, they were able to help push the possession in favour of the Oilers, leading to a decent goal-conversion count, but having the goaltender suffer a bit with them in front of him.

w/ Darnell Nurse

Even-Strength TOI Together: 18:28

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off. Zone Start%
51.11 50.00 53.33 7/5 58.33 100.00 33.33 .769 1.103 64.29

Almost not worth looking at, with their time together being so low, but I found it interesting that this pairing was seemed to be used more exclusively in the offensive zone, with the ability to mostly sustain that possession, but not as much as one would hope with the two more offensively-minded defensemen.

w/ Evan Bouchard

Even-Strength TOI Together: 14:18

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off. Zone Start%
59.26 0% 50.00 3/0 100.00 (0-0) 0.00 .857 .857 80.00

Again, almost not even worth looking at, but again, this was a offensive zone exclusive pairing that couldn’t help muster even one goal, but helped control possession at almost an elite level, and forcing High Danger chances. An interesting pairing to consider for next season should Bouchard get more time with the big club.

Final Thought

Klefbom was (and is) an important piece to the Oilers roster, chewing up ice time when healthy and patrolling the blueline on the Power Play, an area the offensively hapless Oilers were relatively successful in finishing 9th at 21.2%. With Tippett implementing his new system, and Klefbom fully healthy heading into training camp, I think it would worth considering breaking up the All Swede D pairing. Though they do play well together and can help push possession, I personally think that they’ve shown some flashes with other partners that they might be able to distribute the ice-time more evenly, and not concentrating so much on the top four of Klefbom, Larsson, Russell, and Nurse (something that I’d be willing to bet had an effect on the effective play of the defensive corps as a whole). There also appears to have been a trend of the Oilers top defensemen starting mostly in the defensive zone, which doesn’t help to lead to effective goal-scoring opportunities.