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84 Days Until The Season Begins

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Photo credit:Rich Lam/Getty Images
Zach Laing
8 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane.
There are 84 days to go, so let’s continue the countdown with someone who celebrates their 30th birthday Wednesday — Oscar Klefbom, who wore number 84 during his first two years in the NHL.

An Edmonton Journal article from June 25, 2011, details the Edmonton Oilers drafting defenceman Oscar Klefbom with their 19th overall pick.

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Oh, Oscar.
There are few stories around the Oilers that have been tougher for the fanbase to swallow than the way Klefbom’s career as a whole transpired. And now, 1,076 days after fans unknowingly saw him wear the orange and blue for the last time, we’re all left wondering what could’ve been.
When the team drafted him 19th overall in the 2011 draft, they knew that he would be a project. After all he did have two years left on a contract with the Swedish Elite League’s Farjestad BK.
“How would I describe myself? I think I’m a two-way defenceman, pretty good first pass, pretty good leadership,” said Klefbom of his game after the draft.
Oh, how true that would ring.
But in November of 2012, what would mark his final season overseas, Klefbom was forced to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. A month prior during an Oct. 9 game, Klefbom got bumped from behind, lost an edge and flew hard into the boards bracing himself with his left arm.
It was an injury that would start his eventual downfall
“Afterwards, I couldn’t feel my arm, it was like a dead arm. I didn’t know what happened,” he told the Edmonton Sun.
Klefbom rehabilitated and came to North America ahead of the 2013-14 season. He got a look with the big club playing 17 NHL games scoring one goal and three points, but got himself more looks with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons playing 48 games notching 10 points.
But come the 2014-15 season, Klefbom worked his way onto the big team out of came and Oilers fans saw his game start to flourish. After starting the season with the Barons playing in nine games scoring eight points, he got called up to Edmonton and never looked back.
His ice time climbed from 15:48 per night to 22 minutes per night, and in the 60 games he played, Klefbom scored two goals and 20 points. The following season, 2015-16, the Oilers brought fellow Swede Adam Larsson to town and the two instantaneously fit together. They would munch minutes early on in the season, but upper and lower body injuries would significantly hamper how much he played that year. His final game was on Dec. 14th, and Klefbom ended up developing a staph infection that sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
It was nothing short of frustrating for a player who had already lost significant ice time in key development years. The season marked the end of Klefbom’s entry-level deal and while he recovered getting ready for the next season, the Oilers locked him up to an eye-popping seven-year deal paying him $4.167-million.
The deal was a shock to many. As much as Klefbom had looked like a legitimate top-pairing defenceman, he had missed so much time due to injury there was undoubted concern about the length of the deal.
In short order, the doubters were proved wrong. He returned for the 2016-17 season in what would be his best in the NHL. He played in all 82 games scoring a career-high 12 goals and 38 points while racking up 22:22 minutes per night leading all defencemen in ice time.
His strong-two way play would continue into the 2017-18 season but once again — Klefbom’s season was cut short having played just 66 games. It was his shoulder once again.
Shut down on March 22nd, 2018, he would once again face rehabilitation and the hope that the issues he was facing would be fixed. The Oilers struggled that season, and did the same through 2018-19 — where he missed 21 games — and 2019-20. His final year would see the Oilers make it to the playoffs but fall in the COVID play-in round to the Chicago Blackhawks.

A January 12th, 2021 Edmonton Journal article details Oscar Klefbom electing to miss the following season due to chronic shoulder issues.

That offseason, word crept out that Klefbom had been dealing with arthritis in his shoulder. All said and done, it’s effectively ended his professional hockey career.
“It comes to a point where you’re not really feeling right in your private life,” Klefbom said in January 2021. “It’s one thing to be on the ice and take some pain medication and anti-inflamms and play through it, but when it comes to a point where you can’t really sleep and put your clothes on properly… your body says ‘no, you should not be doing this anymore.’
“It’s tough to tell the guys and management that I need to do something, but I love hockey and I want to get back playing and be fair to myself and the organization.”
The fallout of the organization losing Klefbom has been massive, and something I think has been often overlooked over the last number of years. In 2020-21, the Oilers filled his role by having Darnell Nurse fill in on the top pairing, with young defencemen like Caleb Jones, William Lagesson and Ethan Bear getting tastes of NHL action. Dmitry Kulikov was acquired at the trade deadline, but he played 10 games and had little to no impact.
Swept in the first round of the playoffs, the Oilers’ blueline became a significant point of contention heading into the offseason. Adam Larsson made it known he didn’t want to re-sign with the Oilers in free agency, and was selected in the expansion draft by the Seattle Kraken.
Two years removed from Klefbom’s departure and still left with more questions than answers, the team took a swing on an aging Duncan Keith, who filled in admirably on the Oilers left-side. His own departure into retirement after that season has continued to leave the team trying to find someone to replace Klefbom.
It’s taken years, but the Oilers finally appear to have done it this past season by acquiring, ironically enough, a Swedish defenceman by the name of Mattias Ekholm. You may have heard of him before.
The truth of the matter is that we were absolutely robbed of what should’ve been a long, successful career for Oscar Klefbom with the Edmonton Oilers. He’ll go down in history as the only player to have ever been drafted by the team and play their entire career there (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will likely take this title from him when he retires, however.)
Klefbom always felt like he was an underrated, and often under-appreciated defenceman when he played. It was easy to turn an eye to a guy like him given the injuries that saw many label him as a bandaid — doubly so considering his underlying numbers were never all that great, either. Just one season — the 2016-17 season — saw the Oilers control over 50 percent of the goals scored with him on the ice.
But say what you will about how he looked, or what the numbers showed, Klefbom was continuously the Oilers’ steadiest rearguard and through his final three years was always going up against some of the toughest opponents.
It’s hard not to wonder about what went wrong with Klefbom’s shoulder. Could’ve eventual arthritis that plagued him at such a young age have been avoided? Did one of his surgeries go wrong? Was there mismanagement in his rehabilitation? These are all questions we might never get answers to.

How many days are left until the Edmonton Oilers start the 2023-24 season? 84!

Can you guess who will be featured in tomorrow’s countdown?

Previous days


Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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