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Hurry Back Oscar

A look into how the Oilers have done without one of their defencemen.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Edmonton Oilers are once again sitting near the bottom of the league, securing a messily 8 regulation wins this season. The team ranks 28th in Goals For% at even-strength with a score-adjusted Corsi For% of 47.4% (Source: War on Ice). Definitely not good enough to compete for the playoffs, but it's been hard to really judge this team because of all the injuries. Losing Connor McDavid has been significant, but the Oilers have also played a number of games without top six players like Nail Yakupov and Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Eberle for stretches. Injuries are always a part of the game, but it's hard to dismiss when you're without some key forwards.

Having said that, it's been the injury to young Oscar Klefbom that has had the biggest impact on the club. Before going down on December 11th, Klefbom was emerging as the Oilers most effective defenceman, surprisingly, to me at least, at both ends of the ice. My C&B colleague Corey Travers had an excellent post on Klefbom soon after his injury detailing his performance and confirming his ability to play top pairing minutes.

I thought it'd be interesting to first see how positive of an impact Klefbom was having on the Oilers' forwards (the one's he played at least 100 minutes at even-strength with). And then look at how Klefbom's absence has impacted the team's overall defence.

For his impact to offence, I went with the WOWY numbers that are available at Hockey Analysis.

Here we see that Klefbom spent most of his time with the top six forwards, and rightfully so. He's been superb at not only moving the puck out of his zone, but he's also shown flashes of offence, especially on the powerplay. The majority of the forwards he'd spent most of his time with this season do better with him than without him, which justifies the ice time he had been receiving at various score states.

Now for team defence, I looked at three metrics, all of which are rate stats: Fenwick Against/60 (unblocked shot attempts), Scoring Chances Against/60 and High Danger Scoring Chances/60. Defencemen play a major role in limiting the  shots on goal by blocking shots or clearing rebounds and loose pucks to limit scoring chances. So I went with these three to compare how the OIlers did with Klefbom and without him (Source: War on Ice)

Can't say I'm too surprised that the Oilers saw an increase in the rate of unblocked shot attempts and scoring chances against once Klefbom was out of the lineup. The problem for the Oilers is that they were a below average team when it came to team-defence with him in the lineup, and basically fell near the bottom of the league without him. We knew this was going to be an issue when Chiarelli failed to bolster the defence this past off-season. Fast forward to January, and we're now  left with waiting for a 22-year old to get us back to being a below average team.