I've written a couple of really happy articles on this site in recent weeks. Boy, those were fun. I knew the winning streak wouldn't last forever, I knew this team still wasn't very good, but the PDO high I (and I suspect most of you) was feeling made me feel as if we were a team capable of getting some bounces every now and then, you know, like how every other team does at some point?
Of course 2 straight loses have reminded me that the Oilers are in fact cursed. The Hockey Gords (gods?) were stumped for a little while. Under McLellan this team has been finding ways to generate decent quality, as well a quantity in the shot department. And the Nilsson/ Talbot duo were starting to give us NHL caliber goaltending. Our PDO was getting very close to 100 for the season, and it looked like this team wouldn't have to spend the entire season paying back our lottery luck, with interest.
Then our best defenceman broke his finger, and, like most Oilers fans, I've spent most of the last 48 hours apologizing to every gypsy I've ever wronged.
Since his call up last season, Klefbom has proven to be the shutdown defender that Oilers fans have been hoping for since the start of the rebuild. That may surprise some people, but in today's NHL Oscar Klefbom is what a top end defensive defenceman looks like.
|Klefbom (2014/15-2015/16)||Team Rank|
|FF/60 Rel TM (ZS adjusted)||2.41||2nd|
|FA/60 RelTM (ZS adjusted)||-3.85||2nd|
|FF%RelTM (ZS adjusted)||3.7||1st|
|OppFF% (ZS adjusted)||50.6||T-1st|
*Rank is among 12 Oilers defencemen with at least 300 mins at 5 on 5 since the start on 2014-15. Stats with other teams were included, as long as the player had 300 mins for Edmonton.
I decided to use Fenwick-based stats to evaluate Oilers defencemen, because war-on-ice found that it was the best season-to-season predictor of out of sample goals for % for defensemen. Since Klefbom has played 90 games since the start of last season, the sample size suggests that Fenwick is the best measure.
As you can see, Klefbom excels in each statistically category, particularly the ones which focus on his impact on shot-suppression. The only defenceman with a better FA/60 RelTM than Klefbom is Brandon Davidson, who has been fantastic, albeit in a small sample. The only defenceman with a higher FF/60 RelTM than Klefbom is Justin Schultz, who I personally think is better than many fans give him credit for. However, while Schultz and Klefbom are comparable offensively by this measure, a look at their defensive impacts shows that Klefbom is clearly a much more capable defender, and it's not close.
Obviously any team would suffer by losing their best defenseman, but the Oilers may be more prone to a drop-off than most. Currently the Oilers have a fairly equal distribution of ice team among their blueliners. Klefbom leads the team with 21:53 per game, in all situations. Conversely, Eric Gryba ranks 6th on the team in average ice time with 17:40.
However, in last night's game against Chicago, with Klefbom out of the lineup, The Oilers' top pairing of Andrej Sekera and Darnell Nurse each topped the 25 minute mark, while no other skaters reached 20 minutes. To their credit, that pairing fared admirably by possession metrics, against a team that otherwise over-matched the Oilers by a substantial margin. If this pairing is expected to play 25 minutes every night while Klefbom is injured, the results might spell trouble for the Oilers. In 281 minutes together, Sekera and Nurse have produced a Corsi For % of 44.1. Not exactly the type of result that any team would want in a minute-eating top pairing.
In my opinion, the Oilers' best bet to weather the storm during Klefbom's injury, is to continue to roll 6 defensemen, so as to not over-expose anyone, while also boosting Brandon Davidson's minutes slightly, to see if he is able to handle a larger workload, and remain effective.
That or reverse voodoo. If that's a thing, someone should definitely get on it.
*Stats used in this article were found at war-on-ice.com, stats.hockeyanalysis.com, and tsn.ca.