I honestly did not plan on writing a quick follow-up to my last post, but feel like I have to considering the bogus narratives that are starting to form around Klefbom and his point production.
The fact is Klefbom has struggled this season when it comes to on-ice goal-share. The team as a whole is struggling to score, so it’s common to start questioning the players who are paid to help generate offence.
What complicates things further is that after this season, a lot of the Oilers decisions will be driven by their cap. There’s going to be a lot of focus on who’s producing, who isn’t and how much value the Oilers are getting out of each contract. We have to keep in mind too that some of the young players, including Nurse and Benning are in need of new deals at the end of the year. And there’s a chance that the Oilers could potentially be forced into moving out an existing contract to make room for these new deals.
Hopefully that existing contract doesn’t belong to Klefbom, but I’m starting to get the sense that the team might turn on him if his on-ice goal-share remains low and if Nurse continues to play well.
What we have to remember is that defencemen go through highs and lows, good and bad stretches throughout their careers. And it’s important to look at the big picture and a longer track record before labeling a player as expendable or not. It’s imperative that the team keep their talented players – the ones who can drive play, generate offence, and ultimately help the team win games. That includes Klefbom who at the age of 24 is one of the best young defencemen in the league.
He’s now played 207 regular season games, and has established himself as a reliable player who can play against the best competition on a nightly basis. He has very good offensive instincts, skates really well and can play a physical game. He has the size that management teams crave (6’3″, 215 lbs) and he doesn’t take penalties very often because he’s very good positionally.
And contrary to what you might read about how bad Klefbom has been for 18 games, and how low his point production is, he’s been pretty solid over the previous 189. Point production isn’t the best way to evaluate a defencemen (I rely more on the shot-based metrics to gauge a defenceman’s value), but considering Klefbom is an offensive-minded defenceman, the expectation will be that he can produce points.
So far this year, Klefbom has six points in 18 games, with three of those coming at even-strength. His point per hour rate of 0.59 at even-strength is down from last season when he posted a 0.85 points per hour. Obviously not a great start and a drop from last season, but it’d be very short-sighted to frame his point production like this.
Another way to look at it: Since the 2014/15 season, 237 defencemen have played at least 1,000 minutes at even-strength. Klefbom ranks 48th on that list with 0.83 points per hour. And he ranks 27th with 0.59 primary points (goals and first assists) per hour.
Again, points aren’t the best way to evaluate defencemen. But Klefbom does have a pretty decent track record producing points, and his struggles after 18 games really should not be a concern. Knowing how well he’s produced prior to this season over a larger dataset, I’d be willing to bet his point production improves and aligns closer with his career norms.
The Oilers are fortunate to have a defenceman like Klefbom on their roster, and really should be looking elsewhere if they need to move out a contract. While players like Nurse and Benning are showing some signs of improvement, they haven’t made Klefbom expendable. And unless there’s a player of his caliber coming back in a trade, the Oilers have no reason to even consider trading Klefbom.