When Oscar Klefbom was out of the Edmonton Oiler’s lineup, the team missed him. He’s a steady influence and the way he controls the play is noteworthy. But, where does this young defenseman rank historically with the other Oilers’ all-time defensemen? Here are some statistics and thoughts.
Clearly, the Edmonton Oilers have never had – and probably never will have – another defenseman like Paul Coffey. In his total time with the Oilers, Coffey scored 669 points (209 goals, 460 assists), and he went on to score more goals with other teams. He averaged 1.258 points per game in the 532 games he played with the Oilers. The next highest scorer is Kevin Lowe with 383 points (74 goals, 309 assists) in almost twice the number of Oilers’ games (1037 games) for an average of .369 points per game.
Of note, the next highest points per game average for a D-man for the Oilers was Risto Siltanen with .733 in 206 Oilers’ games. [Reijo Ruotsalainen averaged .808 points per game, but only played 26 total games for the Oilers in 1986-87 and then to end his NHL career in 1989-90.]
All Oilers’ fans recall the great Chris Pronger, who played only one great, yet an unfulfilled year, with the Oilers –with 56 points (12 goals, and 44 assists). In addition, it would be hard not to add Al Hamilton to the mix of Oilers’ great D-men, being so important to the Oilers in their AHL days and having him be the first Edmonton Oiler to have his number retired.
Where Might Klefbom End Up on the All-Time List?
But what about Klefbom? Where is he? And, where might he end up?
Klefbom will turn 27-years-old next July, and he has just finished – well, sort of – his seventh season with the Oilers. This season he was on track for his best season ever until he was injured. In 62 games, he had 5 goals and 29 assists (34 points) in 62 games. His previous high had been 12 goals and 26 assists (38 points) in 82 games.
So far in his 378 Oilers’ games, he has 156 points (34 goals, 122 assists). His points per game average is .413, which ranks him 28th on the Oilers All-time List (Kevin Lowe is ranked #36) – behind such scoring D-men who played more than 100 games with the Oilers, like Lubomir Visnovsky, Steve Smith, Igor Kravchuk, Charlie Huddy, Sheldon Souray, Roman Hamrlik, Ryan Whitney, and Boris Mironov – who all averaged over .5 points per game. But, most of these players played at a different time, when scoring was higher than today.
Obviously, the NHL game has morphed to where it is today, and it would be hard to replicate the Wayne Gretzky era for today’s Oilers. During 1985 alone, the Edmonton Oilers were part of two of the top three highest goal-scoring NHL games of all time. On December 11, 1985, the Edmonton Oilers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 12-9, and on November 8, 1985, the Edmonton Oilers hammered the Vancouver Canucks 13-0. [BTW, for those who care, the Winnipeg Jets beat the Philadelphia Flyers 9-8 on October 27, 2011, to show there can still be high scoring NHL games.]
Where Might Klefbom End Up?
All this begs the question: Where might Klefbom end up on the Edmonton Oilers’ all-time list of defensemen? Say Klefbom stays with the Oilers and plays 10 more seasons – he will only be 37 years old (and good D-men can play into their 40’s – eg. Zdeno Chara). His total games will approach 1000 if he only averages a little more than the 60 games per year he played the last few seasons year. But, he played all 82 games for the Oilers in 2016-17 and played 62 games so far this season. So, his game totals should be higher.
He might never play as many games with the Oilers as Kevin Lowe did (he would have to average 75 games per year for the next 10 years to do so), but he would likely become the second leading Oilers’ D-man scorer if he averages 40 points per year, which is likely if he plays on the pace he has been this year. No one will ever beat the great Paul Coffey.
Darnell Nurse might be an interesting comparison player to watch. Only 23 years old, Nurse is showing he is a keeper on the Oilers’ blue line. But, even when playing all 82 games in 2017-18, Nurse scored only 26 points. So he doesn’t seem to be the scorer Klefbom is, and Klefbom seems to be a fixture on the Oilers’ overtime 3-on-3 lineup so that helps his scoring as well.
The Oilers have a plethora of strong young defensemen on the rise, but few seem to have the scoring ability and skill that Klefbom has. One can hope someone emerges who is stronger, and that would only be good for the team.
Where these young Oilers’ D-men end up, one can only speculate. And, who knows with the NHL salary cap impacting future Oilers’ choices – especially with high-income players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. But, for long-time Oilers’ fans, the future will be fun to watch.
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