We don’t know for sure, but it’s pretty likely that the Edmonton Oilers will be without defenceman Oscar Klefbom for the 2020-2021 season.
The blueliner led the Oilers in ice time last season, averaging over 25 minutes a game. He scored 34 points in 62 games, including five goals.
Klefbom’s shoulder has caused issues through parts of two seasons and now could munch up the entirety of a third. His absence leaves a major hole on the Oilers’ blueline and they’ll have to get a little creative to fill the void.
Tyson Barrie was signed in the off-season, but expectations are that Darnell Nurse will have every opportunity to step up.
“You lose a guy as big as Klef, every guy has to pick up a little extra,” said Nurse. “For me, playing the left side, a lot of that responsibility is going to fall on my shoulders. I look forward to the challenge.”
The book on these Oilers, more or less, is they’re strong offensively and not-so-tough defensively. The stat line against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Qualifying Round supports this hypothesis, with Edmonton averaging 3.75 goals per game but allowing 4.00 goals against per game.
The good news it they seem to be improving overall. They allowed 3.03 goals against in the regular season, stuffing them right in the middle of the pack and giving them a noticeable uptick from the 3.30 goals against they allowed during the 2018-2019 season.
Everyone knows the Oilers play an up-tempo style that doesn’t adjust well to shut things down when it counts. Discovering how to modify that will be all the more difficult without Klefbom.
But Nurse will have support, with Tyson Barrie a new hire on a one-year deal worth $3.75 million.
The Barrie acquisition both adds more punch to the power play – like the Oilers need it – and helps the organization ease up on pushing the likes of prospect Evan Bouchard into the fold too fast. It mitigates the absence of Klefbom, but they’ll still have to find a way to take on the big minutes. Barrie can push it, but he’s most comfortable hovering around 20 minutes a game.
The stage is set for a challenging campaign, at least along the blueline, but a little ingenuity and teamwork can share the load and divide the work. These Oilers may not be the same without their top defenceman, but that’s going to have to be okay for now.