Andrej Sekera has not been able to catch a break since he suffered a torn ACL on a Friday night in May of 2017. Since blowing out his knee in game five of Edmonton’s second round series with Anaheim that spring, Sekera has basically been on the mend.
He returned in late December ’17, but was never the same player and ended up getting shutdown late in the year with another, significantly more minor injury. He finally looked like himself in the World Championships this spring, but that may be the last time we see Sekera play at a high level.
After Twitter reports emerged on Monday that Sekera flew into Edmonton and had a boot on his foot and was using a wheelchair, the club announced this afternoon that Sekera underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. The hits keep coming, as the rearguard suffered the injury during an off-season training session back in Europe.
The likely timetable for a return is about six months, which puts Sekera on track to rejoin the Oilers in mid-February. Considering he’ll be on his way back from two major injuries in a span of about 15 months, it’s probably best to assume we won’t see the veteran defender during the 2018-19 season.
That’s a massive loss for an Oilers team that was banking on Sekera, among many others, to bounce back after a disappointing 2017-18 season. Edmonton’s defense was a major hole last year. Healthy seasons from Sekera and Oscar Klefbom were being counted on for improvement. Now, it’s very likely one of those players won’t be suiting up for the club this coming season.
This is a major blow to the Oilers’ playoff chances and their overall defense corps. In my mind, Sekera is their most complete blueliner and one could make a case that, when healthy, he’s the best defender under contract. Losing him might seem minor to some because he was hurt last season, but he was a huge factor in 2016-17. The Oilers are a worse team right now than they were this morning.
Pressure on Pete:
Oilers GM Perter Chiarelli faced an identical situation one year ago with Sekera. He elected to not replace the veteran, banking on guys like Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning taking steps forward. To a degree, that happened, but overall the bet backfired because while Nurse did take a step forward, it wasn’t big enough and Benning didn’t take a step forward.
At one of his many media availability sessions during the course of the spring Chiarelli admitted that, in hindsight, not replacing Sekera was a mistake. Now, he has a chance to redeem himself when it comes to filling in his defensive group.
Right now, the Oilers defense isn’t good enough. You could make an argument that it wasn’t good enough before hand, when the team still had Sekera healthy. Now, I’m not sure there can even be a debate there.
The pressure is squarely on management to get creative now. Another disaster season won’t be tolerated, by fans or ownership, and will result in people losing their jobs. Chiarelli admitted he made a mistake last year, he’s getting a chance to show he learned from that this year.
Will it be easy? No, it won’t. This is a very tough time of year to find defenders, but the Oilers are going to have to do it anyway.
This is a vitally important season for the Oilers. They are now down one of their best defenders in mid-August. Now what? We wait.