The Edmonton Oilers are 7-2-2 in the eleven games since the return of D Andrej Sekera, and I don’t think that is a coincidence. The talented veteran is often underrated in Edmonton because he isn’t the prototypical gritty shot blocker that everyone seems to love, but he’s a damn good player.
Sekera has provided the Oilers with calm play on the back-end and steady decision making, something the club simply didn’t have enough of during his absence. Fans tend to take for granted the simple plays and seemingly easy zone exits that Sekera brings to the table. He goes about his business in a quiet way, but Sekera is a very effective defender that makes the team better and also provides leadership on defense that is clearly respected in that room.
The record is nice, but there are ample reasons why Edmonton has had a good run here lately, reasons beyond Sekera’s return. He’s played a role in it though, and I don’t think he’s getting enough credit for it. What Sekera has done these last few weeks goes beyond this season, though. Sekera is filling a hole for next year as well.
Do You Remember?:
Back in 2015-16, I don’t think it was even up for debate who the best defender in Edmonton was. It was Andrej Sekera. There was a large media push for Adam Larsson in 2016-17, and although he had a great first season with the club I’d argue it was once again Sekera who was top dog in Edmonton.
Sekera was key for the Oil that spring in their playoff victory over San Jose, and I’d argue the series against the Ducks changed the moment Sekera went down with a torn ACL in Game Five. He was terrific that season for the Oilers, and is playing good hockey at the NHL level for the first time since then.
It’s tough to evaluate Sekera’s 2017-18 season. After missing most of the season rehabbing his ACL, he returned late in the campaign and never looked quite right. He finally started to turn a corner, it appeared, when he suited up for Slovakia at the World Championships last May. A summer Achilles injury put Sekera’s career into question, but he’s bounced back quite nicely this year.
Return Of The Rej:
Eleven games into his return, Sekera has given the Oilers almost everything they expected when they signed him in July of 2015. The offense still hasn’t fully returned, but one imagines that will come with time. Sekera has only a single assist in eleven games since returning to action, but he’s done a lot well.
He’s been a rock possession wise, posting a 53.4% Corsi For while playing 16:24 per night paired up with Matt Benning. The duo has given Edmonton a third pairing that, quite frankly, has been their most steady unit more nights than not. They both move the puck well, and Sekera has really calmed Benning’s game down.
Sekera looks golden by the possession metrics, but honestly what impresses me is how well he passes the eye test. He always seems to be in the right position and is so calm and collected on the ice. None of his decisions appear to be rushed, and he has such a good first pass. He’s not Tyson Barrie, but he moves the puck very well and exits the zone quite cleanly. When he’s out on the ice, you’re almost assured a solid defensive shift.
Sekera’s decision making, in my opinion, is rivaled only by Oscar Klefbom when it comes to defenders. He’s proven that he can have success with almost everyone he has been paired with, and is proving once again that he is a top-four defender at the NHL level.
Klefbom and Adam Larsson are locks to return next season in my opinion, with Darnell Nurse being awfully close. If the Oilers are smart, they’ll add Sekera to that group. He’s a very effective player that makes this hockey team better, and while he’s already playing well you have to think he’s only going to get better as he gets up to speed, gets more comfortable and takes on more minutes.
You’re seeing that all play out as Edmonton keeps its slim playoff hopes alive.