Zone Tracking – Oscar Klefbom: Dreamy


This article on Oscar Klefbom is part of a series on tracking Zone Exits and Zone Entries Against for Oilers’ defencemen. The last article is found here.

For those unfamiliar with Zone Exits, please see my first article. Briefly, Controlled Zone Exits refer to carrying or passing the puck out of the defensive zone (as compared to dumping it out or missing the exit pass). Controlled Zone Exits are far more likely to result in an attack into the offensive zone than Uncontrolled Zone Exits.

Zone Entries Against are explained here. Teams that allow more Controlled Zone Entries (the other team passes or carries the puck in) tend to give up more shots than teams that force the opposition to dump it in.



It became clear, as I tracked the last 11 games of the season, that the Oilers had one really efficient puck-mover (Oesterle), one other high volume puck-mover (Sekera) and one defenceman that was excellent at preventing controlled zone entries (also Sekera). So where did that leave the Oilers for next year? Were Fayne and Reinhart good enough at their roles? Specifically, where did Klefbom, Davidson and Gryba fit into all this?

I started by going back and tracking every 5th game (5, 10, 15…), hoping a 20% sample would be enough to get some useful data. My plan was to have a post on each defencemen as their season ended due to injury or trade. However, when Klefbom got injured, I was left with only 6 games for him. I wanted a bit more, so I went back and doubled my sample size by starting at game 3 and tracking every 5th game from there (3, 8, 13…), bringing me to where I am today.


Oscar “Dreamy” Klefbom


At this point, I’ve tracked 12 games sampled across the first 30, making up 40% of Klefbom’s games this season. Let’s look at how he did.


Zone Exits

As usual, we start with Zone Exits. This chart is sorted by Controlled Zone Exit Percentage. (Note: the raw numbers for all data are at the end of the post and all charts exclude defencemen with less than 5 games tracked.)

Controlled Zone Exit Percentage


Well… that’s good… but not as good as I expected. Frankly, the company Klefbom keeps near the top of the chart is a bit surprising. Who would have guessed that Reinhart and Klefbom have the same Controlled Zone Exit Percentage? It was these results I found surprising and made me go back to double my sample size… but I ended up pretty much back where I started.

So what happened?


Context One – Team Effects


As I tracked these early season games, it seemed by eye that the team was far worse at exiting the zone than they were at the end of the season.

Turns out, the data backs this up!

In the 12 games tracked at the start of the season, Oilers’ defencemen had a Controlled Exit Percentage of only 53%. That improved to 60% for the last 11 games of the season. In fact, the Oilers showed improvement even through the 12 game sample. In the earliest 6 games tracked (sampled from games 1 to 15) the Oilers broke out with control only 51.7% of the time. In the next 6 games tracked (games 16 to 30) that number improved to 54.9%.

The Oilers got much better at exiting the zone as the season wore on. I suspect that this is a result of McLellan implementing a better break-out strategy, with fewer stretch passes and a better structure.

Now, one could argue that the Oilers iced almost a totally different defence at the end of the year, so maybe it’s personnel and not tactics. However, that doesn’t add up when we look at the three players who played significant minutes in both samples. Sekera improved from 48% to 53%, Fayne from 43% to 47%, and Nurse improved from 60% to 63%.

What does this mean for Klefbom? Klefbom’s Controlled Exits relative to his team was quite impressive. He was exiting the zone with control at a rate 7% higher than the team average at the time. It’s not surprising that the other guys with him at the top of that Zone Exit chart all played a lot of games at the end of the season, pulling their number higher. Likely, Klefbom’s numbers would look better too (though probably not at Oesterle levels) if he played at the end of the season, when the entire team was 7% better at breaking out with control.

It’s also worth noting that Klefbom almost never dumped the puck out… doing it only 6 times in the 12 games tracked. By and large, he went for the pass at every opportunity. I imagine if the breakout structure were better (as it was at the end of the year) those passes would hit tape more often than at the beginning.


Context Two – Competition


Quality of competition metrics are controversial in the analytics world and I’m not trying to make a case for a new metric here. Intuitively, I think it matters who you’re trying to break out against. In this study, I simply looked at what percentage of each defenceman’s ice time was against the top forward from the other team. One imagines these are heavier” minutes.


Regardless of what you think of Quality of Competition metrics, it sure looks like Klefbom played tougher minutes here. Nearly half of his even-strength time on ice was against the top point producer on the opposing team, far in excess of the rest of the defencemen, especially the other ones at the top of the Zone Exit chart above (Reinhart, Nurse and Oesterle).

Klefbom was able to get the puck out effectively and did it against the best player the other team had to offer.


Frequency of Zone Exits

One other way to look at this data is as a per-60 rate. We saw the value of this previously when exploring how Sekera had a low Controlled Exit Percentage, but actually moved the puck out at a high rate, leading to a high Controlled Exit / 60. How often does Klefbom move the puck out of his end?

Controlled Zone Exit Rate


Klefbom is actually fairly “middle of the pack” when it comes to the frequency of exiting the zone. If anything, he’s actually a bit deferential to his partner, something I noticed particularly when he played with Fayne.

In a previous post, I noted that Fayne tended to put the burden on zone exits on to his partner Sekera, causing Sekera to lead the team in Total Zone Exits. However, this didn’t happen when Fayne played with Klefbom.

When paired with Sekera, Fayne exited the zone at a rate of 16.4 / 60, lower than every other Oilers defencemen. However, in 5 games with Klefbom, his rate was almost 50% higher, at 24.0 / 60. That’s actually above average among Oilers defencemen. For reasons unknown to me, Klefbom actually deferred to Fayne at times when exiting the zone.

Despite being an above average puck mover, Klefbom was middle of the pack when it came to the frequency by which he exited the zone, sometime deferring to a lesser puck-moving defenceman.


Zone Entries Against


None of this so far makes Klefbom look particularly ”dreamy”. This next section is where he gets that nickname (well that and his abs… but that’s a different article).

The following chart looks at how each defenceman defends against zone entries. Carries Against are carries or passes into the zone where the other team maintains possession. Forced Dump-ins occur any time the defenceman forces the other team to lose possession as they enter the zone. Zone Denials are any time the defenceman prevents the opposing team from entering the zone at all. Remember, these are only counted when a defenceman is specifically targeted on a zone entry, not for any entry into the zone. The chart is sorted from lower to higher Carries Against.

Zone Defense Percentage

Well hello there Klefbom! Tied for the top with Zone Defence wizard Andrej Sekera. However, Klefbom is even more impressive given he leads the team in Zone Denials as well. Who cares about exiting the zone, Klefbom doesn’t let the other team get into the zone in the first place!

(As a side note, that’s an awfully high spot for the much-maligned Justin Schultz. There’s a sample size component here, but he really was quite good in many games tracked. I’ll have a post on him in the future.)

Another, potentially more valuable, way to look at Zone Entry Against data is to view it as a per-60 rate. The following chart looks at Carries Against in this way.

Zone Defense Rate


Now Oscar stands alone at the top. When Klefbom is on the ice, he allows the fewest number of controlled entries by the other team… and he does it playing against the best forwards. Dreamy indeed. It would seem the other teams are catching on, as Klefbom is also targeted on an entry the least number of times. However, I think that’s only part of the story. Though I don’t have the data to prove it, by eye Klefbom seems better at holding the offensive zone than other Oilers defencemen leading to fewer breakouts on his side. In other words, the fact that he’s targeted on zone entries less may be as much of a skill on his part as it is a tactic from the opposition.


Puck Retrievals


So what happens when the other team dumps the puck in? Is that Klefbom’s kryptonite?

I also tracked Puck Retrievals under pressure. A “successful recovery” is when the defenceman collects the puck and either gets it out of the zone or passes it to a teammate (maintaining possession). An unsuccessful recovery is when the defenceman closest to the puck either fails to get the puck at all or gives it away in the defensive zone under pressure.

Puck Retrieval


First off, props to Davidson (who also looked good in preventing controlled zone entries). However, right there at the top with him is Mr. Dreamy. Klefbom uses both his size to win battles on dump-ins as well as his speed to win races on chip-and-chase plays.


Let’s Review!

Klefbom abs

Klefbom is the best on the team in blue-line defence. He breaks up more zone entry attempts than any other defenceman. He allows the opposition to carry the puck in less often than any Oilers defenceman. On dump-ins, he’s fantastic at the retrieving the puck and moving it out, preventing the other team from regaining possession. He’s also pretty good (though not elite) at moving the puck out with control. Oh, and he does all this facing the best forward the other team has to offer. That, my friends, is why we call him Dreamy.


Next Steps

I’ll continue tracking every 5th game to increase my sample size for the other Oilers defencemen. Obviously it would be best to do every game, but I just don’t have the time to do that this year.

I’ll have future posts on Justin Schultz, Eric Gryba, and Brandon Davidson as their seasons come to an end with my tracking.

I also should have something on Darnell Nurse, because his data is perhaps the most interesting of the bunch and the averaged totals just don’t do it justice.

Next year, I’m hoping to put together a small team to track every Oilers game and maybe add forwards to the mix.


Raw Data

As promised, here’s the raw data tables for the information presented above. Note that the games played is a bit different between the Zone Exits and the Zone Entries Against data for some players. This is because when I started this project at the end of the season, I tracked Zone Exits for the first game and added Zone Entries from the second game on.

Raw Data - Zone Exits

Raw Data - Zone Entries Against

Arrow to top