Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom caused a stir Sunday with a comment about now former-Oilers teammate Taylor Hall, but the 23-year-old blueliner said that his critique of Hall’s play against top teams wasn’t specifically targeted at the New Jersey Devils winger.
In an interview with HockeySverige.se’s Ola Winther, Klefbom was asked about the effects the Hall-for-Adam Larsson swap would have on the Oilers. Klefbom said the deal would immediately improve the Oilers’ situation on the back end, and added that while the team will miss what Hall can bring, his best games came against the lesser teams in the league.
“Taylor has been our best player in recent years,” Klefbom told Winther. “But it's also hard to tell what he has contributed. He never played his best games against the tougher teams, which we really needed it. However, he was fantastic when we met the little inferior teams.”
It didn’t take long for Klefbom’s comments to catch the attention of the hockey world, but Klefbom has since said that his original remark was misunderstood and he meant that everyone — not just Hall — struggled when up against top competition.
“It's not that it was only Taylor, but everyone, including myself,” Klefbom told Winther. “The reason we have not taken us to the playoffs is that there are too many players who have underperformed when it is really needed…I still think the trade is good so that we get a (defenseman), which we really need. Adam is Swedish and (that he's) a really good player that I can play with just makes it better. In that way it was a good trade for myself.”
Klefbom’s absolutely correct when it comes to his comments about the Oilers having difficulty against the league’s best teams, too. In the 45 games Edmonton played against playoff teams, the Oilers had a record of 13-28-4, meaning they picked up just 30 of a possible 90 points. Their troubles on defense, as well as the loss of Connor McDavid as the rookie was picking up steam, hurt the Oilers’ cause.
And it’s a good thing Klefbom felt the need to clarify his comments, because his statement about Hall doesn’t exactly ring true.
While the Oilers did struggle against the league’s best teams, Hall actually fared quite well. In games against teams that made the post-season, Hall scored 17 goals and 35 points, which accounts for more than half of both his goal and point total. Putting up points doesn’t necessarily mean Hall played a strong game each time out, but he was as effective a player as the Oilers had against any competition, strong or weak, during the past campaign.
That said, if Hall feels he has anything to prove after Klefbom’s comments, the newest Devil can circle Jan. 7, 2017 on his calendar, which marks the first meeting between New Jersey and Edmonton next season.
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