When Ryan Getzlaf took down Andrej Sekera at the start of game five, you just knew something wasn’t right. Sekera laid on the ice in pain and had to be helped off by his teammates, then wasn’t heard from again the rest of the night. The slow-mo replay shown on TV only enhanced fears when Sekera’s leg clearly went the wrong way.
Knee injury? You bet.
Todd McLellan would rule Sekera out for not just game six, but also a potential game seven, which ended up being Edmonton’s final game of the 2016-17 season. That, the morning after game five, was the last we had heard about Sekera and his injury. That is until yesterday when Peter Chiarelli spoke to the media for the final time this season.
Not only was Sekera done for the playoffs, but Chiarelli confirmed he will miss the upcoming training camp and the start of the 2018-19 season. The rearguard tore his ACL and could be out until February of 2018.
#Oilers D Andrej Sekera has a torn ACL, sidelined 6-9 months.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) May 16, 2017
This, clearly, is not an ideal bit of news for the Oilers. Personally, I thought Sekera was the team’s best defender for a large part of the 2016-17 season, and I believe the Oilers struggled to move the puck when Sekera was not in the lineup. He’s a huge part of this team’s defensive group.
The good news is that Sekera will not miss the entire 2017-18 season, and that he will be back for the stretch drive and for the playoffs should Edmonton qualify.
While worst case scenario is Sekera returning in February, I’d wager that he’ll be back on the six month side, aka around the end of November. Why? ACL injuries are still a horrible thing, but thanks to medical advances we’ve seen athlete’s recovery times dramatically cut in recent years. I’m willing to bet Sekera is on the earlier return side rather than the late return side.
Regardless, this is a pretty big injury for the Oilers and puts a young defensive group already behind the mark heading into next season.
I’m not sure if this injury will impact Peter Chiarelli’s summer plans, but it should. As it stands now, the Oilers only have two top-four defenders under contract in Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom. Even if the team re-signs Kris Russell, that still gives them only three rearguards that can play that top-four role.
Darnell Nurse will eventually be able to handle that workload, but can the third year player be expected to make that jump next fall? I’m not so sure.
I had the Oilers needing a second pairing RHD going into this off-season (the Russell spot) and that hole still remains. The club may just re-sign Russell or they may go the trade route (Justin Faulk, Travis Hamonic), but either way it needs to be filled. This injury means, to me, that Edmonton will need to add another NHL defender to the ranks this summer.
Let’s say Sekera comes back around Christmas time, okay? That means he will miss just under half of the season, which is a rather large chunk of games. Will that alone sink the Oilers next season? No, it will not, but it makes the margin of error even slimmer than it is right now. It also leaves Edmonton very vulnerable on the backend.
The club could try and get by with internal options, as Peter Chiarelli suggested Tuesday, or it could be proactive and acquire someone to help fill the role while Sekera is on the mend. Personally, with the goal now being to win a Stanley Cup, I believe the Oilers should go out and acquire a defender to take Sekera’s minutes while he recovers.
Edmonton has to avoid a slow start in 2017-18, and making sure the blueline is taken care could help ensure they avoid that slow start.
This injury throws a wrench into Edmonton’s plans, and it will be interesting to see how they adapt to it.