Leading up to the lockout-shortened season, we will be providing 2012-13 previews for each player. In no specific order, we start with Kevin Klein today…
It’s difficult to make a case for 2011-12 not being Kevin Klein’s best NHL season to date. Although he sported a minus-8 rating, Klein had career highs in assists (17) and points (21) despite missing 15 games to injury. He also blocked a team-best 151 shots and somehow managed to only record four penalties in minutes.
While all of that may sound underwhelming, his solid season was punctuated by a standout first-round series against Detroit. Klein, donning the popular Mohawk, scored two big goals in Games 3 and 4 and provided stellar defense, which was invaluable in Hal Gill’s absence. Klein was a key factor in the Predators holding Detroit to just four even-strength goals in the series.
In September, Klein signed a five-year, $14.5 million extension that will keep him in Nashville through 2017-18. He was due to become a free agent this off-season.
Klein left Nashville in November to play with the Herlev Eagles, a team in Denmark’s top hockey league. Klein finished with three points in eight games.
The important question for Predators fans here is: Which Klein will show up this season? Will it be the defenseman that was a difference-maker in the playoffs? Or will it be the defenseman that has been mistake-prone prior to 2011-12? If the Detroit series was truly a breakthrough for the 28-year-old, that is a good sign for a Ryan Suter-less blue-line.
If Barry Trotz gets his wish, Klein will spend most of this season paired with newbie Scott Hannan. It would be farfetched to call them a “shutdown pair”, but they have the potential to be a solid combo if Hannan’s transition to Nashville is smooth. Between his new long-term deal and his time in the organization, Klein is now a very important piece to the Predators’ puzzle, on and off the ice.