Ed. Note: From August 21st through September 16th, we will be providing previews for each player for the 2013-14 season. In no specific order, today we continue with Kevin Klein…
|Kevin Klein’s last 3 seasons|
2012-13 in review:
Kevin Klein has made notable forward strides over the last two seasons. He’s no longer a fringe second-pair blue-liner. Signed through 2018, Klein is viewed as a main piece of the Predators’ core defensively. Considering the youth of the blue-line, Klein has quickly become a leader on the back end.
Klein had a career-high 21 points in 66 games in 2011-12; he almost met that pace with 14 points in 47 games last season. The 29-year-old defenseman seemed to frequently have a new defense partner, as it rotated from Roman Josi to Scott Hannan to Victor Bartley. He settled in alongside Bartley and the two played well together despite the team’s late-season demise. Klein finished the season averaging 20-plus minutes a night for the second time in his career.
Klein is entering the first season of the five-year, $14.5 million contract extension he signed last September.
Burning question for 2013-14: Can Klein help improve the penalty kill?
It is no secret that the Predators’ penalty kill struggled last season. The unit finished the lockout-shortened season ranked 29th, the worst it has ever been in franchise history. There were a number of factors why the PK fell 19 spots from their 2011-12 performance. The players will admit the unit as a whole didn’t mesh, didn’t have good communication. Hal Gill’s injuries and an underwhelming showing from Scott Hannan didn’t help, either.
If the Predators want to get the PK back to its usual form – ranked in the top 10 in six of the last eight seasons – Klein will have to be a big part of it. He led all Predators defensemen in shorthanded ice time in 2012-13, averaging 2:44 per game. All things considered, Klein did a solid job on the PK a season ago, finishing with an above-average 6.01 GA/60 rate. (His best penalty-killing season came in 2010-11 when he averaged 3:10 of ice time and posted a career-best 5.82 GA/60 rate while shorthanded.)
This season there will be no justification of puck-luck not going their way, no fallback of Gill being injured. With the current state of the defense corps, Klein will be the most heavily leaned on to get the PK back on track. Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm aren’t suited for PK time, while Seth Jones may not get a lot of shorthanded ice time right away. Victor Bartley, not to be forgotten, should have a slightly bigger PK role.
Outside of the top pairing of Shea Weber and Roman Josi, the Predators need Klein to continue to get better as their lone “stay-at-home” defenseman. They also need him to be as reliable as ever on the PK this season.