With the season now over, it's time to take a look back and examine each player's individual performance. We'll briefly break it down, and then offer a letter grade for the year. It's report cards, Nashville Predators-style, from Blum to Wilson. Next up: Kevin Klein.
|2010 - Kevin Klein||81||2||16||18||9||24||0||0||0||99||2.0|
The Skinny: With a new 3-year, $4.05 million contract, Kevin Klein grew into a slightly larger role as one of the more senior defenseman on the Predators. Having been drafted 12 spots ahead of Shea Weber there are always some expectations in the background that perhaps KK should produce more offensively, but I think we can safely say that we know what we've got in Klein; a defensive blueliner who can face tough matchups and do well on the penalty kill.
The downside of this situation for Klein is that by the nature of his job, he's going to end up on the wrong side of a lot of highlights, scooping the puck out of his own net a lot more often than celebrating a goal of his own. Particularly with #8, so many of these highlights seem to point out a poor decision which leads to the score, like getting lured out of position by an opponent along the boards, or a communication mix-up which leaves a man wide open in front. That leads to a polarizing of opinion on Klein among the fan base, as many want to see him shipped out of town ASAP, while others take that workload into account.
Basically, the expectations for a guy like Klein are to hold down the fort under trying circumstances, and accept the fact that he'll hear the boos more often than the cheers for his efforts.
The Performance: He led the Preds in PK ice time per game, and helped the team rebound into becoming one of the top penalty killing squads once again. Yes, in 5-on-5 play the shots tilted against Nashville during Klein's ice time, but that's partially excused by the teammates he usually worked with (let's face it, he didn't have a Suter or Weber alongside him). On the offensive end, he did take a step forward by firing about 50% more shots on net than last season, but he's still doesn't show more than flashes of effectiveness there.
One under-appreciated aspect of Klein's game is that he does his job without taking very many penalties. Just as he did in 2009-10, he finished the season among the league leaders in fewest penalties taken when you screen for defensemen with at least 40 games played and 10 minutes of 5-on-5 play per game (8th best out of 196). KK took 0.2 penalties per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, compared to figures of 1.1 for Shane O`Brien, 1.0 for Ryan Suter, and 0.9 for Shea Weber. And it's not like Klein is particularly soft, either - he can get a bit chippy when the time calls for it.
The Grade: Before the season I pegged him for 3 goals and 15 assists, both of which came out within 1 of being correct. Recognizing the job he was facing, I also expected him to end up with a negative Plus/Minus, so his +9 comes as a pleasant surprise (he got some friendly bounces early on, but rode things out after that reasonably well). In total, I think Klein makes for a good reminder that particularly with hockey, we often need to set aside the forehead-slap-inducing highlight moments and try to consider the overall results, both in what occurred (goals for and against) and what didn't occur (the penalties). In a borderline call, I'm going to give Kleiner a B here, with my only real concern being those shot totals in 5-on-5 (which, granted, is probably the single most important metric for a skater). If he had outperformed offensively, or driven positive results more consistently in 5-on-5, he'd get that A.