Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua
Kevin Klein had the worst of it this season. With Josi moving up to the top defensive pairing, this left a sizable hole on the second defensive unit with the steady play of Kevin Klein and the merry-go-round of suitors for the spot next to him. As Klein played the usual stalwart defensive game while taking very few penalties, his partners were a M.A.S.H. unit of young talent and hardened veterans that didn’t seem to work out until the arrival of Victor Bartley (who will remain with the Predators for another three years).
From Then to Now
Kevin Klein was part of the best draft class for the Predators, selected after Ryan Suter and before Shea Weber in the 2003 entry draft. He had his most productive season last year with 21 points in only 66 games. Klein served only two minor penalties that season, which is a great attribute for a defenseman as it can be viewed as a sign of not being out of position or retaliating and getting pegged for two minutes.
This season, he only went to the penalty box for nine minutes. Some NHL analysts batted Klein’s name around for Lady Byng consideration, but playing in a smaller market and being a defensemen are two strikes against that Klein could not gain traction.
Beyond the Stats
Klein logged over 28 minutes of short-handed ice time for the Predators with an average of 2:44 per game. He was also second on the team in blocked shots and takeaways and for an offensively anemic squad, Klein ranked eighth in total points.
The Best of Klein
Predator fans can still remember the coast-to-coast goal scored by Klein against Detroit in the playoffs last season. Klein had three multi-point games this year, but his performance against Calgary where he had two assists and was a +3 on the night was the most memorable of the year.
Night Elf Mohawk
Known for is unconventional haircut during the playoffs last season, Klein’s mohawk was seen as an omen (like Weber’s beard) of the usual superstitious nature of the “beast.” Klein is a solid player and with the addition of a quick rookie like Bartley, Klein may have finally found a defensive partner that his stay-at-home efforts will reward. Bartley has a cannon and a nose for the net, while Klein has the innate ability to lock down opponents and cut down angles of the opposition. This combination could be a light version of the Weber/Josi pairing who can log huge penalty kill minutes.
Then again, the acquisition of another solid defenseman through free agency could also assist Klein along with the newly appointed Hall-of-Fame defenseman Phil Housley behind the bench.
FINAL GRADE: B
Klein was long used as the whipping boy for the foibles befallen on the Predators in their defensive efforts (unfairly…), but the last two seasons have shown what an asset he has become for the organization. Sold play from a solid guy gets Kevin Klein a solid B. Here’s hoping a full season with a defensive partner like Bartley or someone picked up in free agency will upgrade Klein.