WWYDW: All those young, left-shooting defencemen

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Edmonton’s crop of young defencemen is pretty impressive. Darnell Nurse is having an impact as a rookie, Oscar Klefbom is back to being a tent-pole player after a tough start to the year, and Brandon Davidson has been shockingly good. Griffin Reinhart is in the minors at the moment, but he’ll certainly be back.

The one interesting wrinkle to this group is that every player mentioned is a left shot, just like veteran anchor Andrej Sekera. In this week’s edition of WWYDW, we ask our readers what they think should be done about that.

Mike Babcock & Ryan Suter

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Mike Babcock has been consistent over the years in his belief that having a balance between right- and left-shooting defencemen is important for an NHL team. Here’s what he told MLive.com’s Ansar Khan in his last summer with the Red Wings:

I just think it’s so much easier when you have a right and lefty on every pair. All you got to do is look at L.A., a right and lefty on every pair. Makes it easier to get through the neutral zone, easier off D-zone faceoffs to execute. You have the puck more. You can get it off the wall and shoot it in the offensive zone. To me it just makes sense.

More recently, Minnesota Wild defenceman Ryan Suter (a left shot) was separated from regular partner Jared Spurgeon (a right shot) and publicly disagreed with his coach over the decision:

I guess they decided to change things up. I don’t know what they’re thinking. It’s different, I need to play with a right-handed defensemen to give me more options in the neutral zone, offensively and even coming out of the D zone. It’s not fair to put a guy on his offside. I don’t know if it’s just for practice today or what it is, they didn’t say anything.

This isn’t a view that’s confined to Babcock and Suter. Passing is easier, puck protection is easier and holding the offensive blue line is easier when a defenceman’s stick is on the boards. There are right-shot defencemen who play well on the left side, and left-shot defencemen who play well on the right, but as a rule things go best when the pairings are balanced.

What’s To Be Done?

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Edmonton currently has three right-shooting defencemen on the roster, and none of them are locks to be around when training camp opens up for 2016-17. Eric Gryba is a pending unrestricted free agent and seems to have settled in as a No. 6/7 defenceman. Justin Schultz is a pending restricted free agent who will cost big money to qualify and may not be worth is. Mark Fayne is under contract, but seems to have fallen out of favour with head coach Todd McLellan.

The key building blocks are the five players listed in the introduction: Sekera and the youth.

Edmonton could run with what it has, moving players to their off-side. If the club were to add one high-profile right-shot defenceman, it could play him with Klefbom on one pairing, keep Sekera on his off-side with Nurse on another, and run Reinhart on the right side with Davidson on the third unit. Alternately, a second addition (or the retention of one of the team’s three current RHD) could bump one of the existing cast into a No. 7 role.

The other option is to make a move or two. The combination of Sekera staying on his off-side and a single trade would leave three defencemen for three spots on the left side. The question then is which of the four young defencemen should Edmonton part ways with?

This is where we open things up to our readers. Is the righty/lefty thing overblown, and if it isn’t, what move should the Oilers be looking at to bring in some balance?

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Zarny

    I thought the Oilers should have moved one of their young left-shot D when the collection was only Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin.

    Not just to balance out the left-right dynamic; but to acquire a veteran who could mentor the youth and wouldn’t be prone to rookie mistakes.

    My opinion hasn’t changed. The young kids can certainly contribute, on some nights significantly, but McDavid’s ELC will expire before they are ready to dominate.

    I wouldn’t move Nurse; he’s too good and LA won’t move Doughty. I wouldn’t want to move Klefbom; I don’t think he’ll be a legit 1 D but should be a 2/3 D and an impact player.

    The problem is neither Davidson nor Reinhart will command much in return. At this point, they are throw ins for a larger deal which should be explored first. Packaging either with draft picks or a player like Eberle or Yakupov perhaps gets the right deal done, but I’m skeptical.

    Which means to get the right deal done I suspect Klefbom is the asset that would have to go the other way. I understand why many would oppose this, and it should only be considered for the right name coming to Edmonton.

  • Natejax30

    I agree that Seth Jones solves a lot of problems.

    I also see that we are cash strapped this year with a lot of money in the minors, so waiting until the summer is most likely the way this will shake out.

    Right defensemen – Hamonic and Jones. Not sure what package of players and picks it would take to get this done, but that would be like Boychuck/Leddy…and would instantly make us a top 8 team in the west.

    Just a side note…maybe by next year…could we look at keeping Klefbom and Nurse, maybe it is Sekera going the other way…

  • Jaxon

    Their recent moves point to a trade coming. They may be taking back a big contract to get a better player in a package. Schultz, Musil and Moroz to Washington for Bowey, Barber and Laich?

  • fisherprice

    out Purcell,klinkhammer,hamilton,shultz,nikitin,scrivens,ferance,fayne,trade lander,nuge and ebs for picks that leaves you around 37 mil to bring in byfuglien,stamkos,and lucic,klefbom for hamonic.sekera and byfuglien,nurse and harmonic on d.stamkos and macdavid,hall,draisaitl and lucic and a lot of great picks for the future.

  • socaldave

    Totally agree, that they should trade one of their Left D for a righty. I posted in the comments section a couple of days ago, saying exactly that.

    I proposed that I think Klefbom + 2nd or even 3rd rounder for Hamonic makes a lot of sense.

    Sekera-Schultz
    Nurse-Hamonic
    Davidson/Reinhart-Gryba

    So you then have Davidson and Reinhart fighting it out for the 6th spot.

    Chia really should not have acquired Reinhart, we paid too much and he was not really what we needed. He could have probably signed Franson instead and kept the picks.

    Personally I like Gryba, he has limitations, but for me he is fine for a 3rd pairing, and I like his size, physicality and poise with the puck.

    Also, not buying out Ference has become troublesome. Reinhart is now in the AHL because Ference cannot be moved. Although the AHL is probably not the worst place for Reinhart, he will see big minutes, and be able to develop his game there. I do like theat they stayed youthful. Personally I don’t believe Weber, Seabrook, Byfuglien, are the kinda guys we need. We would be much better off with someone younger, like 25-26 tops. We don’t need to sign anymore declining defencemen.

  • bradleypi

    You guys need to realize that Jones only sounds good on paper. This group needs a veteran RHD who plays with nasty. Only one available right now and that’s Byfuglien. This is basically the right handed Pronger, or a Souray clone. Yes he plays physical and yes he’s 31. You know how old Souray was when he came to Edmonton? 32. So what if he commands 7M for 5 years?

    You guys get so caught up in managing the cap space that you forget that good players want to get paid. We can literally sign him and not lose any assets as long as he wants to come here. The play I see here is that we give him an offer he cannot resist and if all else fails, then grab Hamonic for insurance. I would honestly grab both for picks and Reinhart. Byfuglien doesn’t even cost any assets to acquire. He’s also a better option than Jones at this point as he is also a character who has proven leadership, and has championship experience.

    Imagine: Nurse, Klefbom, Hamonic, Davidson, Byfuglien, Sekera, and Gryba or whoever is willing to be 7D for 1M.

    Point is, we should worry about making the playoffs first before cap space. I would trade playoff hockey for anything any day.