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
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?
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?