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



  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Nuge and Fayne for Seth Jones and Colin Wilson

    Next year run:

    Hall – Draisatl – Eberle
    ..
    Pouliot – McDavid – Yakupov
    ..
    Free Agent – Wilson – Slepyshev
    ..
    Lander – Letestu – Hendricks
    ..
    Klefbom – Jones
    ..
    Nurse – Sekera
    ..
    Davidson – Reinhart/Gryba/Free Agent
    ..
    Nilsson
    Broisoit or veteran back up

  • fisherprice

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Klefbom fan. Had to do a lot of explaining to fans of other teams why that Klefbom contract was actually a good contract if they knew anything about the Oilers.

    However, this abundance of left-handed D has made me reconsider the hard ‘no’ on the idea of a Klefbom-Hamonic trade. Isn’t Hamonic kind of already what we expect Klefbom to be in the future? Even at Klefbom’s best I doubt we’re seeing a future number one, more likely a top-tier second pairing defenceman, which is what Hamonic already is. Hamonic is also on a team friendly long-term deal (although not as long as Klefbom). I think it is absolutely a lateral move, but Hamonic also shoots right – I think making a lateral move for the benefit of the team positionally is not the worst thing.

    Anyway, I fully expect trashes from Klefbom partisans on this comment, even if I am a Klefbom fan myself.

    • camdog

      Klefbomb already brings more offence than Harmonic and he’s 3 years younger at 22. He’s on pace for 35 points this season, there are only 3-4 d-man younger than him with more points in the entire league. Trading Harmonic straight up for Klefbomb is a lateral move right now, which has the potential to be a big win for the Islanders in 2-3 years.

      • Zarny

        No, Klefbom for Hamonic is not a lateral move right now. Hamonic is considerably better at playing defense. Klefbom’s defense game may never be that good.

        It might be a lateral move in 2-3 years; but Hamonic is a good comparable for Klefbom. Neither is likely to ever be a Norris candidate or one of the top 15 D in the league. Klefbom will likely always bring more offense and Hamonic more defense; but essentially they will both be top-pairing D who fall short of having the complete games you see in Doughty, Hedman, Keith etc.

        The thing is…with Nurse on the top pair long term Klefbom’s offense can probably be replaced by Davidson. Nurse is probably the only D capable of matching Hamonic’s defense. Even if Hamonic for Klefbom is a lateral move in 2-3 years the Oilers could still be a better team.

      • Zarny

        It would be a big win for the Oilers too, starting today. Klefbom can be replaced, with what we already have on the team. Hamonic would go a long way to fixing our ride side isssues.

        Sekera-Nurse-Davidson/Reinhart is good for our left side. I feel quite good about it actually.

        Right side is a mess. For me, we have only 3rd pairing defensemen.

        Schultz-Fayne-Gryba

        A sorry bunch, although I don’t mind Gryba being our 3rd pairing guy. The other 2 guys make too much money, and do not really deserve top 4 spots.

  • Ever the Optimist

    personally I would move Fayne for a better bottom 6 forward option than we currently have. Keep Sekera on his off side, move Schultz plus a sweetner and try to grab Erik Gudbranson from Florida. Move Gryba and trade for Radko Gudas.

    This by season end would give us
    nurse/sekera

    klefbom/Gudbranson

    Davidson/Gudas

    Reinhart

    This gives us more size to break the cycle and a guy with a point shot. Both additions are rfa’s this year so the contract control is still in chias control.