WWYDW: All those young, left-shooting defencemen

25-Nurse-4

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 Babcock3

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



  • socaldave

    R/L R/L R/L on their proper sides all day, please. I know it’ll be tough when you’re not planning on bringing back at least 2 of 3 RH shots, but I do believe it’s preferred by most. Tough it out this year and finally give PC some time to handle a “pure” off-season to truly mold this team into a playoff squad. Nice write-up, JW.

  • Concur

    Left – Right defense is ideal but there is always exceptions. If the Oilers have 7 defensemen I would prefer that they have at least 2 righties. If the Oilers were to acquire a higher valued right shop defense man then they should be looking at retaining one of their right shot defense man. To me the choice is between Gryba and Fayne with the advantage to Gryba based on Salary and the amount that he has been played. This leaves the option of rotating Gryba out for Davidson or Reinhart for the third pair.

    Nurse – Byfulgien

    Klefbom – Sekera

    Davidson – Gryba

    Reinhart

  • The Goalie 1976

    I think we are at a point where just have capable top 4 options is more important than what hand they shoot. In a perfect world a few would be rightys, but at what cost.

    I sure would rather see any of the 5 leftys listed playing the wrong side, than to settle for an inferior player like Jultz or Gryba.

  • Makaveli

    I’ve thought about this all year and its not just the D-Men. Most of the Centers are all left hand shots too. Depending on certain PP configurations, the Oilers are icing 5 LH shot players. While our center men are skilled enough to make plays on both sides of their sticks, it certainly would help if we had more high end D with right shots. That being said… it will probably be the offseason when we find these players.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    All of a sudden the problems the oilers are having are proving to be good problems. Too many young left shooting defenceman, not enough room on the blue for a 4th overall pick, 3 potential first line centers, the list goes on and a turn north, as LT would say, is imminent.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    And worrying about having a good balance of lefties and righties is similar to a virgin worrying about banging a perfect ten. Let’s just cobble 6 good defenceman first, then worry about handedness…

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Anyone notice that our old captain is under contract for next year and wasn’t even worth mentioning in the discussion anywhere?

    Sadly, a for gone conclusion with him. Nice guy, wish him well.

  • vetinari

    I notice that Ference and Nikitin aren’t part of the conversation, and shouldn’t be, because I can’t see either of them back in 2016/17.

    On the leftie/rightie issue, there are some benefits but generally I consider it a bit overblown because it depends on how your partner plays, rather than what hand he shoots, that makes the difference. Most of the handedness issues be compensated with body position and defensive awareness.

    As for our extra guys, some of them should be packaged up and sent out, regardless of handedness. Of the group, I would be surprised to see Schultz and Fayne back next year.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Harry2

    I would love the oilers to challenge all other NHL teams to take one hour of their time and visit the childrens hospital no matter what city you are playing in.Let’s make kids happy this time of year.

  • 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.

  • oilerjed

    Seems obvious,move Shultz+Fayne+?? and bring in a good RHD. Hamonic is still out there so seems like an easy pick for a Klefbom partner. Gives the Islanders a project and veteran to try their luck with, although if this was going to happen I’m guessing Chia would already be dousing himself in champagne.
    I’m ok with Gryba on the 3rd pair

    • OldSchool

      Do you honestly think that teams would be excited to trade “a good RHD” for two highly questionable defenseman with a combined cap hit of 7.4 million? Combining negative assets does not an attractive package make.

      I sincerely hope this is actually Kevin Cheveldayoff or Garth Snow and that this is your way of communicating with Chiarelli, if so lets get a deal done.

  • Spoils

    I watched the Russians play in the 88 olympics and the entire team I believe was made but of lefties and it didn’t seem to matter to them. My concern would be the quality of defensemen not which way he shoots.

    • Spoils

      Seems to matter to Suter, who’s one of the best dmen in the league. And it seems to matter to Babcock, who’s one of the best coaches in the game. It’s also a bit common sense, and somthing brought up often here at ON. So I’m thinking it means somthing

    • fisherprice

      The soviets used to force their players to learn playing left-handed, if I’m not mistaken. The whole issue is overblown. This is not baseball.

      Also, how much will Schultz have to improve before people stop hating him? Why is it ok for Hall to give the puck away on every rush but not Schultz? (Obviously not exactly a fair comparison but I say this to make a point.)

      • fisherprice

        When taking D to D passes in the defensive zone, I would rather both D passing and receiving the pass on their forehand. Makes it a lot easier, which means less turnovers, which means less pucks in our net.

        I don’t think the issue is overblown at all.

  • socaldave

    If you put everyone over on their natural side, then you have Nurse, Klef, and Sekera on the left, leaving Davidson and Reinheart out in the cold.

    Getting one high profile guy mean pairing him with Nurse or Sekera, keeping Fayne likely with Klefbom, and keeping Schultz for either Nurse or Sekera.

    None of those pairs sound as good as swinging Sekera and Reinheart over to the right side, and letting Schultz go in favour of grabbing a big name free agent for the right side to upgrade on that second pair position.

  • S cottV

    There are definitely handcuff situations for guys playing on their off handed side. It can be overcome to some degree with experience, talent, a partner that knows how to compliment the arrangement and forwards that are aware – by not throwing you unnecessary passes to the backhand side. A lot of variables – so, best to avoid if possible.

    Agree with a prior poster that the pp is a big concern with 3 left centers, that would want to preferably set up on the right side half boards. You would prefer to have the backside point be a right hander and back side off net winger be a righty. So – 3 left handers and 2 right handers total. That puts everyone passing or shooting through seams on their forehand sides.

    Too bad it doesn’t seem like its gonna work out with Shultz, because the RD we really need – almost has to be able to work the pp – with 3 LH centerman.

  • camdog

    Fayne on waivers. Not really surprised, last season with coaches hired by Mact, Fayne had trouble getting 18 minutes a night. With a new coach and management it was obvious his minutes were going to decrease further this season.

  • Benny Botts

    With Byfuglien already at 31 years of age, I would be more leery or the term than money. With his size and style of play, you wonder how much longer he will be in his prime…

  • camdog

    Give me six good defensemen first. Then I will start worrying about whether they are right shot or left shot.

    Heck. I’ll take Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Larry Robinson, and Bill Nyrop over any combination of two righties and two lefties.

    All the recent dynasties or near dynasties were unbalanced.

    Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils.

    Anaheim had Pronger, Niedermayer, and Beauchemin…all lefties.

    Balanced righties vs lefties is a 2nd order problem.

    Getting good defensemen regardless of handedness is more important.