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.

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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.

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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?

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RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS


  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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…

  • 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.