Does Andrej Sekera need a right-shot partner?

2-Sekera-1

One of the things that made Andrej Sekera attractive to the
Oilers last summer—besides being the best defencemen on the free agent market—was
versatility. He’s a two-way defencemen who does a little bit of everything and
has experience playing both sides of the ice.

Given that experience, should Edmonton plan to bump him to
the right side of its defensive depth chart, thereby clearing space on the left
side and filling a need on the right?

It’s a move which makes good sense, provided that
performance doesn’t suffer. Sekera could fill a top-four role on the right
side, which would leave the Oilers with only one spot to fill at the position
(assuming that Mark Fayne, currently under contract, takes the third job). That
would also allow Edmonton to look at left-shot free agents to fill a top-four
role on the portside, and there are several available (Brian Campbell and Dan
Hamhuis come to mind) who might be persuaded to take a shorter term deal.

The trouble is that we know handedness matters. NHL coaches
have long believed in placing right-shot defencemen on the right side and
left-shot defencemen on the left side whenever possible. More recently, a study
confirmed
that long coaching belief has value, with defencemen’s teams generally
suffering a penalty between 6.0 and 7.0 Corsi events per hour to play a skater
on his off-side. That’s a massive number; I was surprised when I saw it, and I
want to dig into it in greater depth this summer. If it’s anywhere close to
correct, teams should almost never play defencemen on their off-side.

It seems possible, however, that experience can compensate
to some degree for the disadvantage. Sekera is a veteran defenceman with experience
on his off-side, and seems like the kind of player who might be able to
outperform those numbers. To see if that was true or not, I decided to use Puckalytics
SuperWOWY function to see
how he’d performed over the years with right and left shots.

Sekera’s Performance

2-Sekera-2

Sekera spent a fair bit of time on the right side last
season. He spent at least an hour with four different partners, two of which
were right shots and two of which shot left. The Oilers’ on-ice results with
those four different defence pairs are revealing:

  • RD Mark Fayne, 657 minutes, -1.1 Corsi/hour
  • RD Justin Schultz, 99 minutes, -1.2 Corsi/hour
  • LD Brandon Davidson, 76 minutes, -9.5 Corsi/hour
  • LD Darnell Nurse, 393 minutes, -12.7 Corsi/hour

If we combine the right-shot numbers and left-shot numbers,
we find that the Oilers improve by 11 shot attempts and 0.2 goals per hour when
Sekera plays with a right-shot defenceman than they do when he plays with a
left-shot defenceman, and they do it despite taking an additional defensive
zone shift per hour.

Davidson’s numbers are particularly compelling. There’s an
argument that Nurse simply wasn’t ready for NHL action last year, but Davidson
was excellent away from Sekera. Some of the issue is that we’re looking at a
small number of minutes and a lot of defensive zone starts, but Sekera/Fayne
had a lot of own-zone draws too and was manifestly a better pairing (Nurse and
Schultz both had easier zone starts when with Sekera).

Still, it’s only one year. During his time in Carolina,
Sekera played almost exclusively with right-shot defencemen, with Justin Faulk
his primary partner. That makes it difficult to compare his performance with defencemen
of different handedness.

If we go back to his time in Buffalo, though, that changes
dramatically. Sekera spent at least an hour between 2007 and 2013 with 11
different partners, with four of them being right shots and seven of them
shooting left.

The list looks like this, ranked by total ice-time:

  • Left shots: Jaroslav Spacek, Mike Weber, Robyn Regehr, Toni
    Lydman, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Nathan Paetsch and Brian Campbell.
  • Right shots: Tyler Myers, Steve Montador, Craig Rivet, Teppo
    Numminen

I don’t see a massive talent gap there, and Sekera actually
had pretty good results with the two most suspect players on the list (Gragnani
and Paetsch) in short stints together.

That makes the results pretty interesting. With Sekera and a
right-shot defenceman on the ice, the Sabres averaged four more shot attempts
per hour than their opponents. With Sekera and a left-shot defenceman on the
ice, they were one shot attempt shy of the opposition. That’s a five-event
swing per hour altogether, which is just a touch shy of the Hockey Graphs study
linked above.

I think the actual performance swing is a little bit smaller, because
Sekera/righty had a more favourable ratio of offensive-to-defensive zone draws
than Sekera/lefty did. In an average hour, the former had two extra shifts
starting in the offensive zone than the latter did.

5-Fayne-7

Even so, it seems pretty clear that Sekera has historically
had more success playing on his right side than on his left. That fits with
what we saw last year, and suggests that Edmonton would be well-advised to keep
Sekera on the left side. It also suggests that the Oilers would do well to add
two right-shot defencemen to the roster, and three if they move Fayne. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS



    • madjam

      As a leftie in hockey and baseball , I always found my right side to be better than left side power wise and otherways . Adjustment to right side seemed to be easier than to left side . I played golf cross handed for first ten years , as right side was my normal strength side . As a playing center , body was more adapt at physical play from that right side . I suspect a lot of lefties have little difficulty playing right side if they are naturally right handed .

  • Oil City Roller

    Hey Willis, Stauffer was throwing some shade your way today on Oilers Now. I kind of feel like you’ve got to represent and give Bob an old school Peace Region whoopin. You can probably find him at Royal Pizza on any given afternoon. Just look for the Kentwood Ford with truck nutz in the parking lot.

  • BlownRegal

    I’d be open to Cody Franson on the right side second pairing with Sekera. Cost wouldn’t be much and I feel it’s worth the gamble. Then obviously go back to trying to find somebody for Klefbom.

  • knee deep in it

    thank you for this information. I wished it was not true but it is better knowing than trying to force something.

    Was there any combination of 2 left handers that had success last year? I thought Davidson and Reinhart looked ok in limited minutes

  • camdog

    “Even so, it seems pretty clear that Sekera has historically had more success playing on his right side than on his left.”

    Maybe I spent too much time in the sun today, seems like a typo. Good read though. Curious how Davidison did on the right side. From my eye test I thought he struggled to start the year, but played pretty good on the right side (with Osterle) to finish the season.

  • H.E. Pennypacker

    Completely unrelated…. I was at an exhibition hockey game in Australia on the weekend. Team Canada vs team USA. Teams were made up of players I’ve mostly never heard of from different leagues. Canada won in a shootout with Adam Cracknell scoring the shootout winner, and Ben scrivens backstopping the Canadians. I never thought I’d hear that sentence in my life.

    • Finnish Oiler fan in Edmonton89

      It’s not so much the the offense that is a problem

      It is the defending part for which coaches are hesitant on playing a LD on RD.

      It’s a different kind of feel when you shoot left and you are playing the right defending against someone charging down the wing at you.

      • The older I get, the better I was...

        I played mostly right D although I shot left. I found one advantage was that your stick was naturally to the center of the ice for a one on one defensive situation and found it easier to force the opposing skater to the outside.

        The key in any of those situations was closing fast and using your body – the stick didn’t matter as much then.

        The offset to this is moving the puck out of the zone. A left shot going up the right side will find it more difficult to shelter the puck as he moves up the boards and needs to clear the zone quickly.

  • Jaxon

    Someone please correct this if it is wrong. I’m no statistitian. Just to very basically illustrate how big a deal 6.83 Corsi Events are. 6.83 Corsi events / 60 is basically -2.62 shot differential per game if a top pair player plays 23 minutes. Over 82 games that would be 215 extra shots against. With a league average 5-on-5 SV% of .925 that is worth about 16 extra goals against. If you use Edmonton’s SV% from last season of .914 then it is an extra 18 goals against. A 16 goal difference in goal differential basically moves your team up or down 2 spots in the standings.

    Playing your best D on his wrong hand is a bit like turning him into your worst D. It’s like turning Hamphus Lindholm into Simon Depres. So you have to pay those elite players $6M+ contracts but you’re turning them into $1M players.

    ________________________________

    Hockey-Graphs article:
    https://hockey-graphs.com/2016/03/04/quantifying-the-importance-of-handedness/

    “Conclusion

    After performing various tests to both validate the importance of handedness with respect to the performance of d-pairings and determine exactly how important it is as a variable, it is safe to conclude that NHL teams are justified in their pursuit of a balanced shooting d-corps. Correspondingly, handedness definitely warrants a place in the decision making process when identifying ideal pieces to fill a vacant roster spot.

    Big thanks to @MannyElk and his website Corsica.hockey for all of the data used in this piece (except for handedness which was taken from NHL.com)

    All data used is 5on5 only and all performance measures are zone start, score and venue adjusted.

    […]

    It turns out that an unsuitably handed defenseman must have a CorsiRel that is greater than or equal to 6.83 Corsi events / 60 better than a suitably handed alternative in order to be the better option to pair with a partner-less defenseman on the roster.”

    • Goose99

      This is not quite correct. You’re conflating Corsi events with actual shots. So it would be -2.62 Corsi events per game. I’m not sure what the average Corsi to shot ratio is, but there’s definitely way more Corsi events than shots.

      • Jaxon

        I knew I wouldn’t have it quite right. I also gave Sekera his total minutes, but the Corsica per 60 is only at evens and therefore those minutes would be about 19 minutes per game not 23. That said, it should have a similar negative affect on PP and PK time. I don’t have time to redo calculation but I’m guessing it will end up being in the 7 to 10 goals per year at evens range. That would still move the team up at least one position and playing aleft on right is still a waste of cap. Will redo later.

  • Jehu23

    @ Willis

    “Even so, it seems pretty clear that Sekera has historically had more success playing on his right side than on his left. ”

    I think you accidentally transposed the right/left in this sentence in the final paragraph. The next sentence makes sense, but I think this one is backwards.

    • Free Bird

      I read the article the same way. Everything points to Sekera playing better on the LEFT side (which could be construed as his “right” side aka natural side).

      Also, I remember an article from earlier this year indicating that Fayne was an effective shutdown defender when paired with Sekera but below average to terrible when paired with anyone else. So no, RHD Fayne cannot be considered a top four defender in a scenario where Sekera is playing on the right side of another pairing. It might work if Fayne can play effectively with the new LHD, but that’s a big gamble for a team with no depth at RHD and a forward group that is arguably the weakest in the league at backchecking.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    So you’re saying that the right move would be to play Andrej Sekera – who shoots left – on the left side with an established partner – who shoots right – to play on the right side? Did I get that right or is there any I accidentally left out?

  • madjam

    What price should we go for Shattenkirk with one year left on his contract , and almost a certainty to be left unprotected next year if still with St.Louis .Pieterangelo , Boumeester and Parayko they will protect . Shatterkirk was St.Louis worst +- player in regular season and playoffs by quite a bit .

    If we use Eberle or Hopkins , I feel we will really get burned in a trade for Shattenkirk .

    • McRaj

      They will not protect Shatty because he is a free agent, and even if they have an expansion in place, they will wait until after the expansion draft to sign it. But, if he was signed, they would no doubt protect him over Bouw. I think they would like to move J-Bow and his salary.

      I would love having Shatty on our team but the only reason I would be hesitant to give up Eberle is due to him having one year left on his deal. If we were to negotiate an extension before hand, no question I give up Eberle for a signed Shattenkirk.

      Shatty got 14 goals and 44 points playing in a defensive system. He’s a wizard on the PP, has played 23 minutes a night and could likely play more if not for Pietro. Unlike many other D, he takes the puck away almost as much as he gives it up. He will block shots and give hits, although do not mistake him for a shutdown D-Man. His Corsi and Fenwick were both great and his PDO shows that his numbers are not based on high on ice shooting/save percentages.

    • RJ

      If Shattenkirk had two or more seasons left on his term, your scenario is a no-brainer.

      But acquiring him with one season left before he becomes a UFA doesn’t make sense unless you feel you’re one RHD from a lengthy playoff run.

      Given how poorly the patience game has worked for the Oilers, the playoffs are something they watch on tv. Great job Chiarelli.

  • Ed in Edmonton 1

    I see that there is a vague rumor on the Cult of Hockey that the Oil and Isle may be discussing something with Hall. Given the Isles will be losing Oksopo, I can see their interest in getting Hall. Even though he has withdrawn his trade request it doesn’t mean the Isle couldn’t trade Harmonic in the right trade. Hall for Harmonic straight across wouldn’t happen but might be the key element in a bigger trade.

    • madjam

      Seeing as Okposo will sign in Edmonton , it only makes sense for Tavares to want to come here as well . So Hall and Hopkins for Tavares, Hamonic and Pulock . Who wins the trade ?

      • McRaj

        LOL Hand’s down Oilers would win that trade in a landslide. Hmmm I can’t tell if you are being serious or joking around. A trade with the Islanders would be something like Hall for Hamonic, Strome, and either Barzal or Dal Colle. The point would be to pair JT and Hall. Islanders will not be trading JT.

        • madjam

          Having fun on a slow day . So i’ll sweeten my offer for Tavares , Hamonic and Pulock , by adding Reinhart or Nurse to original deal of Hall and Hopkins . How does deal now look if we already have Okposo signed ?

          • McRaj

            If the deal is Hall, Nuge, and Nurse for JT and Hamonic. That is a deal that is likely even maybe even a little favoured towards them. But it will never happen because JT is to the Islanders what McDavid is to us. If Hall goes to them, it’s so they can pair him with JT. Hall and JT are good buddies, in fact Hall looks at JT as a mentor.

          • madjam

            Final blockbuster deal offer . To Oilers : negotiation rights (3rd) for Okposo , Tavares , Strome , Hamonic and Pulock .

            To Isles : 3rd round pick , Hall , Hopkins and Eberle , 2 of Nurse , Reinhart or Davidson , and swap of first round pick if Isles have one .

            Now who wins the trade ?

          • McRaj

            LOL Have we reversed roles? You are coming up with trade ideas for Hall Nuge Ebs and I am going against them. We lose that trade by a landslide

            JT > Hall
            Nuge>>Strome
            Eberle = Okposo (Different skill sets)

            Hamonic = Nurse (Value wise only. Hamonic better today)

            Davidson>Pulock=Reinhart

            the 4th pick>>>19th pick.

            Such a trade won’t happen.

            The following are trades I could see for each of Hall, Ebs, and Nuge.

            Hall for Hamonic, Strome, and either barzal/dal colle

            Nuge for Hamonic and Strome

            Ebs plus a second or yak for Hamonic

          • Ed in Edmonton 1

            So even we if the Oil throw in a sweetener like Nurse or Davidson would this make the Oil better? Given all the LHD the Oil have giving one up won’t impact them much.

      • Ed in Edmonton 1

        Now that would be a blockbuster. For that trade to work the Oil would likely need to take back some ‘non productive’ salary from the Isle as well.

      • Ed in Edmonton 1

        The question becomes are the Oil with Tavares and Harmonic but without hall and RNH a better team? A McD/Tavares top 2 centers would rival Crosby/Malkin. Could LD help fill a gap on the left side? I’m thinking the Oil are better if this were to happen.

        • McRaj

          Way Way Way Better. But Oilers fans need to snap out of it, no way JT is being traded. Isles want Hall to pair him with JT, not trade JT away lol. I get we all like to play armchair GM but sometimes we get way too carried away.

  • In the last month or two of the campaign, Sekera looked like a Tasmanian Devil. I believe he was on his left side, and was an absolute overtime-freewheeling-dirty-dancing machine. Let’s keep him on the left so we can get the Sekera we paid so highly for.

  • Free Bird

    I think there’s a good chance St.Louis finds a way to trade away an expensive forward to create the cap space to resign Shattenkirk. I also think the trade rumours involving Faulk and Barrie were just smoke and hot air created by some journalists to get another story to print.

    Good right handed defencemen are hard to find and very valuable assets. A rational thinking GM is going to keep guys like that. Bottom line is Chia will have to overpay for a good one…

  • a lg dubl dubl

    That would be funny if PC got Barzal with Hamonic. It would shush the haters of the Reinhart deal lol!

    That said, Hall should not be traded unless it’s for Subban

  • McPucker

    I played many years of defence on the off side in men’s league hockey. I’m certainly not as good as an NHL’er so the differences would be more pronounced.

    It’s easier to keep an attacker to the outside when you stick hand is on the outside. The stick is in a better position for a poke or sweep check.

    Moving up the ice, there are more passing lanes on your forehand than backhand. I’m better in passing with my forehand. On your offside, you can drop the puck back and make the forehand pass, but this takes a little more time and space. Not much but enough to make a difference sometimes.

    My backwards lateral skating was better to the outside, which is good because you’re wanting to push the attacker to the outside.

    I was a better d-man playing my strong side but I was better than other guys on my team playing the offside.

    I would think that overall some players can play well on their offside but most of these players are better on their strong side. You work with what you have.