The subtle science of the Blackhawks draft and trade maneuvers over the last few years is becoming more evident with each passing article involving analytics and position strategy.
In his latest post on ESPN.com, Craig Custance discusses how valuable right-handed defensemen are in the league today ($). He notes:
More than ever, the righty-lefty balance on defense is a critical part of the game.
“It’s crucial,” said Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
Babcock articulated the reasons why effectively, which we’ll get to in a moment, and he should be the guy to do it. People around hockey credit him and the Team Canada staff for bringing this roster construction advantage to the forefront. With all things equal, and granted the ability to pick from the deepest talent pool in the world, GM Steve Yzerman and his coaching staff opted for balance on defense. It worked out pretty well.
Custance goes on to quote Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff and GM Jim Nill, and cite the roster put together by Boston GM Peter Chiarelli as being influenced by Canada’s roster. He also points out the blue line of the Rangers as an example of pairing right-handed shots with lefties.
He points out that all of the top defensive pairs in the league have one left-handed shot and the other right-handed, including Chicago’s Duncan Keith (left) and Brent Seabrook (right).
Later in the article, Custance puts the bullet in the chamber for the Blackhawks’ leverage:
In examining the top fours throughout the league, keeping in mind it’s a fluid group because of promotions and injuries, finding the righty remains a challenge. Of the 120 defensemen that populate the top fours throughout the league, only 46 are right-handed.
Supply and demand drove up the interest and price of righties in free agency…
Looking around the Blackhawks organization, they have a nice collection of right-handed shots on their blue line if/when a team comes looking for one. Trevor vanRiemsdyk and David Rundblad are both right-handed shots, while newly acquired Tim Erixon is a lefty.
Consider the roster in Rockford:
- Adam Clendening – right
- TJ Brennan – left
- Ville Pokka – right
- Klas Dahlbeck – left
- Stephen Johns – right
- Kyle Cumiskey – left
- Zach Miskovic – right
- Viktor Svedberg – left
Within the college and European ranks of Blackhawks prospects, there are more examples.
- Michael Paliotta – right
- Sam Jardine – left
- Robin Press – right
- Robin Norell – left
- Carl Dahlstrom – left
- Andreas Soderberg – left
- Luc Snuggerud – left
Also, some of the younger/lower tier prospects in the organization are consistent with this philosophy.
- Dillon Fournier – left
- Mathieu Brisebois – right
- Nick Mattson – left
In fact, the 2014 Draft was the first time since Stan Bowman took over as the general manager in Chicago that the Blackhawks didn’t draft at least one right-handed shot on the blue line.
With Custance so eloquently outlining why right-handed shots are a valuable commodity in the NHL, the Blackhawks stockpiling righties proves they’re ahead of the curve.