When Mike Babcock coached Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, he had Duncan Keith, a lefty, on a defensive pair with Shea Weber, a righty, then Marc-Edouard Vlasic, a lefty, with Drew Doughty, a righty, then Jay Bouwmeester, a lefty, with Alex Pietrangelo, a righty.
This was not a coincidence. This was the plan. And it worked out rather well.
Next season in Detroit, Babcock is hoping he can have something a bit closer to that for his Red Wings.
“I just think it’s so much easier when you have a right and lefty on every pair,” he said this weekend, per MLive. “All you got to do is look at L.A. (Stanley Cup champion Kings), 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.”
At the moment, the Wings are overloaded with lefties. Which is why there’s been so much speculation surrounding pending unrestricted free agents Dan Boyle and Matt Niskanen, each of whom shoot right. Anton Stralman and Tom Gilbert are other pending UFA righties, with general manager Ken Holland under pressure to come away with at least one of them.
The challenge for Holland is all the other teams that will be pursuing those guys. If the GM fails to land at least one, don’t expect the coach to be pleased.
“I’ve been all over [Holland],” said Babcock, “but there’s no tree to grab them off of, so we’ll get what we get.”