It didn’t take long after Team Canada’s World Cup of Hockey roster was named for the debate to begin, especially when it comes to the blue line.
Sometimes, it’s not about who is named to the team, but who is left off. And why?
Why wasn’t the right-shooting P.K. Subban, a dynamic offensive defenseman, added to the roster? Ditto goes for Kris Letang, also a right shot capable of putting up big numbers from the blue line, while logging heavy minutes — an average of 26:56 in the regular season for Pittsburgh — and being used on both the power play and penalty kill.
When it was announced late last month that Duncan Keith opted out of the World Cup due to injury, he was replaced by fellow left-shooting defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Again, the likes of Subban and Letang were left off the squad.
The simple explanation is that head coach Mike Babcock is really all about the left-right balance on defense. As Canada opened camp on Monday, he explained in detail his philosophy.
But there was another interesting development to come from the first day of camp.
It seems Babcock went with the left-right dynamic for two of his three pairings, but not necessarily for the third. As reported, one pairing included a pair of right shots, with Brent Burns and Alex Pietrangelo.
Babcock and general manager Doug Armstrong spoke at length at the time of the importance of having a balance of left-handed and right-handed shots on defense. Since Keith shot from the left side, it was natural to add the left-shooting Bouwmeester, they said.
That’s why it was somewhat surprising to see Pietrangelo skating on the left side Monday.
Well, surprising to everyone except Pietrangelo.
“A couple of weeks before camp Mike called me and said, ‘Hey, we think we might play you on the left side,'” Pietrangelo said.
On a star-studded team, Canada’s defense could be under the spotlight as this tournament goes on.