With defenceman Mark Fraser back from injury, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle was forced to shuffle the structure of his blueline. First to sit is 19-year old rookie Morgan Rielly. A subsequent side-effect of Fraser’s re-entry to the lineup is Jake Gardiner‘s return to the left side of the ice. Gardiner will rejoin Cody Franson to form a pairing that was promising, and sometimes dominant in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Boston Bruins.
As signs point to Mark Fraser returning to #Leafs defence vs Devils, expect Jake Gardiner to shift back to left side.
— Tony Ambrogio (@Tony_Ambrogio) November 8, 2013
Cody Franson enlightened media yesterday about the difficulties of playing defence on the off-handed side of the ice. His comments help shed light on the difficult decisions Team Canada’s brass will need to make regarding the defence corps that will dawn the red Maple Leaf at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Canada’s top defencemen are almost all right-handed shots. In regards to playing the off-wing as a defenceman, Franson claims:
“You have to bring the puck to your forehand and then, when it’s on your forehand, your backhand is to the middle of the ice. It just seems to close off your options.”
Less options can serve costly for a defenceman who is staring down the most talented hockey players in the world.
Team Canada’s leading candidates to play defence are almost entirely right handed shots, aside from lefty Duncan Keith. A long list of very talented right-handed Canadian defencemen comprise GM Steve Yzerman’s possibilities on the back end. The list includes: Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, P. K. Subban, Kris Letang, Dan Boyle, Alex Pietrangelo and Brent Seabrook.
The collection of available lefties is not as enticing (with all due respect to): Jay Bouwmeester, Marc Eduoard Vlasic, Dion Phaneuf, and Marc Staal.
Selecting a bunch of righties may be the ‘right’ move for Canada (no pun intended) whose best blueliners (not including Keith) happen to all shoot the same way. However, if your favourite player is left off Team Canada’s roster, it could simply be due to the fact he is a redundant righty.