Righty-lefty balance more crucial than ever

Mike Babcock is largely credited for illuminating the value of a balanced defense. Andy Marlin/NHLI/Getty Images

While describing the advantages of a righty-lefty balance on defense, apparently it’s nearly impossible to do so without demonstrating with an imaginary stick. Asked to describe the benefit of having a right-handed shot defenseman paired up with a lefty, almost to a man, players, coaches and a GM contorted their bodies to show what it’s like to try to receive a pass or battle for a puck along the wall on your off side.

Ultimately, they explained, it’s about a couple of extra seconds to make a decision. Or in some cases, having one more option with the puck than you might have otherwise.

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.

“At the Olympic level, when you’re playing the best in the world, even on the big ice, you wanted left-right,” Babcock said.