Woo, a righty!
When the Flyers traded for Luke Schenn, they acquired a young defender with top-pairing potential they had not previously had. They also received $650,000 in salary cap space and much needed depth behind an oft-injured defense corps.
They also acquired the much-ballyhooed right handed defensemen the team only kind-of had before.
Ever since Zach Parise said one of the reasons the Devils' were able to pressure the Flyers was their lack of a right-handed defensemen, many pundits have called this a weakness the Flyers needed to address.
Now that they have Luke Schenn in the fold, the Flyers have the same number of right-handed defensemen on their roster as they did during the Devils series -- one.
The difference, of course, is talent. The Flyers did not dress their solitary righty because he was being outplayed by six lefties. But now that they have one, is that enough to solve the perceived problem?
If having two left-handed defensemen on the ice at the same time is a real disadvantage, then does adding just one RH D solve the problem? Shouldn't every team have one LH D and one RH D on every pairing?
Lots of teams don't. Nine teams had 0 or 1 right-handed defenseman play 50+ games for them this year. If having two LH D on the ice at the same time was a huge disadvantage, why doesn't every team focus their system on exploiting the many imbalanced pairings?
There's no doubt that it can be advantageous to have a balanced pairing at times. But how good the players are matters much more than which hand they shoot with.
During each of the past two seasons, the Flyers have had one right-handed defensemen on their roster by the time the playoffs rolled around, yet neither Nick Boynton nor Pavel Kubina were deemed good enough to dress, leaving the Flyers void of a righty.
Talent and performance mattered more.
While we can agree that one right-handed defensemen is better than zero, it is very difficult to believe the handed-ness of a defensemen is all that important. Many solid pairings in the NHL last year comprised of two lefties, such as ...
Bryan Allen-Tim Gleason; Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart; Brian Campbell-Jason Garrison; Anton Volchenkov-Bryce Salvador; Braydon Coburn-Kimmo Timonen; Victor Hedman-Eric Brewer; Dion Phaneuf-Carl Gunnarsson, to name a few
... suggesting that the handedness of their defensemen is, at best, a convenience.
Nobody was calling for the pairing of Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen to be broken up last year because they lacked a lefty. Or Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann. Or Chris Pronger and Matt Carle, for that matter.
It might be nice to have one at the point on the power play, but the Flyers have been utilizing four forwards on their power play units for quite some time now. Whether it was Jakub Voracek (lefty), Brayden Schenn (lefty), James van Riemsdyk (lefty), Mike Richards (lefty), or anybody else who has been charged with playing the point on the Flyers power play, the team has shown they don't put much stock in having a right-hander on the point.
Not to mention Luke Schenn doesn't play on the power play -- 0:03 per game last year, 0:59 per game the year before. On the Leafs. That isn't why he was brought in.
In '10-11, two teams had no RH D: Philadelphia and Anaheim. In addition, Columbus, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Montreal, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, and Washington all had only one.
Those 12 teams averaged 96 points in the regular season; the rest of the league averaged 89. 41.7% of those teams made it to at least the second round; 16.7% of the rest of the league did.
Unless this year was the first time anyone thought about the RH D dilemma, this doesn't look like a trend.
Having variety is good. Having talented defenders is better.
The Flyers top-4 will still consist of four left-handed defensemen, meaning that the skill players on every team will still have the opportunity to "exploit" the Flyers lack of a lefty.
Either the team continues to leave itself open to exploitation, or we all continue to overstate the importance of having one righty on the third pairing.