According to the Canadian Olympic men's hockey team head coach Mike Babcock on Tuesday, there was not a sole emphasis on selecting four left shooting defensemen and four right shooting defensemen when selecting the Team Canada defensemen for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Among the eight defensemen chosen, Jay Bouwmeester of the St. Louis Blues, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackawks, Dan Hamhuis of the Vancouver Canucks, Marc Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks shoot left, while Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues, Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators shoot right.
"That was part of it, that wasn't all of it", said Babcock from Toronto today. "We wanted the best group we could possibly have. I think when you see the National League, when you look around it, there are a whole bunch of guys who are left handed that can play on the right side. There aren't a whole bunch of right handers playing on the left side. We wanted to have good depth. If someone gets hurt on the right, Bouwmeester can switch over. We didn't see a whole bunch going the other direction. So if you're putting a guy on the biggest stage and he's playing where he doesn't play, we didn't think that was the best thing. But in the end, we need decisions on the players because they had something we really wanted. Was their shot involved? No question. But there was a whole different other things involved in that process as well."
Babcock meanwhile really likes what he has on defense. Among the eight players chosen, Subban is the reigning Norris Trophy winner, and Keith won the Norris Trophy in 2010. Keith and Doughty are also Stanley Cup champions.
"I think our back end really can get the puck going in a hurry," said Babcock, who emphasized the importance of team speed, pace, and players needing to make fast decisions when selecting Team Canada as a whole.
Two interesting selections were Hamhuis and Vlasic. Both were chosen for their defensive ability, and not a lot is expected for their offensive skills. Hamhuis only has had a total of 12 goals in the last three seasons, while Vlasic only has 11 in that same time period.
Still the Canadian coaching staff and management are high on their skills.
"He (Hamhuis) knows how to play", says Babcock. "He's a real cerebral player. He can make a play and get through the neutral zone. Not a real offensive guy. Solid defensively. Understands the game. We think really plays well. We talked to Torts (Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella) and he's been overplayed right now with all of the injuries in Vancouver. He's a really solid player that they count on heavily that we think can really help us out. He's a veteran guy that's been good for us at previous Worlds (2007-2009). A real solid citizen."
As for Vlasic, he has impressed the Canadian team executive director Steve Yzerman significantly.
"He plays quiet and is a very efficient player. He plays on a really good team in San Jose. We watched him a lot. He moves the puck well, skates well, is positionally very sound and is on a really good team that is really well coached. We think he is going to be a really good player for us. Very good defensively. Very responsible. We just think he is a very good defenseman."
Don't be surprised if there is some mixing and matching as well. Bouwmeester is not a lock to play with Pietrangelo, and don't be surprised if Weber plays some with Hamhuis as well as Doughty.
The Canadian blueline just might stand out as the best in the tournament.