There's been a large debate running on a number of different posts about Kyle Quincey and whether he should be retained. JJ has made some good points (like usual) about why he thinks Holland will keep him aboard. But as good as his points are, they don't completely satisfy our curiosity about the plan for the defense for next year and beyond. There are so many what-ifs, whys, and hows surrounding that part of the team. We all know that Jimmy is going to be in goal and we know that we have enough forwards under contract to field a team even if we don't know which line they'd be on. And while there are questions as to those lines, due to the retirement of a certain Captain Nicklas Lidstrom, the defense, which has been a solid and mostly stable group is in a greater flux (maybe we need a capacitor) than ever before. What really needs to be done????
Pairing #1 - Kronwall and Ericsson
It's hard to argue that Kronwall shouldn't be in the top pair. He's regarded as the leader of the defense with Lidstrom now gone. And if Suter is brought in, Kronwall is still the most knowledgable and veteran defenseman on the team. He's developed his defensive prowess and offensive prowess to match his hard hits and from that has earned respect in the Red Wings locker room and around the league as being more than a heavy hitter. JJ made mention in here that Suter and Kronwall are both accustomed to playing the same side. It is not likely that either one would make the switch. And frankly, I believe that is the correct move. I do not want to play them together. Since Jonathan Ericsson has apparently gotten past the wall he hit two years ago, I believe that he should be paired with Kronwall in pairing #1. He provides a big body to push guys around in front of the net, he learned to play more stay at home and not chase as much, and with his long reach can protect more space. Kronwall is an excellent skater and has more offensive upside, so by letting Ericsson play near the net, Kronwall can be the rover in the Red Wings zone and be a part of breakouts, jumping into offensive rushes, and push the puck up ice. He can still get those open ice hits and know that Ericsson can play responsibly and get back to prevent the open breakaways. By pairing them here, they then will be acclimated to playing together on the PK. If this pair plays as well as I think they should, Ericsson should be extended 2-4 more years. No more, no less.
Pairing #2 - Suter and ???
This pairing is a lot harder to figure out without FAs being signed. If Ryan Suter is signed, he's here. No doubt about it. If Matt Carle is signed, he is here. No doubt about it. If both are signed, they both are here, no doubt about it. But if we whiff on both, there's a lot of head-shaking and hand-wringing. Wideman and Jackman would probably play here too, but I don't feel they'd be the same. Any way you try to match it up, Suter is a "must have" for the second pairing. His size and skill demand his placement here. It would just be a matter of time to figure out who partners best with him. The good news in that is that I don't think it matters. Suter will make up for the mistakes made by his partner.
But will Suter be willing place his pride behind him and not be the 'top pairing' defenseman? He'll clearly be the #1 or #1A defenseman on the team, but he won't part of the best pair unless either he or Kronwall switch sides of the ice to play with each other. I think he's capable of playing on the second pair if asked to do so. Give it 3 years and Suter and Smith will be the top pair. Probably 2 years.
Pairing #3 - White and ???
Another set of question marks. Let's play a little 'what if.' If Quincey is resigned: I'd rather see Smith with Suter and Quincey with White. It would give Ian White a good sized partner on ice with him. If Carle is signed, he'll play with Suter and Smith will be with White. I don't really like the idea of Kindl and White. White really disappointed me. I really thought his signing was going to be a solid pickup even though he wouldn't actually replace Rafalski. Maybe it showed Rafalski's greatness rather than White's average-ness.
In the same posting as above, JJ mentions that Quincey will be resigned. I DO believe that Quincey will benefit greatly from training camp and preseason. But I worry that he won't get past his bad habits and dumb penalties. White had TC and Preseason with the Wings and he didn't amaze people at the end of the season. I also would like for Ouellett, Pyett, and Sproul to get as much TC and Preseason time as possible.
Either way, White and Quincey or White and Smith, it's a better pairing than most other teams have for their 3rd pair defensemen.
Healthy Scratch - Kindl
I'm not really going to get into this, but Kindl excelled in this role. He's a better player than his contract (not be much) and he's a better 7th defenseman than most teams have.
Currently under contract we have Kronwall, Ericsson, White, Smith, and Kindl. Kronwall for 7, Ericsson for 2, and the rest for 1. Kindl and Smith will be RFAs.
First off, Smith will be extended.
Secondly, as I said before, if Ericsson and Kronwall excel together (which I believe they would), then Ericsson should be extend no less than 2 and no more than 4 years.
Third, Suter will be signed to a minimum 7 year deal. Probably 8 to put him at 35 when he hits the market again.
Fourth, White will be gone after next year. Unless he scores 20 and assists on 50 and wins the Norris, he's not coming back. Period. Too many others ready to take his place.
So with that in mind, if Quincey is resigned, how long should his contract be???? Let's assume Suter is signed and no one else on defense. So for '12-13 your D looks like this (based on my thoughts):
1/2 - Kronwall/Ericsson
3/4 - Suter/Smith
5/6 - White/Quincey
7 - Kindl
But for '13-14 if Quincey gets a 2 year deal and Ericsson is extended, then you have 1 roster spot available and 3 guys knocking on the door. That doesn't even begin to mention Justin Schultz who has been linked to the Red Wings.
So If I were in Holland's shoes...I would put Quincey on a 1 year contract. Let him walk after next year or if he is only playing so-so, move him at the deadline, insert Kindl with White and bring up Sproul or Ouellet to be the 7th defenseman. One of them should be ready to make the jump. The last thing I would do is keep Quincey over Ericsson. Between the two, Ericsson has already proven his value to the team this last year. He needs to do it again, but Quincey has a lot more to prove and will probably cost you a lot more for less talent. If someone makes a run for him this offseason, don't be afraid to let him go now.