[Edit 12/05 - Article moved back to front page because even the Detroit diggers are calling for Quincey to get gone now]
When looking at the Red Wings' roster for the least-popular players, you won't have to get far to find Kyle Quincey, the 28-year old D-Man who, thanks to a 2008 roster crunch ended up costing the Red Wings not only the 4th round pick they used to draft him in 2003, but also the Wings' 2012 1st round pick, used to re-obtain him from the Tampa Bay Lightning, who just moments earlier gave Colorado Steve Downie in exchange for him.
For those of us who digest every game, it's not hard to see why Quincey isn't terribly well-liked. In the 98 regular season and playoff games since he was reacquired, Quincey has managed to score just 13 points. Considering his 91 points in 226 games played away from the Wings, this is a significant drop-off in production. Let's go the visual:
The tiny bar for 2010-11 was the season that he played only 21 games and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. The other bars are a pretty clear indication of a decline in output. So how much of that is Quincey's adjustment/sucking and how much is on usage?
Ok, so it's partially usage. Quincey went from being a big part of top power play units (on bad teams) to an afterthought on the Wings' 2nd unit. That's bound to cut down on anybody's output. He's played in top four situations everywhere since being claimed and, except for very tough situational usage in Colorado for the 2009-10 season, has had generally higher zone starts. Overall, his 5-on-5 points output was highest in 2009-10 at 0.80 points/60. In fact, his current pace at even strength is pretty comparable to what it was back in 2008-09 when he had his best offensive season ever with the Kings (he seriously scored a ton on the PP in that year).
So what else?
What I thought might be happening is that Quincey simply gets a lot of shot attempts blocked and that was severely choking his numbers. Looking at his numbers going back to his Los Angeles days, his ratio of total attempts on net to those which get through is pretty consistent though. For every 60 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey played, Quincey will have roughly half of his attempts either miss the net or get blocked. Last season, he saw a noticeable dip in the total amount of attempts and that's a part of the reason why his numbers fell off, but so far this season, his rate of shots and attempts is higher now than in his two most-productive years.
Somewhere since acquiring Quincey, Mike Babcock got the idea that he should be playing the more-defensive role in the Red Wings' blueline system. Generally, there's one guy who hangs back more at the blue line and abandons the offensive zone first to retrieve pucks/deal with rushes. This player also generally plays more of the net-front role in his own end, worrying more about clearing pucks and bodies away than in handling the puck and moving transition.
In his time back in Detroit, Quincey has shown absolute flashes of brilliance playing his own net-front. He's got a bit of a mean streak and is better than average at battling for position in front of the net. However, those brilliant flashes are interspersed with penalties and coverage mistakes, caused mainly by him getting caught chasing players.
For those of you keeping score at home, that's one coverage mistake leading directly to a goal against every two games. The closest anybody else has come to matching that was Niklas Kronwall's -20.5 coverage adjustments in 48 games last season. As a reminder, Kronwall also put up 29 points while making all those coverage gaffes which was good for 6th in the league. That doesn't fully excuse errors, but I feel a lot better about defensive lapses when they come from guys who are actually showing offensive upside.
Whether it was early promise unfulfilled or luck evening out, Quincey is in over his head in his current role with the Red Wings. I personally feel that if he and Brendan Smith will remain together as a pair, the Wings would be better served to make Smith the guy who has to chase more pucks back into the neutral/defensive zone because Smith is a much better skater than Quincey and a better puck-handler. I feel Smith could drive zone resets and quick transitions much better which would benefit the Wings overall. This change would require that Quincey take a few more chances in the offensive zone to see if he can find the touch that made him a higher-scoring player in the past. However, I'd still have Quincey remain more of the net-front/stay-at-home defender in his own zone, as I simply don't trust his outlet pass and his first three steps are too slow to outrun a forechecker-turned-backchecker.
Kyle Quincey is the second-highest paid defenseman on a team that's strapped for cap space right now. He's not playing well enough to have much in the way of trade value, but his pending UFA status makes him a potential rental and a not-awful gamble if it's simply a matter of usage/chemistry holding him back in Detroit. The Red Wings have a number of young prospects in Grand Rapids who might be able to flourish with a chance to take a more-regular role with the big club or at the very least would make good additions to a trade package which returns a replacement blueliner with a similar cap hit. If moving him is not a viable option (and waiving him most-certainly is not), then I'd like to see a gameday adjustment to his playing duties to take better advantage of his strengths while minimizing weaknesses.
One way or another, something should change, because things aren't working as they're currently set.