Dave kicked off our series of preview posts diving into the goaltending. Graham followed up with the leaders on the blue line. Today I'm going to bring you a look at two defensemen who are often on the sh*tlist among Red Wings fans (and rightfully so in most cases)
Thankfully, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith won't be relied upon as much as Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, but the duo is going to have to step up their level of play if the Wings expect to make noise in the Atlantic Division this season (that's still weird to type).
Strengths: It might not appear like Quincey has a lot of strengths… and that's probably because he doesn't. But, one thing he can do is eat minutes. Last season, Quincey logged almost 20 minutes a game (19:13). That was good for 5th on the team and 3rd among the defensemen. With the exception of last season, he can net a few points on the offensive end too. In his last 3 full seasons, when healthy, he's put up at least 26 points. That's not bad for a 2nd pair defenseman. He's also a pretty good model.
Weaknesses: I feel like carelessness might be a good word here. It always seems like we can count on him to take a bad penalty at the worst time… or fall down… or make a incredibly poor turnover. He's like Ericsson before Ericsson all the sudden became good.
Expectations: If Quincey can put up 20 points and finish in the positive range when it comes to plus/minus… I'd be happy with that. My biggest expectation is for him to eat minutes. He needs to play 20 minutes a game and help relieve some of the pressure off Kronwall and Ericsson.
Strengths: Smith can skate. He's incredibly gifted offensively. Plus, he'll kick the crap out of you if necessary. He possesses the raw talent and skill set that you wish your prospects had. Of course, that might not always translate to the ice (actually… it rarely did last season), but he has all the tools to be a top pair defenseman.
Weaknesses: He thinks too much instead of just playing hockey. He takes dumb penalties. He tries to get by on solely raw talent. Smith is like a puzzle. All the pieces are there… it's just a matter of putting it all together. Inconsistent is another word that might fit here. Like Henrik Zetterberg said last postseason, he makes things happen for both teams. One shift it's a brilliant pass to set up a goal. The next shift is a dumb turnover that leads to a goal against.
Expectations: Improvement. Improvement. Improvement. He put up 8 points in 23 games last season and they were all assists. I'm not going to put a specific number here as an expectation. I don't care if Smith puts up 10 points or 40 points. I think us fans just want to see his game improve all around. We want to see that top flight prospect that will anchor the D with Danny DeKeyser for the next decade. Cut down on some of the mistakes. Just play a simple game. Be more reliable.
Let's Go Red Wings.