The 2013-14 Red Wings needed to see a lot of improvement from their blueline this season if they were going to have any success. These two characters had their ups and downs and more downs and some slight ups too. It was an interesting season for the Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith.
This was a pair that needed to succeed. Quite frankly, they failed together. With that said, they weren't completely awful when they were apart though. There needed to be improvement from Smith. The team and the fanbase needed to see the former #1 pick take that next step to becoming a regular contributor to this team. And Quincey? The team and the fanbase needed to know that the #1 pick traded for him wasn't a complete waste.
So how did they do? Let's hop on the made up grade evaluation train and find out, shall we?
Kyle Quincey brings a lot of emotions to the table. At least he does to my table. Here's a guy that isn't a complete train wreck. Of course, he's not a great defenseman either. He just has that "traded for a 1st round pick" stigma attached to him. We all know that Kenny Holland paid a pretty high price to acquire #27 and, well, he's not worth anything near that. The 1st round price tag put some high expectations on him initially. He failed to live up to those, but was he really that bad? I'm not so sure.
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.
Let's see here…
20 points this season? FAIL.
Positive plus/minus rating? FAIL.
Average 20 minutes a game? PASS.
I like Quincey. At least I want to like Quincey. I keep going back to the fact that he was acquired for a 1st round pick. That's a valuable asset. Yet right now, Quincey is not a valuable asset. Passing only one of my three expectations is not good. I'm not going to get into any amazing in depth analytical breakdown here of his season. If you want that, check out Caleb's superb article here. I'm going to grade him solely on my expectations from the preseason. To me, Quincey didn't pass. I wanted more from him.
He wasn't a disaster though. His 13 points were below expectations, but I also expected him to get more power play time (that went to Danny DeKeyser). Once Mike Babcock got away from the Quincey-Smith shitshow of a pairing, Quincey did find a nice role alongside DeKeyser. They formed a decent duo and at moments Quincey had some nice games. Hell, that OT win over the Penguins, #27 make a nice play defensively that helped lead to Daniel Alfredsson's buzzer beater goal. He had some shining moments. On top of that, he stayed healthy. Say what you will about not wanting him on the ice, but I'll take Quincey over Kindl and Lashoff any day of the week. He played 82 games. Considering the Red Wings had a hell of hard time staying healthy. I'll tip my cap on that one.
Oh yeah, and he gave us this (Please click that link. Please. Do it. Do it now).
Brendan Smith had a season that totally changed the view of defensemen both locally and beyond.
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.
I feel like I cheated on this one back before the season started. Improvement? Check. If that was my expectations. Well, Smith passed. I think we can all agree it wasn't an easy going for the young defenseman. Two things happened to Smith this season that I think really helped his progress and growth. The first was getting away from Quincey and the second was Jonathan Ericsson getting injured. Of course, Ericsson getting injured hurt the Wings as a team, but I personally believe it helped Smith's development. Right around that time was when he started to show some real signs of that expected improvement.
The numbers aren't there still. He only had 19 points in 71 games. That was tied with Jakub Kindl and four points back of DeKeyser. But the aforementioned blueliners both got a solid amount of time with the man advantage. Smith did not. What was there for the former first round pick was the chance to see the ice in a pairing with Niklas Kronwall. I believe that time on the top pair was incredibly valuable to his growth. To me, around that home-and-home with the Wild was when Smith started to do well down the stretch. He had a gaff or two in the playoffs, but man, he was one of the better looking Wings defenseman on the ice against the Bruins.
Let's Go Red Wings.