We've been through The Incompletes.
We've covered The Grinders.
Now it's time to take a look at the kids hanging out on the blueline.
#4 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 10, 1987
|2012 - Jakub Kindl||4||9||13||15||28|
Kindl will end up spending most his time in the Leino Lounge. He'll get a chance with Colaiacovo hurt, but he isn't going to play ahead of Kronwall, Ericsson, Smith, Quincey or White. Kindl will have to really shine the first few games to stick when Carlo returns.
I think it's pretty safe to say that the 26-year-old elder statesman of this group completely exceeded expectations. In our season preview of the defensemen, it's clear that we didn't really expect Jakub Kindl to make the jump to the next level and finally get it. I'm more than happy to eat crow on this one. Kindl did get the chance to play regularly with Carlo Colaiacovo getting hurt at the beginning of the year and he took the ball and he ran with it. He put up a career high in goals (4), tied his career high in points (13), was 2nd on the team in plus/minus (+15) and earned himself regular time on the 2nd power play unit. Let's not forget that he did this all in half a season thanks to the lockout. Kindl was tied with Jonathan Ericsson in points. Good for 2nd among the Red Wings defense. Kindl's production got better in the playoffs. He lead the D with 5 points in 14 games. I'll say it again, Kindl went above and beyond anything that was expected of him this season.
Kindl's success this past season means much higher expectations in his 2013-14 campaign. He's no longer going to be the constant throw in among trade discussions. It's seems like the Red Wings patience with him is paying off. Mike Babcock pushed all the right buttons in 2013, hopefully he can continue to motivate Kindl to take another step. Let's not forget that Kindl is a RFA this summer. He's not going to command $3-4 million per season, but he will get a significant raise from his $833k cap hit. A higher salary means higher production. Depending on what the Wings do in free agency or on the trade market, Kindl should progress into the 2nd scorer on the blueline behind Niklas Kronwall. He's going to continue to get PP time and will easily be given more responsibility. He should be a fixture on the 2nd pairing.
Season Grade: A
#2 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 08, 1989
|2012 - Brendan Smith||0||8||8||1||36|
The crazy expectation would be the Calder. The more realistic expectation is top 4 minutes and playing in all situation. If Smith doesn't end up on the 2nd pair D by the end of the season, it will be a bit of a disappointment. No one is expecting him to be the second coming of Lidstrom, but he's going to get his cup of coffee in the top 4 and on the top pair. He has to make sure he stays there. He had 7 points in 14 games last season in the NHL. If he can put up 15-20 points and play in every faze of the game, maybe he can be in the Calder discussion.
Disappointment could be a word used to describe Brendan Smith's season. You might use that word and I would have a tough time arguing with you, but I'm going to go with a phrase to describe his season. Let's say it was a "work in progress." Calder? Samsonite! I was way off! Smith did end up on the 2nd pair D, but you really could argue that the Wings had a top pair D and two third pairs. I'm sure J.J.'s advance stats can back it up, but if you go by the eye test… Smith struggled. It was quite noticeable in the postseason too. I'd be really happy to blame all his issues on being stuck in a pair with Kyle Quincey, but I would just be lying to myself. Smith has always had the ability to make up for his mistakes and recover because of his raw talent and natural abilities. He's a good athlete and a great skater. That was enough in the AHL, NCAA and lower levels he played in. He was just flat out better than others. In the NHL… not so much. When Smith gets caught at this level, the puck ends up in the back of the net. At times I thought he was trying to do too much. He knows he isn't Nicklas Lidstrom, but he's trying to live up to the hype of being a first round pick and having an old blog named after him. Expecting 15-20 points was a stretch. I knew that when I wrote his season expectations, but I am a little disappointed in the 8 points he put up this year. Especially the fact he had zero goals and wasn't really used a ton on the power play. His offense did come through more in the playoffs. He netted 2 goals and 3 assists to tie Kindl for most point be a D man with 5. I think Henrik Zetterberg summed up Smith's season the best when he said that he makes a lot happen on the ice… for both teams.
The talent and ability is already there. Smith's biggest challenge is to improve his mental game. He has to play a smarter game and, sometimes, try to do less. The kid isn't going to be a bust. He's only 24. That's incredibly young in the Red Wings organization. Plus, we just watched Kindl go from looking lost to finding his game. It takes time to adjust to the NHL. Smith is going to get there too. Another similarity to Kindl is the fact he's a RFA. His not so great season means he will command less. I'm just spitballin' here but I would expect his cap hit to in around $1.25M or so. If there is anything to be excited about it's that he has the experience under his belt now. It may have been painful at times, but Smith now understands the league better and what it takes. Thanks to Kindl's improvement, Smith's sophomore season should come with less expectations and pressure.
Season Grade: C-
#23 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
July 16, 1990
|2012 - Brian Lashoff||1||4||5||-10||15|
Injuries happened and Brian Lashoff and was thrown into the fire. The undrafted defenseman made his NHL debut in the 2nd game of the season against the Blue Jackets and scored the Red Wings first goal of the season. It was his only tally of the year. He also added 4 assists to go with his team worst minus-10 rating. Do I really care that he was a team worst in plus/minus? Nope. Lashoff wasn't on anyone's radar when it came to playing this season. The fact that he stepped in and wasn't a complete dumpster fire, or worse, Brett Lebda, says a lot about him. There were times he didn't look like a rookie and there were times he did. What do you expect though? He's a young, inexperienced, depth defenseman. This season was a great learning experience for him.
He was re-signed by the Red Wings during the season and is on a one way contract next year with a very cheap $725K cap hit for the next three seasons. He may become expendable this offseason thanks to the player we'll talk about next. Depending on what the Wings add to the blueline via free agency or trades, it could come down to Lashoff or Colaiacovo for the 7th and final D spot on the roster. If the Wings don't make a move for a defenseman, I would bet money Lashoff sticks around and Colaiacovo is bought out or traded. He's a future, bottom pair, stay at home, non flashy depth defenseman. It's a role he can succeed at moving forward.
Season Grade: B
#65 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 7, 1990
|2012 - Danny DeKeyser||0||1||1||4||2|
The Red Wings didn't f*ck up and got this kid signed. It may have seemed like it was too close to call at times, but Kenny Holland got the job done and, oh man, the Wings may have gotten themselves a real player. The sample size is not very big for Danny DeKeyser, but the kid has all the tools. He got the chance to play in the regular season and he made the most of his opportunity and played during the Wings crucial stretch run to make the playoffs. He played on the PK and even saw some time with the man advantage. It would be fair to argue that at one point he could have been considered the Wings 3rd best defenseman. He got better the more he played. If it wasn't for Teemu Selanne breaking his thumb in the first round, the Wings playoff run may have ended differently.
It's not crazy to think that DeKeyser and Kindl could make up Detroit's 2nd pair next season. We could even possibly see him get some time alongside Kronwall. He will struggle at times and there are going to be some growing pains. That happens with all young defensemen. Hopefully fans won't overreact if he goes into a slump for a few games. He's under contract for one more year with a $1.35M cap hit. I have zero doubt that the Wings will get him signed to an extension. He's going to play a lot for this team next season and for many years to come.
Season Grade: A
You can check out the complete WIIM season preview for all the defensemen here
We take a look at how the rookie forwards faired during the lockout shortened season.