Holy crap. Hockey is almost here. That means it's time to brush up on who's who when it comes to the Detroit Red Wings. What have we covered so far? The grinders have been checked off the list. Whether you prefer the wingers or centers. We've got you covered. If you're looking to read about the defensmen that we wish weren't here… well then we've got you covered in that department too.
Today, though, it's time to talk about the kids who really aren't kids anymore. While both Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith might not be considered kids anymore, they've still got a lot of experience to gain at the NHL level.
#65 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 7, 1990
The Danny that we actually like and want on this team just happens to be the Danny that isn't even signed yet. The 24-year-old is still relatively inexperienced when it comes to the NHL. He has 76 regular season games under his belt and an additional seven in the playoffs. That's just over one full season. There's still a lot of room for DeKeyser to grow.
Strengths: DeKeyser is solid defenseman. He's right up there near Jonathan Ericsson as the biggest d-man on the roster. He sees the ice well. He isn't known for being a top offensive guy, but he's got some skills to put up some points here and there. He's smart on the ice and can play in all situations if called upon.
Weaknesses: I've personally never been a guru by any means when it comes to fancy stats. I'm not anti-fancy stats, but I'll freely admit it's just not something that's my forte. But I know just enough (and have read enough from my talented co-workers on this site) to know that DeKeyser could be better when it comes to zone entries. He dumps the puck in quite a bit. He had the worst rate of any defenseman on the team last season.
Expectations: Sign a damn contract. I think, first and foremost, that has to be the top expectation when it comes to DeKeyser. Ken Holland didn't do himself any favors when he re-signed Kyle Quincey. Now it's just about finding that magic bridge contract that falls somewhere between Quincey and Smith. On the ice, I'd like to see him be a little more physical. Depending on who he's paired with and what his exact role is will determine just what type of game he has to play. Bottom line is that more experience and more ice time is going to make him a better player. Steady improvements in every part of his game is not only possible, but expected.
#2 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 08, 1989
For me, my relationship with Smith is love-love. For other fans/readers/hockey pundits, it's love-hate. Everyone knows Smith's skills are there, it's just about execution. When Ericsson went down last year, it gave Smith a chance to play a bigger role. He did alright too. Other than almost being murdered by Zdeno Chara, I'd say last year's run towards the playoffs and 1st round debacle against the Bruins was a bright spot for Smith. Now can he build upon it?
Strengths: He's awesome. Smith has all the raw talent and skill you want in a hockey player. While DeKeyser may have struggled with zone entries, Smith excelled. The sentence "All hail Brendan Smith" was actually written in a post by someone other than myself. He must be doing something right. Add that to the fact that he actually made Niklas Kronwall a better player, it's hard to argue that the Red Wings just might have a real solid defenseman on their hands.
Weaknesses: He's cocky. He makes the bonehead Quincey-like mistake every now and then. One shift he'll make a beautiful play and it's like "holy crap Smith. I need to change my pants," but the next shift he does something so dumb and it's like "holy crap Smith. I need to change my pants" (and it makes us all that much more thankful there's still a goalie as the last line of defense). He can get himself into trouble and that causes the coaching staff to have less trust in him. Playing on a pair with Quincey is also a weakness. They bring the worst out of each other.
Expectations: The sun, the moon and the stars. Maybe a Norris too? Hart? Conn Smyth? Is that really too much to expect? Yes, yes it is. But what I do expect is that mythological jump to happen. I want to watch the Red Wings play this season and think to myself, "Hell yes… he finally gets it." Keep him with Kronwall. Trust him more. It's time for Smith to become the player we (I?) all dreamed he could and would become. Maybe it's still too early, but I hope like hell the light bulb turns on for good and it's not just a flash in the pan for a few games. The tools are there. Time to use them properly.
Let's Go Red Wings.