One of these things is not like the other?
Two young defensemen going in two different directions. One will definitely be sticking around. The other, well, he might have played his last game in Detroit. Which one is which?!? hahaha Brendan Smith is the shitty one.
Now that the intro is out of the way, here is the preview for these two kids at the beginning of the season, now let's see how they stacked up to my lofty expectations.
#65 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 7, 1990
Preview Recap: At the time DeKeyser's preview was written, he wasn't even under contract yet. Thankfully that was settled before the puck dropped on opening night. Improvement and growth were the expectations for DeKeyser entering the 2014-15 season. Were we expecting him to become the second coming of Nicklas Lidstrom? No, of course not, but he needed to gain more experience, earn more ice time and take on more responsibilities.
Season Recap: DeKeyser played 15 more games this past season than the year before. He saw his point total jump up from 23 to 31. Going off the eye test, DeKeyser improved. In fact, I'd say at times during the season he was the Red Wings best defenseman. Now, that might have more to say about the state of the Wings defense than DeKeyser's ability, but it what it is. You can't take that away from him. DeKeyser actually averaged :43 seconds less per game in ice time, but his PK time on ice was up. In the season preview, I wrote that I wanted to see him play more physical. He had 10 more registered hits. So he was I guess (take that stat for what you will). Overall, DeKeyser got better. He did improve, but I do wish we saw even a little bit more out of him. He might never be a #1 defenseman, but he can still be a solid 2/3.
Final Grade: B
#2 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 08, 1989
Preview Recap: Expectations weren't sky high for Smith entering the season, but improvement was something we all wanted and needed to see. We expected Smith to finally "get it." He played well in the 2014 playoffs while paired with Niklas Kronwall and the hope was there that the pair might continue. Smith was expected to finally put his tools to good use.
Yup. It was a frustrating season for Smith. Did he finally "get it?" I don't know.
Did he stay with Kronwall? hahahaha no.
Well he's an offensive defenseman, how about scoring more goals? Nope.
But he at least put up more points right? He actually scored 6 less in 5 more games.
Hey! He was a minus-2 though! Smith matched the same +/- from the year before and he had exactly 68 penalty minutes for the 2nd year-in-a-row. He's clearly consistent in those categories. When it comes to ice time, Smith went the wrong direction there too. He dropped from 18:23 per game to 17:53, but he was asked to do more when it came to specialty teams. His shorthanded time on ice per game went from :48 seconds to 1:13 and on the power play he went from :10 seconds to :13! Way to go, Brendan.
Now, is this bad season all Smith's fault? Probably. But let's not kid ourselves here, Mike Babcock didn't trust him at all. Will that change when Jeff Blashill takes over next season? That's still to be seen. JJ has mentioned that Blashill uses his defensemen more in the offensive zone. Smith is supposed to be an offensively skilled D-man... so maybe Blashill will utilize those skills more and put him in a better position to succeed? That's still TBD.
Quite frankly, with Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet both NHL ready, time might have run out for Smith to get another chance to prove himself. He very well may be starting 2015 with a new team.
Final Grade: F