Mike Green represents the biggest UFA foray for the Red Wings in terms of splashiness since probably Marian Hossa. That of course is never a guarantee that it will work out (seeing as the second-biggest since then was just bought out), but it certainly made for a bigger headline than Wings fans have become accustomed to on July 1st. That feels weird to say given that the pre-cap Wings lived for splashy UFA signings, but the times have changed.
The important thing here is that this has the potential to make a real difference to the results for this team. I've long expressed my displeasure with the DeKeyser/Quincey pairing, not because they were horribly bad or anything, but because it' was a tad too underwhelming for a second pairing on a team that's trying to contend. Detroit's share of possession with the two of them on the ice has been consistently middling, and I'm hoping that swapping in Green will help Detroit spend more time in the offensive zone, not to mention help them do more with it once they get there. Let's take a look at them both individually.
#65 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 7, 1990
The young left-handed defenseman has continued to be a generally steady guy who has yet to find a defensive partner that is obviously perfect for him. The hope is that we'll see a small step forward as he plays with a right-handed defenseman for basically the first time in his NHL career.
Strengths: DeKeyser's greatest strength is probably his ability to smoothly facilitate transition with his strong skating and confident play with the puck. Once he regains control of the puck, you can be pretty confident that he won't relinquish it easily. Zone exits just aren't that stressful when DeKeyser has the puck, and that's a valuable trait.
Weaknesses: I think he's a bit too conservative at the point of entering the offensive zone. The main thing I didn't love about the DDK/Quincey pairing was Detroit's tendency to dump the puck into the offensive zone rather than maintain possession when they were out there. For DeKeyser this conservatism in transition doesn't seem totally necessary, as he's an above-average puck-handler. It would be nice to see him take better advantage of his abilities.
Expectations: If he remains paired with Green, I do actually expect him to remain pretty low-key once he's in the offensive zone. Green is best as an offensive roamer, and DeKeyser may be at his best when he just works to help Green take some chances and use his great skating to cover for him when it occasionally doesn't work out.
#25 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Oct 12, 1985
As discussed above, Mike Green is the big splashy unknown for this upcoming season. Green could be the missing piece that gives Detroit a chance to dethrone Tampa in that Atlantic, or he could flame out Weiss-style. The upside though is tantalizing, and it's lots of fun to speculate about the possibilities.
Strengths: The guy scored 31 goals from the blueline once. These last two seasons he's played under a bad coach (Oates) and an overly conservative one (Trotz) with waning ice time, and he still put up 9 and 10 respectively, which would have still been better than any Red Wing defenseman turned in the last two seasons. Blashill also praised his ability to start the transition out of the defensive zone, which I think is a skill that may be better utilized under Blashill.
Weaknesses: I think saying "his defense isn't that great" is kind of a soft cop-out people always say about non-Lidstrom defensemen who score a lot, so let's look for something more off the beaten path. For a more tangible weakness, let's go with health. He played 82 games in the 07-08 season, and since then he's played 68, 75, 49, 32, 35 (short season), 70, 72. This is different from a guy regularly in the lineup who's gotten a couple fluke injuries, this is a guy who routinely misses games here and there with smaller injuries. You just have to accept he's going to miss a dozen games this year, and you have to hope he can make it to the playoffs in one piece.
Expectations: I expect an increased role for him as both his PP and 5v5 competition is weaker than it was in Washington. With that in mind, I think matching his 10 goal, 35 assist performance from last season is a pretty easy target for him that Wings fans would happily take. Anything else would be a pleasant bonus.