Training camp has opened and roster spots are being fought for. We've been bringing you previews of the players expected to either be on the team when camp breaks or in the mix for one of the final spots. Today we're looking at a very maligned pair of defensemen.
There aren't many players criticized more than our next two players, although one of them had a good season last year. The other? Well, we'll get to that.
#27 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Aug 12, 1985
Perhaps no signing was as unpopular last summer as Kyle Quincey. I expressed my thoughts on the matter thusly:
Signing Kyle Quincey is like striking out at the bar, going home, texting an old girlfriend, getting no response, then making out with a mop— Graham H (@GrahamWIIM) July 1, 2014
However, Quincey paired with Danny DeKeyser to form Detroit's most stable duo last season. Despite everyone's worst fears, Quincey was pretty good, putting up a career high in points as a Red Wing while maintaining positive possession numbers and not playing sheltered zone starts. Quincey is in the final year of his 2-year extension and will be a UFA after the season is over.
Strengths: Quincey got back to basics last year, relying on his positioning and skating to be the steady defender many thought the Wings were getting when they traded for him. He reduced the number of penalties he took, and was used as a 2nd-pairing defenseman on the penalty kill.
Weaknesses: Despite increasing his offensive output, 18 points is not a good showing for a 2nd-pairing guy, even with a lack of power play time. He can still struggle with taking penalties.
Expectations: The addition of Mike Green and subsequent pairing with DeKeyser means that Quincey will likely be relegated to 3rd pairing duties. All in all, he's not a bad player to have in that position, as he's a guy who when he's playing well is just doing his job and doing it consistently, which is all you could ask for from a 3rd pairing D. It's also important that given his contract status and Detroit's defensive logjam, he could be a potential trade target.
#2 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 08, 1989
Speaking of unpopular signings, Brendan Smith was given a 2-year extension and raise after a lot of inconsistent play last year. The former first-round pick has failed to live up to expectations after spending several years in the AHL, and it's time to wonder if this latest contract is a "put up or shut up" type of deal that could ultimately see him become the player the Wings hope he can be or his departure.
Strengths: When Smith is on, he's a good player. He's got good offensive instincts and his overall possession numbers are quite solid. He really does have good natural talent, particularly physically. He's got nice hair.
Weaknesses: Uh, where to begin? It's hard to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with Smith, but it all seems to come down to mental mistakes. He's got the physical ability to be a good defenseman in the NHL, and it's understood that hockey is made up of a lot of little plays. But Smith seems very prone to making a pretty big mistake at any given moment in a game. Is he trying too hard? Is he overthinking his play? Is he unable to adjust to the speed of the NHL? I don't know the answer to any of those questions, but if Smith is going to develop into the defenseman the Wings need, he needs to have a very good year.
Expectations: With the top 5 defense positions seemingly locked up and a new coach in place, Smith could find himself battling for ice time depending on how he and his competition plays. He would seem to have the inside track, so it's really up to him. Personally, I choose to believe that this is his breakout year. I think we finally get the Brendan Smith we've been waiting for, and by the end of the year he supplants Jonathan Ericsson as Niklas Kronwall's partner on the top pair.