Born: March 7, 1990
Birthplace: Macomb Township, MI
Weight: 191 lbs
Path to the Red Wings: Undrafted UFA Signing - 2013
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent (2015-16 Salary = $2,187,500)
In my experience, DeKeyser is one of the more well-liked members of the Detroit Red Wings. It helps having a story like his. Hailing from the Detroit-area, playing for an in-state university, and choosing to sign with the Wings as an undrafted UFA will give you a lot of fans and some patience as well.
Since he was signed, Detroit’s defensive corps overall has continued to slip as they have searched for defensive leaders and difference makers. One of the bright spots has been Danny DeKeyser. He established himself quickly as a responsible shutdown-type defender, with great composure, and all the tools to be solid in the top two pairings.
This year, DeKeyser was saddled with some of the most defensive responsibility on the entire team. He took the tough starts against tough competition, and was largely successful in his role. Adding to this difficulty was the fact that no defenseman spent more time playing with Ericsson than he. As was mentioned in a previous grade, his corsi suffered. Still, he was Detroit’s defensive cornerstone, especially with the sharp decline of Kronwall this year. Bonus - I don’t think Lucic speared him in the groin this year!
How He Did vs. Expectations
DeKeyser was expected to handle more back-end defensive responsibilities and continue to develop his breakout pass and offensive abilities. He has been developing into a workhorse for the Wings defense and was expected to keep making the necessary strides to be a dependable, high-usage top-4 defenseman.
So, how did he do?
DeKeyser consistently played against the toughest competition, and he took the most defensive-zone starts while ranking 3rd in points among defensemen. He took a step forward as a shutdown defenseman, and largely was able to fare well against the elite competition that he faced. He also set a personal record in goals scored in a season. However, he did not take as large a step forward as many hoped and he still has a ways to go.
Where did he struggle? His point totals were down from the year before from 31 to 20, and his goal total increased from 2 to 8. His Corsi for percentage dropped from 54.2% to 48.5%. It is absolutely worth noting that he saw over 65 minutes less time on the powerplay this past season, and his assignments have never been more difficult.
How much of this is on the difficult situations where he was employed, including his decreased powerplay usage? How much of this is on the overall slump Detroit’s defense? Finally, how much of this is on DeKeyser?
I am comfortable ascribing much of his points woe with his assignments, deployment, and drastic decrease in powerplay time. However, I can’t chalk-up all of this to the above reasons. He had similar average time-on-ice to the previous year, and his points from the power play last year still would not have gotten him to his previous points total. The entire team struggled to score this year so I don’t pin this entirely on DeKeyser. He was part of the receding tide of scoring. Nevertheless, he was a part of it.
Final Grade - B
Danny DeKeyser was, in my opinion, the best and most dependable Red Wings defenseman this season. He took the added responsibility and played well in the difficult situations. Danny was generally safe at home, although he did spend too much time there.
He played well for a shutdown, second-pairing defenseman and at this position I believe that he could be among the best of his peers in this category. With a lack of a true number one defenseman, and arguably the lack of an entire top-pairing, DeKeyser was needed to play beyond this role. Like most of the team, he had trouble putting up points and his corsi numbers took a dive (both with and without Ericsson).
By some measures it was a tough year for DeKeyser. When weighed against the situations he had to handle, it was a fairly solid season. If the best player on the opposing team had the puck and I could only pick one current Wings defenseman I would choose him.