Detroit Red Wings Player Previews: Eventual Defensemen Castoffs
Kind of a brutal title for three guys who are under contract for not only this season, but next season too, right? Indeed, it is; nonetheless, it's pretty clear that these three are the guys whose jobs are up for grabs for kids in Grand Rapids right now, and the Wings aren't building the future around any of these guys. None of them are particularly great, but they will still play some kind of role for this year's Red Wings, so let's take a look at each of them and get an idea of what to expect.
#27 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Aug 12, 1985
I likened Kyle Quincey to McDonald's in a quirky offseason post. At the time, my rationale was the following: "You don't necessarily go out of your way to choose McDonald's, sometimes you just end up getting it by default if all the better options seem too expensive." This proved to be uncomfortably prescient when Ken Holland panic-signed Quincey to a contract after striking out on literally every UFA he pursued. As we've discussed in the past, Kyle Quincey isn't a terrible hockey player - in fact he's downright decent. However, "downright decent" is not nearly good enough to be an good second pairing anchor. Quincey's performance may actually hinge on whether or not other players do well enough to push him down to the third pairing or not.
Strengths: He's a veteran who has played many roles in his career on a team that is a bit young on the back end. He's actually quite a consistent player - never especially good, but never really downright terrible either. He's decent enough in his own zone to kind of make up for his lack of offensive chops.
Weaknesses: He and DeKeyser combined to be a pretty weak second pairing last season - they were the only two defensemen on the team with a negative corsi. He's got a tendency to make memorable mistakes, and his offensive game is very much lacking.
Expectations: I expect he'll start the season on the second pairing while Smith toils on the 3rd pairing, to the chagrin of much of the fan base. I also expect he'll get bumped down to the third pairing at some point, only to return when an injury inevitably happens. I do think he'll get a little more hate than he probably deserves just due to the nature of the contract he got.
#4 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 10, 1987
Jakub Kindl was arguably one of the most disappointing Red Wings this past season. He made what appeared to be a large leap forward in the shortened season - playing a key role down the stretch and into the playoffs. He consistently posted great possession numbers, and his shot was pretty well respected on the second PP unit. His leap forward was enough to earn him a solid 4X2.4MM contract that most fans were actually pretty OK with at the time. Kindl then significantly regressed last season, to the point where he could barely stay in the lineup. This season may well represent his last chance in this league - at age 27, he is absolutely not a "kid" anymore - he's a veteran struggling to hang on in this league.
Strengths: His ceiling has always been through the roof - he skates well, handles and moves the puck well, shoots well, etc. He's got an above-average amount of offensive ability to go with a 6-3 frame. He was even a possession wizard in the shortened season, and he has flashed the ability to have a very positive impact on possession.
Weaknesses: He doesn't take advantage of his size to the extent that you'd hope. Playing a "gritty" game is pretty overrated, but he does get pushed around a little more than a 6-3 guys really ought to. While his A-game truly is pretty good, it shows up way too scarcely for him to hit his potential.
Expectations: Kindl cracks the lineup for awhile, before eventually getting shuffled out late in the season like he so often does. Ken Holland tries and fails to unload him via trade, and he spends the entire season fighting for the 6/7th roster spot with Lashoff, much like last season.
#23 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Jul 16, 1990
I've spent some time discussing Lashoff this offseason already, and I still feel the same. Lashoff is a marginal NHL player, but he's also paid like it, which makes his contract pretty much fine - the entire cap hit is able to be buried in Grand Rapids if need be. The real question is if/when that will actually happen.
Strengths: Consistently below-average, but never extremely bad. Sure that's a very back-handed compliment, but that's actually a pretty useful trait to have out of your 7th defenseman. When Lashoff is in the lineup, you know exactly what you're going to get from him. He can kill penalties okay enough, and he looks a little better when you can protect him from many puck-handling duties by pairing him with someone who is above-average in that respect. His high effort level seems to help him maximize his low ceiling pretty well.
Weaknesses: Basically zero offensive ability. He puts up pretty forgettable possession numbers for a guy that is so massively sheltered. His rather extreme sheltering also takes away offensive chances from top-4 guys with more ability in that regard - if he could hold his own better, it would at least open up opportunities for others.
Expectations: I would prefer he's just sent back to Grand Rapids and that's that, but I expect he starts the season as the 7th defenseman and still manages to play 50 games due to various injuries and random nights off. I think there's a strong chance he'll get pushed out of the lineup completely by a Griffin late in the season, but it'll take longer than many Wings fans around these parts would like.