Asking how good the Detroit Red Wings’ young defensemen are is not a clever way to set up an answer.
It’s actually an open-ended question designed to spark some debate. Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves, throw out your opinions, there’s no wrong answers.
10 games is just large enough a sample size to form an opinion on the matter so there’s no reason to be shy here—there’s enough data to support almost any conclusion.
For example, one could point to the superb (albeit, boring) defensive performance the Red Wings’ defenders displayed Monday night against the San Jose Sharks.
Keeping the San Jose Sharks off the board is certainly something on which Detroit’s young defenders can hang their hats.
Brendan Smith and Kyle Quincey looked particularly sharp on both sides of the puck, as did rookie Xavier Ouellet.
In fact the Red Wings defensive performance against the Sharks just may provide proof that, when on their game, Detroit’s defensive corps is as good as any in the league.
Then again, that was just one game.
Looking at Detroit’s game prior to their meeting with the Sharks, one could easily draw the opposite conclusion.
Facing the Phoenix Coyotes on the road, the Red Wings had the game well in hand in the first period, ending the frame up 2-0.
A late Phoenix goal in the second period left Detroit up by one, a tenuous lead, but a lead nonetheless.
Then in the third period, everything went straight to hell as the Coyotes pumped in four unanswered goals, the last by none other than Phoenix goalie Mike Smith.
While losing is always a team effort, it was Detroit’s defensemen, particularly Smith and Quincey, that seemed quite exposed as somewhat less than solid in the third period against Phoenix.
Then again, that was just one game.
From a statistical perspective, Detroit’s defensemen aren’t on pace to break any records, but certainly appear to be an effective group of young players that will only get better as time goes on.
|Detroit Defenseman 2013-14 Statistics|
|Niklas Kronwall||8 GP: 1G, 5A, +5||Brian Lashoff||6 GP: 0G, 1A, E|
|Jonathan Ericsson||9 GP: 1G, 2A, +4||Danny DeKeyser||10 GP: 0G, 1A, +4|
|Jakub Kindl||10 GP: 0G, 2A, +1||Brendan Smith||6 GP: 0G, 0A, -7|
|Kyle Quincey||10 GP: 0G, 1A, -6||Xavier Ouellet||1 GP: 0G, 0A, E|
Danny DeKeyser has looked rock solid in his second year in the NHL and is already enjoying top-four status with the Red Wings.
Jakub Kindl, a relative veteran five seasons into his career, still has the potential to improve but is proving that his breakout season of a year ago (4G, 9A, plus-15) was no fluke.
The top pairing of Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, aged 32 and 29, respectively, represent the Red Wings' grizzled veterans but even they are continuing to grow their individual games and team leadership skills.
Still, the aforementioned Quincey and Smith seem to be lagging behind their blue-line colleagues in Detroit.
Combined for a minus-13 rating and sporting just a single point between them, one wonders if they too have not just the potential but the ability to improve.
After all, Smith is just in his second full-season in Detroit, and though Quincey is a nine-year veteran in his second stint with the Red Wings, his career record suggests he should still be thought of a solid fifth or sixth defender.
After the regulars, there are players like Brian Lashoff and the recently called-up Ouellet who provide hope for Detroit’s blue-line future.
All this said, Detroit’s defense consists more of promise than it does proven performance, more hope than conviction that they can anchor their team effectively through 82 regular-season skirmishes and an unknown (but hopefully large) number of playoff battles.
Depending on the night, Detroit’s d-men look anywhere from invincible to innocuous and it will likely take another 10 games before a distinct slant emerges towards one of these extremes.
How good is Detroit’s young group of defensemen?
At this point, one can argue the issue either way—perhaps that alone provides an answer.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @mahutter12