The Musical Chairs on Defense

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Another Red Wings post from Guest Blogger Mario Dicicco

The saying goes in NHL circles, “You can never have too many defensemen for the playoffs.” Well, The Red Wings are about to put that theory to the test in the coming weeks. During the last several weeks as the injuries on the blue line added up, it forced the Wings to make a trade for Kyle Quincey and bring up Brendan Smith from Grand Rapids. The replacements filled in the best they could, but as is the case with any team, you’re only at your best when you have your full set of weapons. The Wings have eight defensemen that can play on any team, but only have six spots for the postseason. Two worthy players are going to have to sit and wait their turns in line in the near future. The only question is which ones?

The top four defensemen are obvious and unless they’re caught taking steroids or they get whacked by Tonya Harding, they’re not sitting. Lidstrom, White, Kronwall and Stuart easily fill out the top two pairings. That leaves Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey, and Brendan Smith to circle around the chairs until the music stops. Coach Mike Babcock only has two golden tickets to the playoffs and has yet to tip his hand on who will receive them. For tonight’s game against Nashville, Babcock is inserting Kindl into the lineup and making Quincey a healthy scratch. Clearly he’s holding auditions over the last five games of the season. Let’s take a look at what the four candidates have done so far this year and how they stack up with each other.

We’ll start with perhaps the most polarizing man of the group, Jonathan Ericsson. He returned Wednesday night at Columbus after missing a month with a fractured wrist. He has only one goal and ten points in the 64 games he’s played this year and is a +17. However he’s taken the most penalties of any defensemen and is third on the team overall with 47 penalties in minutes. His biggest asset is his size and strength with his 6’4 221 pound body, but at times doesn’t seem to use it to the best of his abilities. He burst onto the scene during the 2009 playoffs and lit it up with four goals and eight points and was a +9 in the 22 games he played. However, in the 23 playoff games over the last two seasons, he only scored one goal and four assists. Clearly he’s the biggest guy on the blue line and has the most playoff experience outside of the top four D-men. To fans, he’s nowhere near the “Brandon Inge polarization level,” but in some circles, he’s either serviceable or atrocious and shouldn’t be on the team. After being handed a three year extension last summer and coming off of two shaky playoff seasons, he certainly must prove to fans and management that his 2009 run wasn’t an aberration.