The Musical Chairs on Defense

2 of 2

Next to go under the microscope is Jakub Kindl. For all intensive purposes this is his second year with the Wings, since he played 48 games with the club last season. He’s improved significantly from year one to year two in terms of his overall play and has tripled his point total from four points last season to 12 so far this year in the 52 games he’s played. His play has been fine but hasn’t done much to really stand out in most peoples’ eyes up to this point. The fact that he’s never played a Stanley Cup playoff game also could be a reason to give Babcock pause when thinking of using him, but he will certainly get his opportunities to showcase himself as the regular season winds down.

You can go home again as Kyle Quincey has found out this year. He was traded twice within a matter of minutes back on February 21 from Colorado to Tampa Bay then to the team that drafted him back in 2003. The Wings’ liked Quincey a lot during his first stint with the team. He provided a steady presence in the 13 games he played during the 2007 playoffs when the team reached the conference finals. Over the next two years, injuries to the first round pick and an overload of talent squeezed him out of the cards and the Wings were forced to place him on waivers before the ’08-’09 season. This year he’s shown the qualities that made the Wings bring him back, most notably not being afraid to pinch in offensively despite his position. He has 7 goals and 26 points so far this season. Like Ericsson, Quincey has a sizeable amount of playoff experience which will boost his case to be on the last defensive pairing.

Last, but not least, there’s the wiz kid Brendan Smith. He may be a rookie, but he’s not playing or acting like one. Though he’s only played in 14 games, most coming in the past month, he has 7 points, and has Babcock’s attention. The Wings coach has high expectations of Smith, likes how he oozes confidence and that he isn’t afraid to be aggressive. He may not nail down a full time spot this year but has shown in bothGrand Rapidsand inDetroitthat he isn’t far away from gaining a permanent spot wearing the Winged Wheel. For someone who hasn’t played a lot in the NHL you wonder how he would react if he’s thrown into the playoff fire. Ericsson only played in 27 career regular season games before having to step in during the ’09 playoffs where he played beyond his years. A good omen perhaps for Smith, should he be asked to step into a role come playoff time.

When it comes time to decide, Babcock should, and probably will go with Ericsson and Quincey as his third defensive pairing. Ericsson has the most experience of the four and needs to validate a three year extension given to him last summer and the Wings gave up a first round draft choice to get Quincey back. I doubt the men in the suits would enjoy watching their trade deadline prize sit with them upstairs during the playoffs. Both men have sizeable playoff experience, unlike Kindl and Smith. They’ve played the same amount of playoff games as I have, none. But should the injury bug once again bite the blue line at any point during the postseason, the Wings can take some comfort in knowing that they have two very capable players ready to step up, if they’re needed.