Detroit Red Wings: Danny DeKeyser is off to a slow start in 2021

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s clear the Detroit Red Wings are taking things slow with veteran defenseman Danny DeKeyser during his return to the ice.  DeKeyser had been sidelined nearly the entire season last year due to a herniated disc that required surgery.

With DeKeyser unable to dress for the Detroit Red Wings since October of 2019, head coach Jeff Blashill uses the $5 million per season defender like a sixth defender early on in 2021.  It’s a smart move knowing DeKeyser’s unfortunate injury history.

Along with what’s seemed like a constant back issue, DeKeyser has battled through hand/wrist and numerous lower-body injuries throughout his career. He’s just 30-years old, but as I say about Tiger Woods, 45, who is set to undergoing his fifth back surgery in six-years, it’s an old 45.  Well, it’s quickly becoming an old 30 years old for DeKeyser.

DeKeyser has only played 70 or more games three times during his nine-year career, eight seasons as a regular, but he’s usually a workhorse averaging better than when he’s in the lineup 21 minutes per game over the course of his career.

The Detroit Red Wings are making a conscious effort to protect Danny DeKeyser early on in 2021.

Through the first four games of the season, DeKeyser is averaging just 15:13 time on ice per night; by far, a career-low, six minutes off of his career average.  Recently head coach Jeff Blashill addressed the organization’s decision to ease their defender back into the mix here in an article published by the Detroit News.

"“We’ll certainly do what is best for Danny DeKeyser for the long term health of Danny and the short term health, and his availability,” Blashill said. “We’ll take make those decisions every single night and we’ll do what is best for Danny DeKeyser.”"

Detroit opted to use DeKeyser in their back-to-back contests after needing to place Alex Biega on the teams’ taxi squad.  The Red Wings needed to make room on their roster after Robby Fabbri, and Adam Erne entered the COVID-19 protocol.  Detroit elevated Michael Rasmussen, who has performed very well in his latest opportunity, recording two points in two games.

I’m sure in a perfect world, DeKeyser would have sat out the second on the teams’ back-to-back if Biega or the recently acquired Christian Djoos were able to play.  Djoos has also been in the COVID-19 but recently cleared after being claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks.

DeKeyser does not only see sixth defender-type ice-time early on in ’21; his on-ice play is one of a six or seven defenseman too.  The 30-year old defenseman has yet to record a point in four games while producing an embarrassing Corsi For Percentage (CF) of 34.7%.

DeKeyser’s career average CF is 49%; not exactly great but a heck of a lot better than 34.7.  This essentially means while DeKeyser is on the ice, the Detroit Red Wings do not possess the puck.  At this rate, Detroit’s opponent has possession of the puck 65.3% of the time while DeKeyser is on the ice.

Mike Babcock’s latest attempt to save face. dark. Next

In comparison, Filip Hronek, who leads Detroit in ice-time at 25:02 per game, produces a CF of 52.6% in 2021.