Yay everyone looks to be healing! According to this article on Mlive, it seems all of the injured defensemen could be back in about a week. Also, Jimmy Howard: Great Dresser, or GREATEST DRESSER?
Back on topic. When Lidstrom, Ericsson, and Kindl are all healthy, and nobody else gets injured (seriously, I would cry), it would leave the Wings with 9 healthy defensemen. By sending Janik back to Grand Rapids, my accounting degree tells me that leaves the Wings with 8 healthy and capable defensemen to play in the playoffs. Who plays and who sits? Who plays in what situations? I’m glad I asked! Let’s look at the players and what each brings to the table:
Nicklas Lidstrom, Ian White, Brad Stuart, Niklas Kronwall
These are your no-brainer top-4 blue-liners. This is turning out to be an easier exercise than I thought! Obviously, Lidstrom will be paired with White and Stuart and Kronwall will continue to smash people as the second pairing.
The other four defensemen are: Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey, and Brendan Smith. All four of these players are NHL defensemen. Let’s take a quick look at each and go from there.
Smith looks to be the real deal even though he has only played 13 career games (as of this writing). Is he ready for the playoffs? Tough call. He doesn’t need anymore time in the AHL, but it does him no good to not be playing. I’d like to see him play as many games with the Wings as possible, but with Kindl and Lidstrom possible for Saturday, he may be sent back down at any time. He has played some power play and hasn’t touched the penalty kill with the Wings. Has made a few mistakes, but has an exceptional offensive side and is probably the Wings best skating d-man.
Quincey is a quality 4 or 5 defenseman, but hasn’t played well since being traded here. I know he has a couple of goals, but his overall play has just been kinda…meh. The Wings traded for him to protect against Stuart leaving next season and to give them a little more grit over Kindl. He has played regular penalty kill and power play, which I think is a problem. Having to learn all the systems is tough, and I’d rather see him focus no one or the other.
Kindl has had plenty of opportunities this season to earn a spot but has yet to nail one down. He hasn’t given the Wings one “thing” that nobody else provides. While he has played well for most of the season, and meh for a little bit here and there, he hasn’t really done anything to stand out. If he would use his size more and playmaking skills in the offensive zone, I feel he could (eventually) be a top 4 d-man if he would use said size. If he stays the way he is, I see Smith overtaking him next season.
Ericsson will be playing when he gets healthy. He’s got the number 5 slot locked down. The Wings could use him right now on the penalty kill. His size helps us immensely with blocking passing/shooting lanes as well as his physical play on the boards. Yes, he still does have his “moments” like everybody else but he is way more valuable to the Wings back end than most people realize.
So, assuming all eight guys are healthy, what happens? What I want to see is Brendan Smith. I think he’s got the skills to be very successful in the league. After only a year and half in the AHL (and 3 in college), he can play. I wouldn’t mind seeing him with E on the 3rd pairing. This gives the Wings offensive guys on each pair but still maintain a very solid guy in their own zone. Both ends of the ice are covered with speed, skill and perfection (TPH FTW!!). I might consider compromising by playing Smith at home and Quincey on the road. This would protect the Wings if they felt other teams would put their top lines against Mr. Smith. I think he could handle it, but in the playoffs, it’s a whole new game. My lines: 5/18, 55/23, 52/(2/27).
But, I’m not the coach or GM (yet…). Quincey and E will own the 3rd pairing, while Smith will probably be sent to Grand Rapids and Kindl will be the 7th. If Grand Rapids doesn’t make the playoffs, Smith will be a Black Ace for sure. I just hope this doesn’t crush his confidence. Quincey will probably be fine, but he just hasn’t done anything spectacular with the Wings yet. Of course, the entire team is hurt, so…not really a whole lot he can do. Projected actual lines: 5/15, 55/23, 52/27 (on that last one, I don’t know which one will be playing left or right side, so I apologize if you’re that guy (usually, I’m that guy, so don’t feel bad about it)).
In my world, the power play would have Lidstrom/White on the top pair and Kronwall/Smith on the second. Most importantly – NOT HUDLER! Once again, not his fault, he just gets caught too much and it usually ends up…bad. The real world will probably see Lidstrom/White then Kronwall/Quincey. Again, hopefully NOT HUDLER. I would like to point out that Stuart usually is pretty successful on the power play, but Babcock has said he likes Stuart and E coming out after the power play since many teams don’t use their best players on the PK. This allows a fair matchup for the first shift after the power play, regardless of which players the other team puts out there. As far as the PK goes, Kronwall/Stuart and Lidstrom/Ericsson. I don’t see any reason to not play these guys on the PK.
And there you have it. My thoughts on the Red Wings possible defensive lineups after everybody stops making Mr. Van Zant go insane. What do you think? You know the drill – yell on at me Twitter if you think you could come up with something better. Or just want to type a random string of profanity. I find those highly amusing.