It’s sometimes tough to decide exactly when an athlete has “arrived,” but in the case of Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl, it likely just happened this past season. After playing what amounted to half-seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12, Kindl was in the lineup for almost the whole year, appearing in 41 of the team’s 48 games.
What did we learn about him in that time? Probably that while he may never threaten to win the Norris Trophy, he can be an important part of the team’s future on the blue line. Let’s examine a little closer…
Looking Back at Jakub Kindl’s 2013:
It almost didn’t turn out to be Kindl’s year after all. An early season groin injury led to Kindl getting placed on injured reserve on January 21, though it turned out to be a short stay, and he was back in action for the Wings’ game against the Minnesota Wild on January 25.
Once he got into the lineup, the big Czech was there to stay, showing glimpses of why he was a first round pick many moons ago (okay, it was really 2005). Having Kindl on the ice was generally good for Detroit, as his +15 rating was easily best among defensemen and second on the team to only some guy named Pavel Datsyuk. He also dished out a fair mount of hits (46 in 41 games), though he also led defenseman in giveaways and was last among the regulars in blocked shots.
By the admittedly low standard of the 2013 Red Wings, Kindl was also an offensive-minded blueliner, finishing tied for (a distant) second with Jonathan Ericsson in points and second by just a single tally to Niklas Kronwall in goals. Kindl’s scored were timely too, as he netted the game-winners against St. Louis on February 7 and Edmonton on March 7.
Kindl also acquitted himself well in the playoffs. His +4 rating tied for the team lead, and his lone goal was the game-winning score in Game 4 against the Chicago Blackhawks. If only he could have managed one more…
Looking Ahead to 2013-14:
The nice thing about establishing yourself is that once you’ve done it, you usually don’t have to worry about your spot for at least a few seasons. That’s true for Kindl, who signed a four-year contract extension worth $9.6 million earlier this summer. Unless he’s traded at some point, that means he’ll be an important part of the mix even as the Wings bring up young d-men over the next few seasons.
Unlike Ericsson and Kyle Quincey, Kindl won’t be playing for a new contract this season, which hopefully will allow him to concentrate on raising his game another notch. Unless Mike Babcock decides to shake up the pairings, he should get to play with Danny DeKeyser on a regular basis, a combo that has a ton of upside.
At the very least, Wings fans won’t have to talk about Kindl’s contributions as things that will happen in the future. He’s a full fledged regular member of the team, and it’s about time.