Should DeKeyser and Smith stay on separate pairings?


Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the Red Wings’ defensive pairings gives me pause. Rumors continue to circulate about a trade for Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabers (Please no) as well as the Florida Panthers’ Brian Campbell (no thank you) and even Michigan-born Jeff Petry from the Oilers (hmmm maybe). Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey remain with the team almost inexplicably, their roster spots much being preferred to be taken up by a young prospect who could learn from the experience such as say, Xavier Ouellet. Brian Lashoff is technically on the roster, but remains pasted to the Leino Lounge. It makes me wonder about the way the defense is being paired up, and what the best options are.

To start, Quincey and Kindl aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Lots of people call for Kindl to be traded, but who is going to trade for a bad defenseman? Get real. No, Philadelphia is already filled to the brim, otherwise I’d say it’s a possibility. It’s no secret that Detroit wants to get rid of him because they don’t think he’s good enough for their system, so with that secret out of the bag no one is going to roll the dice with him.

KQ might improve a bit this season. I try to keep reminding myself that I used to hate Jonathan Ericsson until I heard Babcock mention him as one of the best penalty killers on the team, then I really started to come around on him. But he was re-signed this off season mostly out of panic that there was no one better to replace him with, so he’s serving his purpose. This essentially leaves Detroit with two defensemen that can be qualified as ‘bad’.

The second pairing to start the year consisted of Brendan Smith and Dan DeKeyser. Smith used to be the bane of my existence, but late last season and so far this season I’ve seen a lot less irresponsible defensive play and even dialing back his offensive game a bit, which has a tendency to get him in trouble more than it has a tendency to result in scoring.

DeKeyser is probably my favorite Red Wing if I’m being honest. I love his defense-first mindset, his ability to be attacked by Lucic and not let retaliation affect his game, his Michigan pedigree. What isn’t to like about DK when it comes down to it?  I like the guy so much I wear #65 in beer league partially because he does. This in spite the fact that Andrew Shaw also wears 65 and frankly, I’m uncomfortable even having the same taxonomical classification as Andrew Shaw. So we’ll call Smith and Dekeyser Detroit’s other two ‘good’ defensemen.

Kronwall and Ericsson are the best Detroit has to offer, so they’re likely to stay together on the top pair unless injuries force some real drastic changes. So what’s the best option for the bottom four?

I really like Smith and DeKeyser together. They seem to make each other better. DK has gotten more offensive, Smith has gotten more defensive, it’s like they balance each other out. Smith’s acid to DeKeyser’s base. His peanut butter to jelly. His yin to his yang (almost like a sort of yin yang twins, if you will).

But there’s something to be said about putting all of your eggs in one basket. A third pairing of Kindl AND Quincey is dangerous in the sense that both of them can be exploited, especially if the Red Wings are on the road. A smart coach will recognize this pairing and immediately put his best players out against them. Patrice Bergeron got to take full advantage of this with his goal against the Wings on Wednesday night.

So maybe the solution is to spread out the risk a bit. Friday night in Toronto, Smith was paired mostly with Kindl, while DK worked with Quincey outshot the Leafs 35-24, so it’s tough to argue with results. Quincey even had a really good defensive play that surprised even Kyle Quincey I’m sure.

Babcock isn’t afraid to shuffle things around a bit, and maybe that’s the best solution for the time being, to keep the opposing offense guessing. It’ll certainly be fun to see what happens in the meantime, especially to see if things are different with the Red Wings at home tonight.