Detroit Red Wings Editorials: Saving Jakub Kindl


Jakub Kindl is the antithesis of everything we know about the Detroit Red Wings. The organization has been lauded for its ability to mine the diamonds in the rough. The names are well documented: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Sergei Fedorov, Darren Helm, and Petr Mrazek to name a few. First round picks were few and far between in the pre-Cap era because of deadline deals. But when they were available, it was a big freaking deal. The last three, Evgeny Svechnikov, Dylan Larkin, and Anthony Mantha have drawn rave reviews.

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There’s one, however, that has been the hallmark of inefficiency. He was taken 19th overall in 2005, months after the 2004-2005 NHL season was cancelled. Names like Tuukka Rask, Jonathan Quick, and Keith Yandle followed, some further from Kindl’s name than others. But Kindl represented the earliest pick for the Red Wings in nearly 15 years at the time. And despite glimmering promise, Kindl has been the source of great frustration amongst the Red Wings faithful. If there’s anyone responsible for a problem, it’s Kindl. A turnover. A missed scoring chance. Watergate. Brad Ausmus’ hiring. If there’s anyone that wears the horns well, it’s Jakub Kindl.

And sometimes, it’s damned ridiculous.

There was another guy like that in Detroit

And his name was Joey Harrington. To be fair to both Harrington and Kindl,  Harrington was a top 5 pick, and a quarterback–hands down the worst job in the Motor City next to the Red Wings goaltender. Harrington represented the idea of a franchise quarterback–decorated with shiny awards from college, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and projected as a game changing player who would lead any team into the promised land once drafted. Then the Lions took him. And the rest is history.

Harrington could not move forward with the Lions. He polarized the fan base–where the majority threw their hands up at another victim of the dysfunctional Lions organization. Others thought he was a victim of timing with Matt Millen running the show. And then a handful thought he was overrated to begin with. As any Lions fan can tell you, Harrington didn’t last very long. He was lampooned by the media and fans, saddled with the franchise’s continued failures, and absolutely mind-screwed by then coach Steve Mariucci. Harrington bounced around the league, and was out of it by 2008.

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Kindl, while never seen as a franchise savior, had high expectations placed upon since he was the then first top 20 pick for the Red Wings since they chose Martin LaPointe at #10 in 1991. This was a big deal, and well, higher than expected, being that a lottery chose draft spots due to the lockout.

Hockey’s Future had this for Kindl before he even cracked the Red Wings:

"Kindl has all the tools needed to be a professional player. He has good size, skates well and can handle the puck. The rougher North American game has been an adjustment for him, but he can take and give a hit and has dropped the gloves and has shown that he can throw a pretty decent left. Defensively the more aggressive forechecking schemes used by OHL teams seemed to baffle him at times but he had adjusted to that over the course of the season. His positioning when away from the puck does sometimes lapse. Offensively, Kindl will need another year to show what he can do; power play time was rare on a Ranger team that often used four forwards on the power play. The smaller rinks and the red line pass were areas that he needed time to adjust to as well."

And that about sums it up in a nutshell. Mike Babcock saw it and it gradually showed on the stat sheet.  Ice time dropped, production dropped, and everyone from the front office to the fan base lost faith in Kindl’s ability. Not helping, of course, was the contract extension in 2013 following a half-decent showing in the 2013 playoffs. Kindl snagged a $2.4m/yr deal that seemed overpriced at the time. Of course we know how that worked. It’s where we are today.

What to do with Jakub Kindl

Here’s the deal: Along with Brendan Smith, Tomas Jurco, and Jimmy Howard, Kindl seemed to be a favorite whipping boy of Babcock. I don’t want this to be a “Blame Babcock” campaign because plenty of guys flourish just fine under his tutelage. But the aforementioned four seemed to wither when feeling the heat from the Babcock death stare.

But the vitriol from the fan base has been crazy at times. Want another Detroit sports comparison? Ryan Raburn. He could hit a home run in a game and fans would want him hung in effigy. Kindl came back after a long time on the bench, and scored two goals in a game. TWO!

Despite that, I got three texts within the next 10 minutes telling me how Kindl still sucks. Really?

The Red Wings have tried trading him but the feeling is he’s in Hockeytown through hell or high water. So where does that leave him?

All Hail Jeff Blashill

The key to saving Jakub Kindl is simple: Jeff Blashill

But to save Jakub Kindl’s career in Detroit–which is absolutely possible–it starts with Jeff Blashill, and ends with Kindl believing that he is the player the Red Wings took at #19 a decade ago.

When Kindl went down to Grand Rapids for some time after he remained a healthy scratch, the result was a confidence boost:

"Blashill didn’t see any drop off with the added time of the ice from Kindl’s first game with the team Sunday in Chicago.“Both games that he’s played he’s done a real good job at what he’s really good at and that’s delivering the puck,” Blashill said. “He’s a really elite passer and he’s come down to get his game in order. And I thought he did a real good job of it.”"

Kindl doesn’t suddenly become a better player because he goes to the AHL. Yes, the talent level isn’t what it is in the NHL. But Kindl rarely showed confidence with the Red Wings. Instead, he always looked ready to play into the “I’m going to screw up” mentality that the fan base was ready to pounce on. Anyone who’s played sports knows the game is just as mental as it is physical. Day in and day out of hearing how bad you are or not feeling support from a coach takes its toll. And that, once overcome, could be Kindl’s saving grace.

Unless the Wings package him with someone else, he’s not going anywhere. But to save Jakub Kindl’s career in Detroit–which is absolutely possible–it starts with Jeff Blashill, and ends with Kindl believing that he is the player the Red Wings took at #19 a decade ago.

Next: Should the Wings trade Kyle Quincey?

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