Detroit Red Wings: Aging Defence With Minimal Upside To Blame

WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 2: Niklas Kronwall #55 and Trevor Daley #83 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate a third period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell MTS Place on March 2, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 2: Niklas Kronwall #55 and Trevor Daley #83 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate a third period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell MTS Place on March 2, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Detroit Red Wings are in desperate need of a Defenceman to emerge and become the next impact player on the backend.  Who may be the odd man out?  Many of Detroit’s issues start and end with the Red Wings aged Defence core.

The Detroit Red Wings  are in need of a youth movement on defence and they need it to happen soon.  The average age of the expected regular 6 defenders is 32.5 years old.  This is much too old for a group on defence especially in this “new” style of NHL.

Today’s wide-open NHL, a great mix of speed and skill with a lot more infractions called nightly makes for having quick mobile defenders necessary.  If you’re not an average skater at best in this NHL you’re a liability.

The slower bigger defenders can’t hold up an opponent on a “chip and chase” play anymore.  Interference will often be called.  In Detroit’s case, Penalty Killing was well below average ranking 23rd in 2017/18.  If you’re on the PK often and your PK is only 77% successful you will often be trailing in games chasing opponents.

The problem in Detroit isn’t just the ageing D core, it’s the lack of skating ability.  Niklas Kronwall has a lot of miles on his legs.  Kronwall toughed it out playing essentially on one leg all of last season.  At times the lingering injury stood out as Kronwall struggled to keep up with the pace of play some nights.

At one time Kronwall was a really valuable,  impact player for the Detroit Red Wings.  Those days are few and far between now.  Kronwall a good leader and mentor for the younger players to look up to would be best suited on the 3rd pair playing fewer minutes moving forward than he’s played in the past.

Niklas Kronwall is entering the last season of his contract.  I don’t believe Detroit would be able to deal him at the trade deadline unless a team is in desperate need of a depth D.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens to be Kronwall’s final season.

Jonathan Ericsson skates like Jonathan Ericsson.  The big Swedish defender never lived up to his full potential.  Detroit Red Wings were expecting a top 4 defenceman in Ericsson but he never progressed past top 6.

Often used as a 2nd pair because of the lack of defensive talent on the team hasn’t been in Ericsson’s favour.  Detroit can’t play Kronwall & Ericsson together buried as the 3rd pair it would be a disaster.  Ericsson is under contract until the summer of 2020 unfortunately, he isn’t going anywhere for at least two more seasons.

The two best defenders & most reliable on the team are Mike Green & Trevor Daley.  That would have been great statement 10 years ago.  Both players are similar in a few ways and different in others.  Both are above average skaters.  Daley a lot more defensive than Green. Green has a much higher offensive ceiling.  Mike Green anchors the teams’ number one power play while Daley often called upon to help kill penalties. Both players similar to Ericsson are under contract 2 more seasons until 2020.

Nick Jensen & Danny DeKeyser are the “youth” movement on the current team.  Both born in 1990, are 28 years old. When that’s a teams youth movement that’s a problem.  Danny DeKeyser similar to Ericsson had high expectations when joining the franchise.  DeKeyser has

yet to peak.  Unlike Ericsson, Danny is a good skater but offensive ability is few and far between.  At times it looked like DeKeyser lacked confidence especially making the first pass to exit his own zone.

DeKeyser still young enough to grow into a top 4 steady reliable defender.  DeKeyser with 4 more years left on his current contract will be the last man standing from this group down the road.  Danny DeKeyser in 3 years will be the veteran presence on a rebuilt defence core. I hope his confidence grows and he becomes a more well-rounded defenceman.

Nick Jensen found himself a regular last season for the first time in his NHL career.  Jensen played in 81 of the teams 82 games but failed to score.  He tallied 15 assists and was a -8.  Plus/minus is not nearly as important of a stat with all the Corsi analytics these days. All things considered -8 on this Red Wing team oddly isn’t horrible.

Next: Detroit Red Wings: In Need Of Open Heart Surgery

Nick Jensen may be the odd man out moving forward.  I expect Detroit to give a couple of young prospects on defence an opportunity to make the team out of preseason.  A few options will be Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek & Joe Hicketts.

A strong offseason camp and Preseason from one of these prospects may force Jeff Blashill & Ken Holland to roster a younger defenceman rather than continue to grind out games with “dinosaurs” on the backend.  Expect all of these youngsters to push hard for a regular spot in Detroit in favour of Grand Rapids in 2018/19.