Red Wings: ’21-’22 is a Pivotal Year in DeKeyser’s Career

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MAY 01: Danny DeKeyser #65 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena on May 01, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MAY 01: Danny DeKeyser #65 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena on May 01, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

2020-21 was not a great year for Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser. In his first year since back surgery, it seemed as though he had never fully recovered. If he wants to continue to play for the organization, ’21-’22 is going to be a pivotal year for him .

Age: 31

Left Defenseman

Tenth Season With the Red Wings

Stats Snapshot:

Goals: 4

Assists: 8

CF%: 41.1

Pts/60: 0.8

ixG: 1.55

GAR: 3.5

(Advanced Stats Courtesy of Evolving-Hockey)

Last Season With the Red Wings

It’s been a rough few years for DeKeyser. Last season was his first back since a back injury in late 2019 forced him into surgery. He was clearly a step slower and a bit cautious on the ice. In fact, the performance was enough for DeKeyser to be put on waivers in February (his $5 million contract kept other teams away).

Jeff Blashill on DeKeyser after the waiver move:

"“He’s recovering from a major back surgery that can take up to two years.Will he ever have the exact same power that he had? Most guys that have major surgery probably are never quite to that. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a really effective player, still. But it’s just the reality of what happens when you have major surgery.”"

Via Helene St. James and the Detroit Free Press.

However, DeKeyser truly did improve as the season progressed. He became one of the few defensemen on the team that could activate any sort of offense on the blue line: he led Detroit’s defensemen in goals and finished with the second most points of the Red Wing’s defense. DeKeyser showed some growth from his injury near the end, but he still wasn’t quite at 100%.

Best Case Scenario This Season

DeKeyser picks up steam as the season progresses and almost entirely recovers from his injury. While he doesn’t finish the season as Detroit’s best defenseman, he builds chemistry with Filip Hronek upon the top line and doesn’t look out of place. DeKeyser also continues to be one of the more effective offensive defensemen on the roster, keeping opponents honest.

While he doesn’t come close to his prior contract deal of $5 million, the team offers DeKeyser a short term contract to occupy space on the left side of the defense, waiting for the prospects to develop and arrive in Detroit.

Worst Case Scenario

The nagging back injury holds DeKeyser back from any sort of growth. It becomes a repeat of 2021, where the team sends him back on waivers in order to save money.  Although he begins the season in the top pairing with Hronek, he ends up shuffled out as the seventh defenseman or even a healthy scratch. DeKeyser finishes up out the year as a backup and the Red Wings don’t offer him any sort of extension.

The Prediction Part

It’s already difficult to make a preseason prediction on the type of year a given player has. That’s even more difficult when injury is a factor.

In the end, I think DeKeyser has an underwhelming year. With the context of his surgery and subsequent recovery process, the year might be considered a success, but in the context of a future with the team, things don’t look great.

Last year, he proved he was one of the only defensemen on the roster capable of some offensive support. But with Moritz Seider and Nick Leddy on the team, DeKeyser’s offensive output will likely be overshadowed. Defensively, he probably struggles to play with the same speed or aggression he once had. At the end of the season, the Red Wings let him walk.

The Bottom Line

Although he  might take certain steps forward in recovery and contribute surprisingly well on offense, I think it’s DeKeyser’s last season with the Wings. Essentially, he’s still on the roster because the left shot defensemen in the prospect pool need more time to develop.

2021-22 is going to be a pivotal year for DeKeyser – not just for his time in Detroit, but also his future in the sport. DeKeyser is certainly competent enough for a roster spot, but his injury is still in question. With the amount of talent coming up right behind him, DeKeyser’s best shot for re-signing (other than just playing well) will be if the Red Wings decide to stay close to home when finding a player to plug holes on the left side of the defense.

The fans will be cheering for the Detroit native and Red Wings lifer to have a solid season. It’d be nice for such a loyal player to go out on a high note – or extend his stay for a few years.

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