There is no doubt the pressure is on for the Detroit Red Wings’ defense corps this season. The retirement of future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart’s departure via free agency left some big holes. The team will look to young talent like Brendan Smith and the arrival of Carlo Colaiacovo to help fill the void, but more than anything will need their remaining defensemen to step up.
In a contract year, and yet to live up to potential, young Jakub Kindl faces the most pressure of all.
Kindl was selected 19th overall by the Wings in the 2005 draft. It’s common knowledge that Detroit doesn’t get many first round picks, and certainly not many high ones. In fact, you have to go back to 1991 (Martin Lapointe, 10th overall) to find someone drafted higher by the organization. So it’s fair to say the pressure is on for Kindl.
In two full NHL seasons, he has scored just three goals and managed a total of 17 points. That might have slipped under the radar with Lidstrom in the fold, but it surely won’t now. Perhaps a better (or worse) reflection on his performance is his +/-. His +7 rating for the Wings last season was the first time since the 2006-07 season (OHL Kitchener Rangers) that he recorded a positive for the season.While many Red Wings went overseas and impressed during the lockout, Kindl returned home to Pardubice HC, where he managed just a goal and 10 assists in 27 games (and a -7 rating).
His contract runs out at the end of the season, and it seems unlikely the Wings would keep him around if his production doesn’t improve. Smith’s arrival last season overshadowed anything Kindl has done yet at the NHL level, and the Wings brought Brian Lashoff to camp this year to fight for a spot as well. With defense at a premium in a shortened season, if Kindl falters early don’t be surprised if the Wings make a trade deadline move to pick up a more dependable veteran.