The Detroit Red Wings have made some improvements this summer, but mainly to their forward ranks. Bringing in Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson make them a more dangerous club offensively, but can the Red Wings manage to keep the puck out of their own net?
At this point, it would appear that Jimmy Howard is going to have to carry the Red Wings in that respect. But if the young blue line of the Red Wings can take the next steps forward, things will get much easier for Howard, who was fantastic for Detroit down the stretch last year.
But even he can’t manage that level of play over an entire season, let alone an 82-game schedule. He overcame some rough stuff from the blue line in front of him, helping them go as deep in the playoffs as they did. To this point in the summer, the Red Wings haven’t addressed the blue line.
Which means they’re going to lean heavily on their young guys. The three to keep an eye on are Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, and, of course, Danny DeKeyser. Kindl made some impressive strides for Detroit last season, but was prone to the occasional flub in moving to an increased role.
Kindl jumped to well over 18 minutes per game in 2013, averaging big time on the power play as well. He finished with 13 points on the year, good for third among Detroit blue liners.
Smith missed time last year, playing in only 34 games, but he has offensive upside from the blue line. We saw him struggle a quite a bit in his own zone, especially during the postseason, but if he can be even serviceable in his own end, then he’s going to be a good one for this team.
Then there’s Danny DeKeyser. He came in late after being signed out of college, and saw his season end early because of an injury. But he flashed some serious potential and is a building block for this Detroit blue line. He’s terrific in his own zone, and has underrated offensive skills. He’s the big one to watch here.
This trio, combined with Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson make up a blue line that might actually be a little bit underrated. That’s assuming, of course, that each can take a step forward next season. If they do, the Red Wings can become the Stanley Cup contenders that they appear to be on paper at this point.