DETROIT -- The new face inside the Detroit Red Wings locker room on Thursday morning was actually a familiar face.
Kyle Quincey made a familiar walk down the hallway decorated with Red Wings history, hung a left turn and headed straight into the locker room where he made his NHL debut with Detroit in 2005. After departing the Red Wings through the waivers process and being claimed by the Los Angeles Kings, Quincey developed into a solid NHL defenseman.
He spent one year in Los Angeles and the next three in Colorado, before being dealt back to Detroit on Tuesday in a three-team deal that had his head spinning when he finally got to his cell phone.
"I think I was the last to find out," said the 26-year old Quincey, a restricted free agent after this season. "I was in the dentist's chair and I had about 50 messages when I got out. The trade was already made with Detroit before I found out, so that was kind of nice. All my buddies in Tampa were calling, excited, but I guess they'll have to wait."
His buddies in Detroit only had to wait until Thursday morning, when he showed up at Joe Louis Arena once again as a Red Wing. How has Quincey changed as a player since the last time he wore the Winged Wheel logo on his chest?
"Last time I was here I didn't have any confidence," said Quincey, whom Detroit took in the fourth round of 2003 NHL Draft [No. 132]. "I was just a young guy trying to squeak under the radar, but getting the opportunity and getting the confidence and knowing I can be a good player in the NHL, play good minutes, it's huge. I'm just so excited to come back to this team."
Almost as excited as he was to leave. Getting claimed by the Kings off waivers wasn't all that painful for Quincey to accept, mainly because he knew the opportunity ahead of him was a good one.
"At the time it was actually awesome because it gave me the opportunity to play," said Quincey, who played just 13 regular season games with the Red Wings spread over three seasons. "If I went through waivers and went to Grand Rapids [again], that would have been real frustrating. But if you ask a lot of guys that aren't playing, they'd
probably asked to get waived. That's the great system we have, the CBA. It's a rule that helped my career. Who knows, I could still be in Grand Rapids. I'm very fortunate [the Kings] took a chance on me. I just went from there. I told [Holland] that back then, 'Thanks for the opportunity and I appreciate it.'"
On Thursday morning, Holland had a message for him.
"I just saw him on my way to the ice, so it wasn't that much, but we smiled and he just said, 'Welcome back,' and just laughed," Quincey said. "I was glad to be back, for sure."
He not only knows all but three Red Wings players from his previous stint here, but he's also happy to be back in coach Mike Babcock's system -- where he'll start out paired with Jonathan Ericsson on the third defense unit, get some time on the second power-play group and maybe log some penalty-kill time.
"I played with [Ericsson] in Grand Rapids," Quincey said. "Hopefully it's a pretty seamless transition. This system by far, with [Babcock], is by far the best I've ever played in. Absolute nightmare playing against these guys, so I'm glad I'm on the other side of the puck. I'm happy to be back in this system. I think it's good for everybody. Players with skill … they have so much of it here. By far the best system I've ever played in."
Will the skills that got him established in Los Angeles and Colorado fit back in with that system?
"For sure," Quincey said. "A lot of other teams try to get you to rim the puck along the glass and I know these guys don't like that. I'm all for that. I don't like giving the puck up either. I'm excited to play in this system."
Babcock and Holland are pretty stoked about it, too. Now the Red Wings have eight NHL-caliber defensemen, so if injury strikes they'll be prepared down the stretch and into the postseason.
"He's a good player," Babcock said. "It gives us depth. We're in a situation now where we have a lot of top-four [defensemen]. We think it's great for now and it's really great for the future of our team."