DETROIT – Not since Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski in 2010-11, have the Red Wings had the offensive benefit of two defensemen reach the 40-point plateau in a single season.
Danny DeKeyser hopes that changes this season, and that’s a real possibility with the free-agent signing of veteran blue liner Mike Green – who played the first 10 seasons on his NHL career with the Washington Capitals – and Niklas Kronwall is coming off back-to-back 44-plus point seasons.
“I think with the past few years the back end we’ve wanted to contribute a little more than we have,” said DeKeyser, who served as a youth hockey camp counselor Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. “Obviously, Kronwall’s been the leader back there with (the offense), but bringing in another guy like Green, who will bring some offense will definitely help us out a ton.”
The 29-year-old Green is coming off one of the most productive seasons of his career, producing 10 goals and 35 assists in 72 games. Green was just one of four NHL defensemen to amass at least 45 points and a plus-15 or better last season. The others were Nashville’s Roman Josi (55 points, plus-15) and Shea Weber (45 pts, plus-15), and Montreal’s Andrei Markov (50 pts, plus-22).
Incoming Wings coach Jeff Blashill – who once recruited DeKeyser to play at Western Michigan University – said last month that he’ll likely tinker with the defensive pairings in training camp, and that DeKeyser and Green could start the preseason on the second unit.
Depending on what happens with rookie Alexey Marchenko, who is eighth on the defensive depth chart now, the Red Wings could have two pairings that feature right-handed and left-handed shooters.
“I think he’s a great player,” DeKeyser said of Green. “He’s got a great shot from the point, he moves the puck up the D-zone fast and he can skate really well.
“I haven’t really talked to the coaching staff, I don’t know what the pairings are going to be. If you guys know that, that’s kind of news to me. He’s a good player. If we end up being paired together, I think it would be a good combo.”
Since the second half of 2013-14, DeKeyser was paired with Kyle Quincey. Together, the two formed a cohesive bond, which often earned high praise from former coach Mike Babcock for being the team’s best defensive unit last season. In his two full seasons in Detroit, DeKeyser has a plus-21 rating, which is the best among the team’s defensemen by a long shot. Quincey is next at plus-5.
The idea of playing with a proven offensive commodity like Green is exciting for DeKeyser, who has quickly become one of the team’s most dependable puck-distributors along the blue line.
“It might be a little bit of an adjustment depending upon who he’s playing with and that kind of thing,” said DeKeyser, who has 55 points in 156 career regular-season games. “You’ve just got to maybe cover up for him if he’s jumping in the rush. It may be up to one of the forwards to step back if he’s leading the rush. It’ll kind of be a team thing where everybody is just kind of aware.”
As for bringing Blashill to head up the Wings’ coaching staff, DeKeyser likes his new coach’s preparations.
“When he coached me in college I saw a lot of things, some good qualities,” DeKeyser said. “I thought when he was on the ice he made sure everybody knew what they were doing. There was no ‘What’s going on? What are we doing in this situation?’ He made sure we were prepared for every game and every situation – special teams, six on five, all that kind of stuff.”