Detroit Red Wings must revamp their defense

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 16: Trevor Daley #83 and Danny DeKeyser #65 of the Detroit Red Wings skates around on a play stoppage against the Dallas Stars during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on January 16, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. The Stars defeated the Wings 4-2. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 16: Trevor Daley #83 and Danny DeKeyser #65 of the Detroit Red Wings skates around on a play stoppage against the Dallas Stars during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on January 16, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. The Stars defeated the Wings 4-2. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Detroit Red Wings have been struggling the past few seasons and a large part of the blame must go to the lackluster defense

Throughout the Detroit Red Wings‘ existence, they have been blessed with talented defensemen like Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios. Currently, this is not the case. The Red Wings have defensemen that are either washed up or just straight up not good. Due to having a limited amount of cap space, it is hard to make moves to improve, but something has to be done.

The first thing the Red Wings need to do to strengthen their defense is get rid of Jonathan Ericsson. He is a liability every time he is on the ice and his stats prove this case. In 610 career NHL games, Ericsson only has 24 goals, 96 assists and 496 penalty minutes.

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Not to mention he has only played one full regular season. Ericsson has been hurt a number of times and missed significant time. Yet the Red Wings are paying him a hefty sum of $4.25 per season for two more seasons.

The Red Wings need to find a way to move Ericsson. It would make sense to trade him for a draft pick. However, it might not be a bad move to see the Wings trade Ericsson to the Philadelphia Flyers in return for Radko Gudas. He’s a player that brings energy, plays a similar style, and produces better numbers than Ericsson.

Next, the Red Wings need to part ways with Niklas Kronwall. He is long past his prime and is a ghost of his former self. Kronwall doesn’t lay big body checks or move the puck like he used to do.

Unfortunately, it is almost painful to watch Kronwall play now, knowing what he used to be capable of doing. Moving on is nothing personal, it is just that age has kicked in and is playing a factor in his playing ability. Kronwall is currently on the last year of his seven-year, $33.25 million deal and is likely to retire at the end of the season.

As of now, there is no real good solution for finding the right place for him, it is merely just the negative effect of one of the ill-advised contract extensions general manager Ken Holland has given out. If possible, the Wings should try to move Kronwall to a contending team near the trade deadline of next season.

Trevor Daley is a player that the Wings signed last offseason to temporarily fill a defensive void and provide leadership on the ice. He is a quality player that has had a lot of previous success with his former teams, but he has nobody to lead.

On defense, the youngest guys are Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen who are well into their mid-20’s. Both aren’t guaranteed a roster spot. The team is so discombobulated that they have no real clear path of success anytime soon. For now, expect Daley to play the remaining two years of his deal with the Wings.

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As for Danny DeKeyser, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Luke Witkowski, they are the underdogs that fans want to try to rally behind. Besides DeKeyser, who is locked in long-term, the Wings the rest of the guys are fighting to find a place with the team with the short term deals that they have.

DeKeyser, a Detroit product, is a roller coaster of a player. There are times during the season where he will be on fire with his play. Then a couple of weeks later, he will go on a cold streak where he is a defensive liability.

DeKeyser’s play has inconsistent for the past few seasons. He must play a full consistent season to prove he is worth his six year, $30 million deal. DeKeyser is a decent defenseman, he just needs to improve on certain areas before management and fans can truly be entirely happy with him.

Luke Witkowski, the Michigan native, has proven to be a fan favorite due to his physicality. His toughness has solidified his role with the team going into the last year of his contract. Before coming to the Wings, he played for the Tampa Bay Lightning where he hardly saw any glimpse of NHL action.

At 28 years of age, Witkowski hopes to stick with the Wings for the long haul. Last season (2017-18) with the Wings, he scored his first ever NHL goal as well as tagged along three assists. He also had a career high of 68 penalty minutes. These numbers do show improvement in Witkowski’s game leading to some hope for him down the road.

Ouellet has struggled at the NHL level. In 145 NHL games, he only has five goals and 18 assists. Ouellet’s AHL success has not been able to translate to the NHL level leaving management and fans worried about his future with the Red Wings organization. The 2018-19 season will be one that truly tests what he is capable of achieving.

Nick Jensen seems to be on his last leg with the Red Wings. Jensen had a below average season (2017-18) of zero goals and 15 assists in 81 games played. After the 2018-19 season, he will be an unrestricted free agent.

At 27 years of age, Jensen should be tinkering on entering his prime making the 2018-19 season one of great interest to see how he improves. He is a solid AHL defenseman, but a suspect NHL defenseman.

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The Red Wings have a lot at play with their defenseman and must make sure they make the right decisions. Going into the 2018-19 season it will be interesting to see if they bring back Mike Green. It will also be intriguing to see if the Wings call up the promising Joe Hicketts from Grand Rapids. As of now, the Wings need to establish a core of young defensive players that will serve as vital pieces for future success.