“To whom much is given, much is expected”
That is the phrase printed above the hallway to the Detroit Red Wings dressing room and Danny Dekeyser should be taking that to heart every time he passes it. Fresh off signing a 6 year, 30 million dollar contract, the Red Wings are expecting big returns from arguably their top defenseman.
Fair or not, that contract is proof that Detroit’s management feels that Dekeyser is going to be a top-2 guy in Hockeytown for a long time. Is he worthy of such a role?
Danny Dekeyser has definitely taken the long ROAD to get to the Red Wings, both professionally and geographically. He is one of the many local boys on the Red Wings, born in Macomb Township Michigan, he played his minor hockey in Detroit finishing up with the Compuware U18’s.
When his minor hockey career wrapped up he headed west, way west, to play for the Trail Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia Hockey League. He followed that with a season in the USHL for the Sioux City Musketeers followed by three season’s in the NCAA for the Western Michigan Broncos. It was towards the end of his college career where NHL teams started to take notice. He became arguably the most sought after college free agent in 2013, many teams courted and he chose the Red Wings. His long road wound home.
LAST YEAR’S STATS
Danny Dekeyser always seems to be in the middle of an argument between the ‘eye test crowd’ and the ‘analytics community’. You rarely hear a casual fan have anything bad to say about Dekeyser, he’s a steady defenseman, good puck mover, decent offensive instincts, positionally sound in his own end, however the analytics community does not love him quite as much. This was never more prevalent than when he signed his new contract, oh boy was Twitter fun that day.
There’s no denying there’s an ebb and flow with his stats that go along with the system he’s being utilized in. He thrived under Babcock’s ultra conservative system in 2014-15. However when Blashill came in and implemented a more up tempo system where the defense activated frequently in the 15-16 season, Dekeyser struggled. It wasn’t until the second half of this season where Danny saw his numbers trend in the right direction and not surprisingly it was right around the time Blashill tweaked his system to be a bit more conservative.
Dekeyser’s year by year has been a roller coaster. He had very strong 1st and 3rd seasons and seems to have struggled 2nd and 4th year. That being said, during the 15-16 season he did face the toughest competition and deployment of any Red Wing, couple that with a new coach and a new system and it’s not hard to see why there would be regression in his overall stats.
Want to start a fight on social media? Give an opinion on Dekeyser’s contract. Literally any opinion. At least half your followers will yell at you for being wrong and stupid.
Morgan Rielly being on this list certainly doesn’t help his case but looking at the rest of these guys and his contract certainly seems reasonable. The defensive market is growing ever richer and the price for a top 4 defenseman is increasing by the day so getting Dekeyser locked up long term at a manageable cap hit was definitely in this team’s best interest. Ken Holland has been trying (and failing) to acquire another top 4 defenseman for a while now and yet Dekeyser still remains this team’s go to guy. The value of his contract is definitely up for debate but there’s no denying that he absolutely needed to be extended.
THIS YEAR’S PROJECTION
If the ebb and flow of Dekeyser’s career continues we should expect a better season from him. One would think he’ll be more accustomed to his new coach, the new system, and hopefully a good partner (Mike Green? Brendan Smith?). The thing is though, this could still go a lot of ways. Dekeyser will once again be given the toughest minutes, deployments, and assignments of any Red Wing and he’ll likely not have the proper support required to handle these assignments on a night in, night out basis (this was another argument as to why his numbers dipped in the 15-16 season).
The fact remains, Danny Dekeyser is the most important part of the Wings current defensive unit and a good chunk of this team’s success will hinge on his play. He’s young enough that there’s a reasonable expectation that he should continue to improve but he’s old enough that it likely won’t be by leaps and bounds.
When it’s all said and done he’s now carrying a heavy contract and a heavier workload, time to earn that contract.