The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/27/13 at 01:42 PM ET
As noted in the game-day update thread, Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith didn't make the brightest comments about the liberties the Blackhawks have been taking while speaking to MLive's Ansar Khan after today's morning skate, but Smith has slowly but surely settled down in terms of his on-ice demeanor, playing more consistently and making fewer mistakes while skating alongside Kyle Quincey (though the pair remains something of an "adventure" on ice).
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan found that Wings coach Mike Babcock has taken note of the fact that Smith's settled down, at least somewhat, and #2's poise has translated into more ice time...
Defenseman Brendan Smith is averaging 19 minutes of ice time during the playoffs, something that will only help in the future.
"Just the experience is an important thing," coach Mike Babcock said. "What I like about Smitty is he knows we think he's a good player, so when he makes mistakes, and you talk to him about it, it's not the end of the world.
"He's an ultra competitive guy and when he makes a mistake, he's usually trying to make a play rather than guys out there hiding and doesn't want the puck. He's not one of them. He's going to get better and better."
But Babcock also told NHL.com's Corey Masisak that he's not sure whether the 24-year-old will live up to his billing as Niklas Kronwall's supposed successor:
"I think he's going to get better and better. I don't know if he's ever going to have ... I think he's going to support the rush and he's going to score like that. I don't see him being a visionary on the blue line and being the top guy on your power play or something like that, but only time will tell."
Smith didn't earn regular ice time until this past season, which was a season or two longer than most fans felt that it'd take for Smith to play at the NHL level, and Smith told Masisak that he'd expected his status as the 27th overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft to yield a shorter path to the NHL...
"Not when I was drafted -- I didn't think it would take this long," Smith said of reaching the NHL. "As you look around, any Red Wing or a lot of the Red Wings in here, it has taken time for them to get here. That's just how the Red Wings have done it for so long. It has worked for them, and it has continued to work. It was something that I didn't see coming at first, but it has worked for me and I'm here now and definitely excited."
But Smith's defensive partner--who, like Carlo Colaiacovo, is at least doing a solid job of redeeming his present and future with the team (you don't hear as many Wings fans suggesting that the surprisingly steady "Coco" or a more reliable and more vocal Quincey should be bought out or traded)--suggests that Smith should've expected to spend two-plus seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins because that's simply what the Wings do with their prospects (cue they, "They make them earn their spots" line):
"We're definitely different than other organizations," Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey said. "I don't think Kenny [Holland, general manager] feels any pressure or panic in that way. The formula obviously works, and I'm a big believer in what they do here. Being through it, you enjoy it and appreciate even more when you get up here knowing what's down below and how hard you had to work to get here. You definitely cherish it a little more, and that's invaluable. Guys all the way through our lineup played in the American league and that is a huge tool and they use it well."
For the present moment, the Quincey-Smith pairing remains something of a work in progress, but Quincey's both mentoring Smith and is being forced to play a simpler, steadier and more stay-at-home-style game (and Quincey's earned some power play time lately, too) thanks to Smith's...adventurous...offensive forays, and Quincey told Masisak that he's happy to see Smith slowly but steadily settle down as Babcock tagged Quincey with the task of taming a defenseman who's prone to making high-risk gambles:
"I think we complement each other really well," Quincey said. "He's a really good skater and likes to carry the puck up the ice, and I like to watch him. [Babcock] gave me that role from Day 1 in training camp to try and help him come along, and it is just fun watching him develop as a player. He's going to get better and better. I don't think he's anywhere near where he can be. He's got all the tools.
"It is all the little things that I've learned over my years. I didn't learn it all my first year. It took me six, seven years to feel like I learned. Each game, something new comes up and it is a learning experience for both of us. It is fun."
"I think we work well together," Smith said of the pairing with Quincey. "We have a really good communication level and we feed off each other, which is a big thing. We use both of our strengths to our advantage. He's very vocal and he's got very positioning. He helps me out with things I haven't seen before."
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.