“Quincey, admittedly, hasn’t been all that great lately, but he was a stud in the first half of the season.” –Adrian Dater (All Things Avs)
If I had a nickel for every time I had heard that from fans and writers about Kyle Quincey, I’d have about a quarter. It’s the trap that all of us fall into with him. We see how well he is capable of playing and it never strays far from our mind. When he regresses to the player that he usually regresses to, we hold out hope that he’ll return to the form that showed us so much promise. The problem is, he doesn’t—not until there’s a change of scenery.
At first, people just thought that he was put on waivers because there was no room for him with the Red Wings. Then people thought that he was traded from Los Angeles because there were other young players that had more potential in the organization. But what is the excuse now that he’s being scratched in favor of guys like Ruslan Salei and Brett Clark? No disrespect to Clark, but if a player is supposed to be a cornerstone guy, he shouldn’t be scratched in favor of a guy who has been a 5th or 6th defenseman throughout his career.
Quincey has been an up-and-down player ever since he broke onto the NHL scene in the 2007 playoffs for Detroit. As a 4th round pick (2003) for the Red Wings, one of the question marks around his game was inconsistency. Then again, they said that he was going to be a defensive defenseman with limited offensive upside at the NHL level. Those 26 power play points with the Kings last season would beg to differ. One out of two isn’t so bad.
While with the Red Wings, he showed GREAT promise in the 2006-07 season. After injuries to the blueline, he played very well in 13 playoff games. He showed that under the bright lights of the Stanley Cup playoffs, he was capable of playing a calm, solid game. He battled for a roster spot the next season before he broke his wrist, played the majority of the season in Grand Rapids (AHL), and earned himself a 2-year NHL contract. Unfortunately, he was unable to make the team out of training camp in 2008 because of inconsistent play and was placed on waivers. He had gone from a player with great potential and a bright future with the Red Wings to the waiver wire in about 15 months.
As the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Even though there wasn’t room for Quincey on the Red Wings roster, there was no doubt that he’d be picked up by one of the other 29 teams as soon as he was put on waivers. The Kings used their high waiver priority (read: shitty record the previous year) to put in a claim for the defenseman, and with that he was off to California.
From the minute he laced up his skates for the Kings, it looked like the quintessential “all he needed was an opportunity” type situation. Seemingly filling the void left by a Jack Johnson shoulder surgery, Quincey hit the ground running and made the most of his consistent ice-time.
“He’s been a good player for us, hasn’t he? He really competes… He digs in, he’s a heavy player, he’s a hockey player. He plays the game the right way from the defensive side of things and he’s got great composure deep in his own end. He starts a lot of breakouts with those short handoff, eight-to-ten foot passes. He’s been a great add.” –Terry Murray (via Frozen Royalty)
Unfortunately, Kyle Quincey’s terrific start with the Kings on the stat sheet may have hidden some of the long-term problems that there might have been. While he was racking up 26 power play points with his first season in Los Angeles, he was doing what he was expected to do. You see, Murray didn’t play him at even strength. Whether that was reflective of Quincey’s ability is up for debate, but it certainly tells you what the coaching staff thought of the blueliner’s abilities.
When the opportunity arose to package Quincey as the centerpiece of a trade for Ryan Smyth, Kings GM Dean Lombardi jumped at the opportunity. Even though he had put up impressive numbers on the power play, he was never considered one of the young core defensemen that would be part of their future. As such, he was packaged with press-box spectator Tom Preissing and a 5th rounder for Captain Canada. The Kings were happy that they were able to parlay a waiver pick-up for a veteran presence in their locker room. The Avalanche were ecstatic to move a huge salary from their payroll and add a young defenseman that could fit into their rebuilding project. As far as NHL trades go, it was a win-win.
Just like in Los Angeles, he started his career in Colorado on fire. He had 6 points in his first 5 games as a member of the Avalanche. In fact, during his first 9 games with his new team, he had 8 points and was a +5. As the major piece in the Ryan Smyth trade, he was fulfilling any expectations management could have had for him.
Before the calendar turned from 2009 to 2010, Kyle Quincey was doing his best to prove that HE was the best player in that offseason trade—not Ryan Smyth. He had 4 goals and 15 assists over the first 3 months of the season (including 10 points on the power play). Not too bad for a guy that was projected to be a defensive defenseman.
This season has been a microcosm of his career. His start was so good that he’s still among the Avs league leaders. He’s 2nd in defensive scoring (a point behind John Michael Liles) and 2nd on the entire team in +/-. Do those sound like the kinds of stats for a player who has recently been a healthy scratch?
Here is the trend that has emerged for Kyle Quincey at each of his stops.
1. He starts out well and looks like an offensive defenseman that every team could use.
2. Other parts of his game start to suffer, but it’s easy to overlook the deficiencies because he’s scoring points.
3. The points dry up and people start to notice the mistakes more because there are no brilliant power play numbers to cover up the deficiencies.
4. He becomes expendable.
Joe Sacco and the coaching staff have shown less confidence in the blueliner, as well. A coach can say whatever he wants behind the microphones of the press, but the ice time stats of his players will speak louder than any pre-fabricated sound bite.
For the season, Quincey is leading the Avalanche team in ice time, averaging 23:40 per game—including a 30:18 monster. He didn’t have a game where he played less than 20:38 in the first three months of the season; and only played less in 3 games before the Olympic break. Now, that’s his AVERAGE. Of course, that’s if you don’t count the 3 separate occasions when he was a healthy scratch.
And fans? They have about as much trust in the defenseman as the coach does right now. Here’s a recap of a recent game where he played decently.
”Quincey had his best game in a long time. Hopefully he is through with his stretch of sucking…” –Sean Payton (Anyone But Detroit)
Not exactly a resounding stamp of approval, is it?
Quincey is still a very young player when it comes to defensemen in the NHL. But at some point, he’s going to have to figure out how to remain consistent for an entire 82-game season. Once he figures out how to play an entire season, he’s going to have to figure out how to play as effectively 5-on-5 as he does on the power play. He’ll have to learn how to be as dependable at his own end as he is in the opponent’s zone.
If he doesn’t, he’ll be much more of a journeyman than a cornerstone.