Where Does Hicketts Fit In?
Another day, another defenseman signed by the Detroit Red Wings, and the same question is posed.
Where does Joe Hicketts fit into the grand scheme of things with the Wings?
When 2019 first round draft pick Moritz Seider inked a pact with the team earlier this week, the query was how soon into the future will Seider be skating along the Detroit blueline?
When Hicketts signed a two-year deal with the Wings on Wednesday, the question was whether he in fact has a future on the Detroit blueline?
Hicketts, 23, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014, has played just 16 games for the Wings over the past two seasons. While he’s certainly shown plenty of jam and a bit of an offensive upside, the diminutive 5-foot-8, 180-pound blueliner has also displayed a knack for getting caught out of position via his over-aggressive approach to defending.
“It’s not being erratic, not making big mistakes,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill has listed as the key to Hicketts making it for good as an NHLer. “It’s a hard balance for Joe because he’s a gamer. He wants to go make plays. He wants to make things happen.
“You want to be able to do those things without making the big mistakes and causing the big chances against. I think that’s the biggest thing. If he can play his game without making those big mistakes then he’s a real effective hockey player. I like Joe a lot. He’s a real good player.”
Last season, Hicketts led all defensemen in assists and points with AHL Grand Rapids, collecting 3-24-27 numbers in 64 games.
“I think you go out there every shift, every chance you get, and do the best you can do,” Hicketts said. “For me, that’s going to be going back on pucks quick, moving it up and spending as little time in the D-zone as possible.
“If I can do that, I think I can show myself well.”
Finding that balance, knowing when to pinch or join the rush and when to play it safe, is one of the most difficult challenges young rearguards face.
“I think it’s harder - maybe I’m just saying that because I’m a D myself - but I think at times it’s harder to be a D at a young age, as opposed to a forward,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall has said. “Forward, if you lose the puck in some areas, you can kind of get away with it because you’ve got other guys backing you up, whereas on defense, those mistakes can become very costly, and that’s something that sticks out.
“Hicketts is Hicketts. You know what you’re gonna get from him. He can give you 15 hard minutes or he can give you 25 hard minutes. He’s just that type of guy you want on the back end.”
A Rochester, Mich. police report confirmed that the July 7 death of former Wings center Greg Johnson was most likely a suicide.
Johnson, 48, was found dead with a gun and a single bullet near his body. There was no suicide note.
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