The time to re-tool is on the fly is upon the Detroit Red Wings. With future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom mulling retirement and with one of the oldest teams in the league, many believe the Wings’ time has past. After all, there are young teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers who seem to be hungrier for the Cup. But don’t count the Wings out just yet.
The Euro-Twins, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg combined for only 136 points this year, their lowest combined total since the 2003-2004 regular season. Nicklas Lidstrom will be 42 on the 28th of April and former Canadian Olympian Todd Bertuzzi is now 37. Veteran net-front presence Tomas Holmstrom is 39 years of age and has seen his ice time slowly deteriorate over the last few years. D-man Jonathan Ericsson continued to struggle in his 3rd season with full-time duty. However, in spite of only scoring 11 points, he did finish with a plus 16 rating, These are some of the negatives on a Detroit team that finished 5th in the West this year. However, there were many bright spots.
In his second year back from the KHL, Czech centre Jiri Hudler scored a career high 25 goals, and chipped in 25 assists for 50 points.
Niklas Kronwall also continues to improve. A punishing force on Detroit’s back-end, he is known for his huge open ice hits that demoralize opponents. Being “Kronwalled” is now a synonym for these punishing hits that Kronwall delivers.
Despite missing significant time with injuries, bottom six forwards Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves were defensive studs, using their speed to cause all sorts of problems for opponents. Fellow grit players Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader also played well with limited ice time.
Power forward Johan Franzen had a decent season, with 29 goals he led the Wings in goals. Forward Val Filppula also had a breakout season, centring the second line he recorded a career high 66 points.
Furthermore, Nick Lidstrom’s age has not affected his play. He remains one of the best defensemen in the league, attesting to the Norris Trophy he won last year. Now with 7 Norris trophies on his mantle, he is arguably the best European player to ever play the game. Nonetheless, he missed 12 games with an ankle injury, the first time since the 1994-1995 season that he has missed 10 or more games.
Defenseman Brad Stuart continued to play a steady physical game, leading the team in hits with 177. Newcomer Ian White played well on the 3rd D pairing and on the second powerplay. Expect him to play a larger role this year as Brad Stuart is rumoured to be leaving.
As you can see, there were many more good’s than bad’s. The Red Wings were victimized by a strong Nashville team in the first round and will be looking to retool on the fly this summer. With lots of cap space this summer, look for the Wings to go after some big free agents and prime for a Stanley Cup run next year, with or without Nick Lidstrom.