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Duhatschek says post-Lidstrom Wings would struggle like they’re struggling now

Every indication suggests that as soon as Nicklas Lidstrom is able to return from the bone bruise troubling his left ankle, he’ll be back on the Wings’ blueline, maybe as soon as next Wednesday or Friday…But the Wings’ struggles without Lidstrom have the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek suggesting that the Red Wings would be in serious trouble should Lidstrom retire after this season*:

There isn’t panic in the Motor City exactly, but with the news that team captain Nicklas Lidstrom has gone home to have his injured ankle (diagnosed as a deep bone bruise re-evaluated), there has to be concern at the very least. The Red Wings were wiped out in both Los Angeles and Anaheim on the first two games of a short California road trip that wraps up Saturday in San Jose. The good news is centre Pavel Datsyuk is supposed to return for that game, which should give the slumbering offence a boost. The bad news is that without Lidstrom, the defence looks a little thread-bare.

Oh, there’s panic in the Motor City, and the fact that Jakub Kindl and Jonathan Ericsson are sidelined as well are highly “underrated” in terms of hobbling the Wings’ defensive corps…

If this is what life without the future Hall Of Famer is going to look like, it’s no wonder that general manager Ken Holland’s off-season priority will be to coax Lidstrom into playing again next year, which would be his 21st season in the NHL. Lidstrom will miss his ninth consecutive game Saturday, the longest period of time he’s ever been out of the line-up in his remarkable career.

Detroit’s overall experience will make them a post-season threat, no matter who they end up facing in the playoffs, but according to defenceman Brad Stuart, they shouldn’t be this bad, no matter who is hurt.

“Obviously, we’ve got a few guys out of the line-up, but we should be a good enough team to put forth a better effort than we have,” said Stuart, in an interview. “Just because you’re missing a couple of guys is no excuse for starting games the way we have.” Stuart noted that the Red Wings got behind 2-0 early to the Kings and then started all right against the Ducks, but then, “one thing goes wrong and we kinda – I don’t know, collapse a little bit – and that shouldn’t happen to a team like us.

“I have no doubt in my mind that this team will be ready to go when the playoffs start, but at the same time, you want to be feeling good about your game when you go in. You don’t want to have to hope that you can turn it on. You want to be clicking and have that confidence. We’ve got to regroup here the next couple of days and get going.”

Life without Lidstrom, should he retire—and as that asterisk* answer, the media corps covering the team fully believes that Lidstrom’s leaning toward returning—would involve the Red Wings very aggresively courting top free agent defensemen to bolster their blueline, and at least the play of Niklas Kronwall, the potentially-departing Stuart and Brendan Smith suggest that the Wings’ blueline isn’t exactly “threadbare.”

The whole team is struggling right now, and everybody needs to step up, forwards, defensemen, goalies and coaches included.

Continue reading for oodles of NHL notes.

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Denver Wings's avatar

Subtract Stuart and Lidstrom, and add in Smith, Kindl and Ericsson, and getting Ryan Suter in the winged wheel sure looks like priorty #1 in the off-season.

Watching TPH talking with Ken and Murph during the LA game the other night, I got the impression he may actually be leaning towards retirement.  He said something like the biggest factor will be how I’m doing physically, and he’s currently in the middle of the longest games-lost-due-to-injury streak of his career.  I got the impression the Winter Classic might not be enough to persuade him to come back for one more year.  Hopefully that’s not the case.

But if it is, getting Ryan Suter has to be priorty #1 this off-season.

Posted by Denver Wings on 03/16/12 at 03:43 PM ET


One thing about when Lidstrom leaves is that the skill difference among defensemen will decrease a lot, so I don’t imagine that losing the #1 d-man for a while would be much worse than losing a #5 d-man, like it is now (ignoring the fact that we’re also missing #5/6, #6/7, and essentially exchanging #2 for a #4 (White)).

Posted by bleep bloop on 03/16/12 at 04:33 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

Back in the 2010 playoffs Babcock made a comment that has stuck with me, something to the effect of “slotting is as important as ability”.  At the time he was referring to Darren Helm who, he went on to say was an elite player- as a forth or third line guy-but that he’d been bumped up to second line center at one point an had tn become a liability (st that time.  I think Now helmer might not be “elite” as a second line center now but I don’t think he’d be a liability either). 

It’s the same with the guys we have playing.  White, although he slots in beside Lidstrom, is essentially a #4 guy, with kronwall ad Stuart being the 2-3.  Smith is probably a very, very good #6-7 guy.  Only, they’re all moved up. Smith isn’t very capable as a #3 guy, not yet.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 03/16/12 at 05:17 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

When the Wings played the Flyers, in their barn (March 6), they played without Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Ericsson, Kindl, Bert and Jimmah.  And they lost by only ONE GOAL.

Dan Cleary missed a few games recently.  Ditto Homer and Abby.

And people wonder why the Wings are a bit discombobulated? 

OK, the last two games were real stinkers - back to back in different cities, I might add.  But the six losses previous to this road trip were ONE GOAL games.

Are things really as bad as people think?

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 03/16/12 at 05:33 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

A season is 82 games with 30 Teams trying to Win a Cup.  I am going to wait and enjoy this years run by the Wings, as I have done for 40 years.  I non cup year is not going to change that the Wings are the only team I cheer for.

We have to remember 23 Wins in a Row at Home is pretty unusual.  It all usually evens out.  Injuries on a positive note may be a blessing in disguise!  I actually would like to see Z, White, Stuie, etc gets some rest before the playoff grind!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 03/16/12 at 06:28 PM ET

awould's avatar

This latest stretch of games with no Lidstrom has seen guys brought up, shuffled around and put into new roles to patch holes in the team that is hampered by more injuries than only Lidstrom. It is about the worst thing you could do to a team.

If Lidstrom retires, 2012/13 will have a cohesive team that is prepared to take on new roles and responsibilities, and has practiced knowing full well that Lidstrom ain’t around anymore. It will enter the season prepared. Yes, the skill level will have diminished somewhat, but it will be prepared and coached around the strengths and weaknesses. Right now, it’s just patch up some holes and weather the storm.

It’s night and day. Anyone who thinks this past week is what they can look forward to when Lidstrom leaves and the Red Wings come to town is sorely mistaken. And that’s not even considering the near certainty that Lidstrom’s $7MM cap space will be spent wisely.

Posted by awould on 03/16/12 at 06:46 PM ET

awould's avatar

that’s 2013/14… not 2012/13.

what day is it?!

Posted by awould on 03/16/12 at 06:47 PM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

Are things really as bad as people think?

Depends on which “people” you are referring to.. but the lack of give a shits that rears its head for stretches of time is a concern as is the horridly anemic PP and a very spotty PK.
I’d say there is surely room for concern.
Even during the home win streak, there were quite a few games that we well and truly shouldn’t have won but managed to eek out a W with a healthy roster.
I’m not predicting doom and gloom, but I can sure see some holes in this team… healthy or otherwise.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 03/16/12 at 07:18 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

I’m not predicting doom and gloom, but I can sure see some holes in this team… healthy or otherwise.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 on 03/16/12 at 05:18 PM ET

What team doesn’t have it’s problems? What team hasn’t played like crap for several stretches at a time this year? Yes the PP and PK sucks and has sucked for how many months/seasons (?) but…if they can get healthy and put together a .500 stretch…they have as good a shot as any other team.

Posted by mrfluffy from the phone, calling Detroit, telling them it's on 03/16/12 at 07:47 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Duhatschek was my favorite Rammstein song.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/16/12 at 07:51 PM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

“Obviously, we’ve got a few guys out of the line-up, but we should be a good enough team to put forth a better effort than we have,” said Stuart, in an interview.

Money quote right there.  It’s the effort.  When Lidstrom retires it will be a sad day for Detroit and hockey in general.  But you can’t blame this current slump on Lidstrom being out.  There are a bunch of starters out and that has caused major problems.  The problems all year, even with Lidstrom in the game, has been effort and desire.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 03/16/12 at 10:06 PM ET


Duhaczech is so naive. This ostensible lack of effort is all part of a grand master plan - to let Nashville and Chicago overtake us so we can play Dallas in the first round. Brilliant!

Posted by Alex on 03/16/12 at 10:22 PM ET


First of all the Wings have 20M+ to spend in the offseason.  Whether that includes TPH or not.

That will buy some damn good players. 

Although I think the Wings will extend Howard in the offseason too…HOPE HOPE.

And lastly, the Wings are not just without TPH, they are without Dats, their 3rd defensive pair and also are playing teams that have their entire season on the line, while the Wings are pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot. 

Meanwhile, I’m hoping the Sharks either miss the playoffs or take St Louis or Vancouver to 6 or 7 games either way.

I’m not worried if the Wings have to play anybody as long as TPH can play in the playoffs.

Posted by BobaFett from Las Vegas on 03/17/12 at 04:15 AM ET

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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.