The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/20/12 at 12:41 PM ET
ESPN’s Scott Burnside offered something of a teaser regarding Pavel Datsyuk’s thoughts about the post-Nicklas Lidstrom Red Wings last night, and the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater engaged in a lengthier conversation with Datsyuk in a column penned for Sports Illustrated—and let’s all be surprised that Dater milks up the, “Ding dong, the Wings are finally dead” angle for all it’s worth:
“It’s been like a dream. A bad dream. A nightmare,” he replied. “I keep thinking I’ll see him again soon in (training camp), just like always. I keep telling myself this, thinking it will come true. I can’t believe this has happened.”
When Datsyuk looked around the oak-paneled room of the restaurant formerly known as Alex that is now without a new assignation inside the cavernous Wynn. Lidstrom was not there, nor were any other Red Wings. This event was once known for having lots of red, and not just for the color of the carpet or the visitors’ before-after bank balances. Now, however, Datsyuk and the Wings must ponder a future without the comforting sight of Lidstrom on their side. The legendary Swedish defenseman called it quits recently, after a 20-year career in which people sometimes questioned his mortality.
“I sometimes thought, like others, ‘when will he get old?’ I never saw this,” Datsyuk said. “I believe he would be one of the best defensemen in the NHL if he played this coming season.”
It’s possible that the Russian center could become the next captain of the Wings, which would make sense for a franchise that has long been a leader in the employment of his countrymen. Such a prospect seemed to bring forth a blush, however. Datsyuk has been a Red Wings mainstay for more than a decade, but a successor to Lidstrom wearing the C?
“I mean, I don’t know about that,” said Datsyuk, who would probably still win a player poll on the question of who is the NHL’s best two-way forward. “We had (Steve) Yzerman, and then Nick. Those are two great captains, for a long time. It will be very hard to be like them.”
Datsyuk’s simply a quiet person and prefers to slink in and out of conversations due to his self-limiting in terms of his ever-improving English skills, so Henrik Zetterberg’s the likely captain, but Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula will all be counted upon to help fill Lidstrom’s leadership by committee…
Datsyuk, who will be 34 on July 20, thought he would have a third Stanley Cup ring by this time. The Red Wings have been as dominant as ever in recent regular seasons—12 straight of 100 points or more, an NHL record—but they failed to get past the first round for the second time in three seasons after a loss to Nashville this spring.
That was with Lidstrom. The future without him looks as worrisome as the furrow on Datsyuk’s brow, but help may be on the way. Nashville defender Ryan Suter could be headed to the open market on July 1, and if the rumors of his wanting to go back to his Midwestern roots are true, Detroit could be the perfect landing spot. But with Detroit likely to have plenty of competition for landing Suter, nothing seems certain anymore for the Big Red Wing Machine that is still reeling from Lidstrom’s surprise retirement.
“We thought, as players, he would come back. We did not know this, that he (would retire),” Datsyuk said. “It’s a big shock, but we have to put this aside now. We have to start a new book for our team. Maybe this will be good for us in a way we don’t know.”
I hope so, Pavel, I hope so.
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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.