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Duff stares into the gaping maw of the ‘What will the Lidstrom-less Wings do?’ question

Red Wings fans have known, one way or another, how they and their team would tearfully bid farewell to a certain Swedish net-crashing forward and move on without him for some time now, but while we're over half a year removed from Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement press conference, Wings fans and their team still don't seem to know how the team will perform without #5 on the ice.

To some extent, Lidstrom's absence may be cushioned as thickly as Tomas Holmstrom's soon-to-be-retired hockey pants by the utter insanity of a 48-game season mashed into three short months.

We certainly know that the Wings' organizational decision involved swinging and missing on Ryan Suter, and then simply waiting for CBA negotiations and the perhaps inevitable lockout to play out, only adding Carlo Colaiacovo as a low-risk, last-minute addition, and the Wings are indeed in very good position in terms of cap room to spend and depth forwards to spare, but given Ken Holland's tendencies, I think that it's equally likely that the performances of the current members of the Red Wings' blueline will determine how Holland, Jim Nill and the team's braintrust choose to bolster their reserves much closer to April 3rd than January 19th.

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff has witnessed what's transpired when certain teams whose systems of play were built upon foundations of defenseman-led puck possession including once-in-a-generation players, and he isn't overly thrilled with the prospects of a team whose top defensive pair consists of Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson...

Last month, when the locked-out NHLPA staged a charity game at the WFCU Centre, Wings goalie Jimmy Howard saw the red light illuminate behind him 10 times in two periods of work. There were cynical suggestions that Howard was getting his introduction to a career going forward minus Lidstrom.

Well, it’s not going to be that bad. But it is going to be a difficult transition.

As the team is slated to open training camp today with physicals, this is the Red Wings’ defensive corps: Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and Carlo Colaiacovo. Not exactly the magnificent seven.

Go ahead. Try saying Stanley Cup contenders and those names in the same sentence without choking on the words just a little bit.

Oh, and by the way, should any of those seven get hurt (did someone say Colaiacovo?), the only defenceman left with Detroit’s AHL farm club in Grand Rapids who’s ever played an NHL game is journeyman Nathan Paetsch.

“It’s going to be a lot different,” White said of a season without Lidstrom, his defence partner for much of the 2011-12 campaign. “Playing with arguably the best defenseman of all-time, it was quite a thrill.”

Duff duly notes that the Boston Bruins weren't exactly world-beaters without Bobby Orr, that even the mighty Canadiens dipped when Doug Harvey bade the Habs adieu, and he suggests that the New York Islanders' post-Dennis Potvin era may involve mercy on the rival New York Rangers' part by chanting that "Potivin" sucks, not the Islanders, but the non-skating member of the Red Wings' team who may yet prove himself to be the organization's greatest alpha male believes that his pack will survive...

“There’s opportunity for others,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said, trying to remain positive. “Kronwall will do that and Ericsson will do that. We think Smith has a chance. We didn’t think things went as good for Quincey when he got here (from Tampa Bay in a trade late last season). You get traded for a first pick, you come here and the team loses every night and you start putting pressure on yourself. We need him to do a good job for us.”

Though he isn't quite sure what success without Lidstrom looks like...Yet, anyway:

“We have a great storied franchise and we’ve just found a way year after year to win and we’re going to continue to do that,” Babcock said. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it. We’re just going to do it.”

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The Hurricane's avatar

Am I the only one that sees the game completely different now than during the Lidstrom era? I am watching teams SCREAM down the ice…aggressive and confident and full of maneuverability that the Wings simply cannot compete against playing the current system. When Helm and Datsyuk are afk the team falls apart. I am trying to be positive here, but Lidstrom wasn’t exactly a gaggle of geese last year…we need youth and we need energy and I am not sure we have that. I hope I am just being a pessimist. I think we’re rebuilding and behind the 8 ball.

Posted by The Hurricane on 01/12/13 at 01:30 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

With the exception of players like Draper and Helm, the Wings haven’t had a particularly “speedy” team since, well, really, since Fedorov departed, but when things are going well, they do apply the equivalent of a full-court press and then some. A Wings team that pushes the puck into the opposition’s end and keeps it there is the sign of a team that’s humming on all cylinders, and we haven’t seen the team sustain that kind of attack regularly enough over the past two years.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/12/13 at 01:46 AM ET

Slumpy's avatar

Almquist might be a decent NHLer someday. Ouellet I have high hopes for and Brendan Smith I like a lot. Our defenseman depth is not as bad as some think it is.


Posted by Slumpy from Under My Wheels on 01/12/13 at 02:56 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it. We’re just going to do it.”

Well that’s just terrifying.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 01/12/13 at 03:24 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

I started watching the NHL during Nick’s rookie season. I dunno how this will pan out, but I already miss #5.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 01/12/13 at 04:27 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.