The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/18/13 at 02:22 PM ET
The Red Wings afternoon post-practice news post will still be updated for the next hour or two (as the Red Wings' beat writers file their practice reports), but, via RedWingsFeed, the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek leads off his weekly notebook with an intriguing conversation held with one Red Wings gM Ken Holland about his team's attempts to sustain its 21-year playoff-qualifying streak without Nicklas Lidstrom:
“We’re not going to replace him,” said Holland, “so what do we do? Obviously we used to have a superstar on defence. In his prime, he’d play close to half the game. When you weren’t sure, you threw Nick on the ice. Now, I think Nik Kronwall is a really, really good defenceman. There’s no doubt he’s the face of our defence. It’s Nik Kronwall and then it’s a committee.”
The Red Wings have been a model of consistency during Holland’s entire 16-year tenure as GM. He likes to talk about a story, written by a well-known Toronto reporter at the end of the last lockout, predicting the Red Wings’ best days were behind them – and that in the new salary-cap era, where they couldn’t simply outspend the opposition, they would fall back into the pack. Holland said in an interview this week he still keeps that article on his desk as a daily reminder of the fickleness of pro sports and its ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately’ nature.
Instead of faltering coming out of the last lockout, the Red Wings were their usual model of consistency. They won a Stanley Cup and were finalists a second time. In the past seven years, they never managed fewer than 102 points, averaged 110 points per season and finished atop the Western Conference three times. Predictions about how the Red Wings might fare in the post-Lidstrom era vary wildly. Some have them in the playoffs and some have them on the sidelines. Recently, Holland saw a forecast that picked them seventh in the conference, but he is like everyone else – completely unsure of how a 48-game season might unfold.
“Seventh could be four points from third,” said Holland. “I looked at last year’s standings. After 48 games, there were six teams within five points of each at the top of the Western Conference. There’s going to be two or three teams that are comfortably in and then it’s going to be a pack.”
At the age of 42 last year, Lidstrom still played 23 minutes and 46 seconds per night for the Wings, and fellow blueliner Brad Stuart chipped in with 21:03. For family reasons, Stuart wanted to be back in California so he signed with the San Jose Sharks in the off-season. The Red Wings made one move – bringing in Carlo Coliacovo, the former Leaf, who was most recently with the St. Louis Blues – but the reality is, the engine that made the Red Wings tick, the glue that held them together, is now gone, off into retirement.
Holland noted that Jonathan Ericsson made great strides last year and this is a good opportunity for him to play on the top pair. They believe youngster Brendan Smith will eventually evolve into a top-four defencemen. Then they have what Holland calls some pros – Ian White, Kyle Quincey, Coliacovo – “who’ve been around the game and can play in the NHL and are obviously going to have to be members of our defence by committee. We really like our forwards. We think we can roll four lines. Even if we get injuries, we think we have players that can fit in and play. So we’re really going to have to try and play a good team game and find a way to grind out wins.”
Likely, the post-Lidstrom era is going to involve some of the same hardships that the Anaheim Ducks experienced a few years back when they lost both Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger within a two-year span. But Holland is hoping to ride it out and continue the Red Wings remarkable streak of making the playoffs in 21 consecutive years.
“After 48 games last year, we were first in the West,” said Holland. “After 60 games, we were first overall. We’ve obviously lost two important pieces, but we have a lot of other players that we think are really good. Obviously, the question about the Detroit Red Wings, in a year where you lose two guys in the top four and a year after you lose Brian Rafalski is gonna be, ‘how is the defence going to hold up?’ There’s no doubt we’ll have a different look. We believe we have good goaltending. We believe we have good forwards. We believe the defence can play steady and solid, so … let’s play some games and see.
Continued at significant length.
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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.