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It’s not easy, for sure: St. James ponders Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstom’s fate

Updated 2x with some free agency scuttlebutt at 4:40 PM: Red Wings GM Ken Holland used the same terminology regarding the team’s take on Tomas Holmstrom’s future while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan and MLive’s Ansar Khan—saying that #96’s future basically isn’t totally up to Holmstrom himself—and in light of that reality, the Free Press’s Helene St. James wonders aloud whether the Wings will ultimately bring back a player who is, in his coach and GM’s eyes, a fourth-line forward:

Holland was back at his office at Joe Louis Arena Monday after spending a week at the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship in Helsinki, where the difference between winning and losing was, much like the NHL playoffs, incredibly close. Holland chatted very briefly with Holmstrom on Monday, mostly just to say the two would meet soon. Holmstrom, Holland told the Free Press, “has to decide what his body is telling him, and if he wants to play, he and I need to sit down.”

Money isn’t an issue, as the Wings have more than $20 million in salary cap room. Fit is. They’ve been bumped in the playoffs now, over the past three years, twice in the second round and this year in the first round.

Speed is of an essence in today’s game. The Wings have young players knocking, guys like Gustav Nyquist, even Tomas Tatar, though the odds are against Tatar because he has a year left of waiver-exempt eligibility. But as it stands right now, the Wings already have 11 forwards under contract for next season, counting Nyquist, and counting Patrick Eaves, who is recovering from a concussion. And the Wings want very much to upgrade up front, to add a top-six forward via free agency.

Under coach Mike Babcock, there’s been an emphasis on expanding the team’s net-front presence to include guys like Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi, especially on power play units. Holmstrom keeps making the cut because he does it better than anyone, but his effectiveness has been limited as years of playing punishing hockey has taken its toll.

Holmstrom had 18 goals in 2010-11, but this past season he only popped in 11 (10 of which came on power plays), and he was a team-worst minus-9. He had one goal and one assist in the five-game series against Nashville.

It’s been nearly a month since the Wings cleaned out their lockers. At that time, Holmstrom said himself how hard it is to be effective as a fourth-line player and power play specialist; Babcock, on the same day, stated just as clearly that’s that what Holmstrom is now.  Holmstrom may well decide that four Stanley Cups and a thousand NHL games is enough. But if he wants more, the Wings have a tough decision on their hands.

As this is late, via RedWingsFeed, Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski puts it better than I can:

Complicating matters is the relationship between Holmstrom and captain Nicklas Lidstrom.

If Lidstrom wants to give Detroit a 21st season, it’s reasonable to assume Holmstrom would give it a go again. It’s also reasonable to assume that Lidstrom might, ahem, suggest bringing his close friend back next season would clear the runway for his own return to the Red Wings.

As Coach Mike Babcock said after the season: “Are they a pair? I don’t know the answer.”

Best scenario for the Wings? Holmstrom retires and Lidstrom returns. But is that realistic?

It has to be. Plain and simple, it has to be, and Lidstrom at least told the press that Holmstrom’s future with the team won’t decide his own. Kris Draper can tell us that one simply can’t decide to give it up because your linemates (Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty) hang ‘em up.

One doesn’t have anything to do with the other, part 2: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan doesn’t update his Twitter account that often, so this pair of quips comes as something of a surprise:

Those fans thinking Zach Parise is a lock for the Red Wings..the New York Rangers seem like an ideal fit, too. Wouldn’t have to move, too.
And if no Parise to the Wings…Datsyuk and Alex Semin played well together at Worlds…but I’m not sold on Semin playing under Babcock.

Update #2: Cue the opposite take from ESPN’s Craig Custance,via a chat with ESPN users:

Don (DC): It seems likely that Alexander Semin is leaving the Caps. While he will get offers from a lot of teams, who do you see as the front runners and major players most likely to get his service?:

Craig Custance: Semin wants to play in the NHL next season, although I’m sure the biggest offer of all will come from the KHL. Semin to me could be a small consolation prize for teams that need scoring but miss out on Zach Parise. So that could be a team like Detroit, if Pavel Datsyuk signs off on it and the Red Wings can’t lure Parise. He’d also be a good fit on a team that needs to take a bit of a risk in free agency to get an impact player, maybe a team like the Islanders who have struck out in the past on the UFA market.
Ralph (Arlington): Semin to the KHL makes more sense. Guy’s a sulking underachiever that lacks the heart to win a Cup with. So yeah, maybe perfect for the Isle.

Craig Custance: I would agree Ralph with your KHL opinion, but I was told under no uncertain terms that his strong preference is to play in the NHL next season.

Bob (Boston): Do you see the Bruins being serious players for Rich Nash or Zack Parise this summer?

Craig Custance: Bob - It’s an interesting thought but I’m not sure they have the cap room to add Parise. Peter Chiarelli would have to do some serious shuffling to make it happen. My three favorites for Parise, if he doesn’t sign in NJ, are Detroit, NYR and Wild. I wouldn’t completely rule them out for Nash if CBJ would take some salary the other way.

Dave (Detroit) Where do you think Suter ends up signing with?

Craig Custance: Detroit
Conor (Michigan): Hey Craig,While the Red Wings are very likely players for Suter and Parise, do you see the possibility of letting teams potentially overpay for their services and signing more role players? I.E Semin, Penner, and perhaps a Barret Jackman on the blue line? Given the success at the World Championships with Datsyuk, I think Semin would look great with a winged wheel.

Craig Custance: Conor - In my opinion, the Red Wings are more than capable of developing those kind of role players within their system. There’s good young talent on the way. But there’s not a Parise or Suter coming. Detroit has an ownership group willing to spend, might as well spend the money.
Kevin (Louisville, KY): Just to piggy back off Conor’s question, I think that it would be in the Wings best interest to stay low this off season as next year’s free agent market is so much better.. Thoughts?

Craig Custance: Here’s the problem with that Kevin. The following summer’s free agent class always looks much better. Then guys start signing with their teams and it slowly thins out. If I’m a team pursuing a high-end free agent this summer and I don’t get Parise or Suter, I’m not signing anybody and saving my money for next summer. But I’m definitely not passing on Parise or Suter in hopes that I can get somebody next summer.
Frank (Philly): What are the chances Suter and Parise even hit July 1st? Whether that’s re-signing with their current team or having their rights traded.

Craig Custance: Great point on their rights Frank. I think both New Jersey and Philly have to consider trading rights if they’ve exhausted all options of signing their guys. We saw Hamhuis’ rights traded a couple times and there’s no way Columbus signs Wisniewski without trading for his rights first. It’s an effective strategy and I’m curious to see what the rights to either player fetch around the draft.

KP (Tri-State): Almost as a follow-up question, does the success of the Deboer playing style in New Jersey serve as an incentive for Zach Parise to stick around? He exemplifies everything that makes that aggressive system so successful in New Jersey, I think for the first time in his career this is Zach’s team - do you think he recognizes that the nature of the Devils new playing style is tailor-made to his strengths?

Craig Custance: KP - This success under DeBoer certainly helps the cause but I think the biggest factor will be ownership. Parise should have to be completely and thoroughly convinced that the NJ ownership situation is settled and there won’t be any financial issues moving forward before signing a long-term deal.

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CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

I don’t think Homer wants to be a Griff or a black ace, so my guess is he retires.

Homer is one of my all time favorite Wings. I love Kate’s idea of hanging his hockey pants over the visitor’s goal (1st&3rd; period). He is not great enough to have his number retired, but he found a niche in the sport that everyone knew existed, but that no one had the guts to exploit game-in, game-out, 90-100 games a season every single season. That he is still able to walk is incredible.

He will be missed, not only for his play but for his sound bites.

If Homer retires, will TPH go with him?

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 05/22/12 at 05:49 PM ET


I’m curious why people assume that Lidstrom and Holmstrom have to be joined at the hip.  Yes, of course they’re friends, but if Lidstrom wants to continue playing, why would he base it on what Holmstrom is going to do, and vice versa?  I’ve heard quotes from him about his family, his son being in school in Sweden, etc. but never once have I heard “But I haven’t talked to Homer about what he’s doing yet, so it’s all still up in the air”.

And I’ve also never heard Homer say “You know, I’m in constant pain all year round, my back is just destroyed and I can barely walk, but Nick wants to keep playing, so I might have to suck it up”.

Both of them are of course weighing their options, but I doubt that the decision is either one will weigh heavily into the decision of the other.

Posted by Garth on 05/22/12 at 05:54 PM ET

gowings's avatar

If anyone watched the NHL36 on TV, will see it is a 2 for 1 deal. All along you can hear the perfect human and Babs say how much he likes “the routine”. The routine includes having Homer pick you up, eat lunch and drink coffee with him. TPH has done it for years. Having Homer gone, the routine is gone and so is #5. Hey, if that is the deal breaker, then bring me back the captain and we will figure out what to do with Homer

Posted by gowings from MTL on 05/22/12 at 06:12 PM ET

joedaiceman's avatar

GOWings - I think you are onto something.

Posted by joedaiceman on 05/22/12 at 06:15 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

. Both of them are of course weighing their options, but I doubt that the decision is either one will weigh heavily into the decision of the other.

They are best friends and do everything together.  It’s not at all unreasonable to think their individual decisions might be related.  I’d agree that people are overemphasizing it a bit though.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 05/22/12 at 06:16 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

I assume it because it’s true. They are joined at the hip. They’re neighbors. They eat their game day meals together at the same restaurant every time. They commute together.

Even Babcock thinks they’re a pair:

Apparently Chelios does too:

I don’t think either one would retire soley because the other was retiring, but I think it would be a factor in the other’s decision. How big a factor? Who knows?

Homer never complains, never whines. No matter the amount of physical punishment. No matter how bad the officials screw him. That is another reason he is so adored.

But c’mon Garth, you’ve watched Red Wing hockey for years. It’s completely assinine to think Homer has put up with that abuse for over 1000 games and doesn’t have any chronic pain or injuries. He’s one of the toughest SOB’s every to play in the NHL, but that doesn’t mean he is immune to the long term effects of all that physical punishment.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 05/22/12 at 06:17 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

There’s nothing saying that Nick and Homer can’t still have lunch together every day after Homer retires.  He’s not going to live on a farm or anything.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/22/12 at 06:23 PM ET


Having Homer gone, the routine is gone and so is #5.

But eating meals and driving to the arena together aren’t anywhere near the same thing as continuing to play the game you love.

Lidstrom could

Even Babcock thinks they’re a pair:

Well no, he asks if they are a pair.

Apparently Chelios does too:

And who is Chris Chelios?  Just because two guys are good friends doesn’t mean that Lidstrom is going to hang them up just because Holmstrom does, or vice versa.

Again, I haven’t seen [bLidstrom] or Holmstrom say that their decisions will be based on one another.

But c’mon Garth, you’ve watched Red Wing hockey for years. It’s completely assinine to think Homer has put up with that abuse for over 1000 games and doesn’t have any chronic pain or injuries.

I think you misunderstood what I meant.  I’m specifically saying that Holmstrom does have chronic pain and injuries.  What I’m saying is, if he decides that he physically can’t hack it anymore, he’s not going to come back just because Lidstrom does, because they’re some sort of package deal.  These guys are at completely different ends of the spectrum physically.  Lidstrom is still in incredible shape, still one of the top defensemen in the league, and this year was the first time he missed any kind of significant time due to injury, so it doesn’t make sense to say that if Lidstrom still has the desire to play he would instead retire just because Holmstrom decides to retire.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/22/12 at 04:23 PM ET

Exactly.  That’s my hope, anyhow.

If they both retire I’m sure people will say that their retirements are related, but I think if Lidstrom retires it will be because he doesn’t want to go through the grueling NHL schedule and would prefer to spend a lot of time with his family,  not because he’ll miss having lunch with Tomas Holmstrom too much.

Posted by Garth on 05/22/12 at 06:43 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

Don’t get me wrong… I have nothing but love for Homer.  But he has built up a lot of bad crease-mojo for the Wings with the referee’s over the years… on both ends of the ice.  I’m tired of seeing waived off goals for the Wings and interference on Howard not getting called.  You’d be a fool to think Homer hasn’t had something to do with the attitude Detroit gets from the Brad Watsons of the world.

I know many say Lids and Homer come as a package deal, and I’d rather have Lidstrom with Homer than no Lidstrom.  But that doesn’t stop me from saying that I am ready for Homer to retire the reputation he has earned the Wings.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 05/22/12 at 10:14 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

I find it amazing that, knowing Nick Lidstrom, or how peope SHOULD know Lidstrom by now, that another person’s decision will be the deciding factor, not his own desires.  If there is a man in the history of the human race who is master of his own domain it is Nick Lidstrom.  The Wings do need to clear Homer off the roster, but will just as enthusiastically and quickly hire him into another job if he wants, and will continue to ride in with Lidstrom, stopping for coffee along the way.

Lidstrom will make the decision completely on his own terms.

Posted by RWBill on 05/22/12 at 10:17 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I love Kate’s idea of hanging his hockey pants over the visitor’s goal (1st&3rd; period).

I love this idea too.  Another friend of mine said once that the Wings should paint the words “Homer’s Office” in the crease area.  I love that idea as well.

I get the feeling the organization’s decision is made where Homer is concerned.  I love Homer and I will be very sad when he retires, but even I have to admit that he is too beat up to deserve any more ice time than Babcock is willing to give him.  And frankly, I think we need some younger, stronger legs on our fourth line.  So I hope he decides to retire.

About his friendship with Nick.  Yes, they can continue to have lunch together, but I haven’t seen anyone mention all the years that Nick worked on shooting the puck just wide of the net for Homer to deflect it in.  They have been close on the ice as well as off.  Now how much does that factor into Nick’s decision?  Who really knows.  No question Nick is in better shape than Homer, but he talked a lot last year about how hard it is to keep that going. Last summer he said he would only keep playing if he could keep playing at the top of his game. I wonder if the injury he suffered this season will make him think long and hard about how the body just doesn’t heal as fast as we age.

I’ve just had a gut feeling all along that Nick and Homer would retire together.  I would like to be proven wrong, where Nick is concerned, but frankly, I’ll be surprised if he plays another year.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 05/23/12 at 10:18 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.