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Red Wings overnight report: talking ‘bout life after Nick, and how much we’ll miss him

Updated 4x by an insomniac at 6:47 AM: Boy howdy, did the Detroit Free Press pay tribute to Nick…and that plays into the, “How much we’ll miss him” conversation in a big way: The Red Wings’ brass might be beginning their organizational meetings after a long Tigers game this evening, and while we’re not quite sure what their plans are regarding moving on past the second-best defenseman in Red Wings history after Red Kelly (sure, Jerry Green, whatever)...

Starting at what the Wings hope will still be a productive draft and thereafter, regardless of what happens when Niklas Kronwall and some of his teammates begin to attend CBA negotiations, Detroit’s front office will have to move incredibly aggressively and incredibly quickly if they are to ensure that the Wings remain a playoff contender and elite attraction to the Parises and Suters of the world as we move into an era with no Nicklas Motherbleepin’ Lidstrom in the lineup.

The Sunday columnists have gotten things going early, and as many of you have stayed up to watch the Devils-Kings game, I see no reason to delay my overnight report until the Wings’ papers update in the middle of the night by my standards. Instead, here’s an in-progress assessment of what might be coming thanks to two Sunday columnists filing their articles early, with an assumption on your part that there will be updates later.

As the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons notes, Lidstrom’s legacy is unmatchable and is an irreplaceable one…

Of the many amazing Nicklas Lidstrom statistics, two amaze me more than any other. 1) Lidstrom missed 44 games in 20 seasons playing huge minutes for the Red Wings. The least number of games he played in any full length season, 70, came in his final year; 2) In his 20 seasons in Detroit, not only did the Red Wings never miss the playoffs but they accumulated 16 100-point seasons as a group. That means he has played for more 100-point seasons personally than 26 entire NHL franchises have in their history. The Maple Leafs, for the record, have had three 100- point years. If you add the Leafs, Jets, Ducks, Wild, Hurricanes, Flames, Blue Jackets, Panthers, Kings, Coyotes and Lightning together and combine them as franchises, they have had fewer 100-point seasons than Lidstrom has experienced in his two decades as a Red Wing. That, folks, is crazy ... By the way, that was nice of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to invite Lidstrom on stage to take a bow at their Detroit concert Friday night.

Which Ryan Suter may or may not find appealing to attempt to step into the shadow of come July 1st—assuming he doesn’t either re-sign with Nashville or go somewhere else (despite the fact that the Wings do not believe in “replacing” legends, but instead, platooning the people who will try to help adequately address absences)...

The best reason for Ryan Suter to sign as a free agent in Detroit — Lidstrom isn’t there anymore. The worst reason to sign in Detroit, you can’t win trying to replace Lidstrom. Reminds me of the year Gilles Lupien tried to replace Serge Savard and was quoted as saying, “I have big shoes to wear.”

And while we can assume that the Wings may very well tap a free agent market of a different kind…

The University of Wisconsin defence in 2009-10: Ryan McDonagh, Gardiner, Brendan Smith of the Red Wings; soon to be chased free-agent Justin Schultz and Rob Ramage’s son, John. You could win the NHL with that defence.

And perhaps saving our subjective aesthetics for later…

Inspired by all the talk of where Nicklas Lidstrom fits in, career wise, I give you my purely personal Top 10 list of the best of NHL defenceman, keeping in mind I never saw Eddie Shore play and saw Doug Harvey only in his final days in St. Louis. While no two lists would be the same, here’s mine (and prepare yourself for a Sunday argument): 1. Bobby Orr. And then a big drop to everyone else. 2. Lidstrom; 3. Harvey; 4. Denis Potvin; 5. Ray Bourque; (And I keep changing my mind between Potvin and Bourque.) 6. Shore; 7. Larry Robinson; 8. Chris Pronger; 9. Scott Niedermayer; 10. Brian Leetch. Just behind the Top 10 in no particular order: Pierre Pilote, Brad Park, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Paul Coffey, Chris Chelios, Zdeno Chara, Borje Salming, Red Kelly, Mark Howe. Apologies to those — Serge Savard maybe, Tim Horton possibly — who have been left off.

While, as the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson notes, the future looks bright up front…

Tomas Jurco is an overlooked star on the Saint John Sea Dogs with Jonathan Huberdeau, Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips, but he’s a talent. The Detroit Red Wings got him in Round 2 last June, 35th overall. Everybody talks about how old the Wings are getting old but they have four very good kids — Jurco, Swede Calle Jarnkrok, who played in the worlds at 20, Finn Teemu Pulkkinen and forward Riley Sheahan. What they don’t have is a hotshot goalie coming. Their first-rounder in 2008 Thomas McCollum has made little progress in the AHL. He only got into 28 games in Grand Rapids last year (3.49 goals-against average, .891 save percentage) and 15 in the East Coast Hockey League with the Toledo Walleye.

The bottom line is that the Wings need to—at the very least—add a top-pair defenseman (see: Suter, Matt Carle, Dennis Wideman and Jay Garrison as the most likely free agents available) and a top-six forward (Zach Parise? Alex Semin?), with a second top-four defenseman (??), fourth-line forward with size and grit (Mike Knuble?) and perhaps a back-up goaltender (Scott Clemensen? Marty Biron?) as attractive but not absolutely necessary additions.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland did indeed speak to the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson about Lidstrom’s legacy…

“Nick is going to go down with a handful of the greatest defenceman, four, five or six, but what separates Nick is he won a Norris Trophy at 41. He won Norris trophies when he was 37 and 38,” said Holland, who knew Lidstrom was special through the 1990s, even if he didn’t win a Norris until 2001. When we won the Stanley Cup in 1997, (Vladimir) Konstantinov was runner-up (to Brian Leetch). We had Vlad then and Yzerman and (Sergei) Fedorov (up front to get all the hype). Then Vlad had the car accident (a limousine crash which left him brain damaged, his body a shell of his old warrior self), and the next three years Nick was second in voting (to Rob Blake, Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger). But from 1998 until 2011, he was either first or second 10 times,” said Holland. And we made the playoffs every year Nick was here. In the finals six times, four Stanley Cups, 233 playoff games. That’s like another three seasons. This is a 20-year-old league now and Nick is twice as old, but I still think in 2012-13, he would have been in the top 10 defencemen.” Last year at the 60-game mark, I still thought Nick could play himself in the race for the Norris again, but he got hurt (a hairline foot fracture).”

Holland lived through Yzerman’s retiring because he knew his knee was wrecked, and he had Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg at centre. Lidstrom is a different story. “When Steve retired, we still had Nick. His retiring leaves us with a hole. Yeah, it’s a crater.” The Red Wings never use the woe-is-me card, but in the last two years they have lost Lidstrom, the hugely underrated Brian Rafalski (retired), and Brad Stuart, one of their glue guys, their second-pairing hard-nosed veteran, is almost surely going to free-agency on July 1. He wants to be back in California, if possible, because his family has stayed there while he’s played for the Wings. That’s a big gulp.

And I’m cutting out the story about Holland’s attempts to employ Chris Chelios as a “one more year” cheerleader and the retirement presser because I want to get to the “what’s next” part, though Holland himself doesn’t add much to the mix, because it’s entirely possible that he dropped a hint or two which is reflected in what Matheson wrote:

Holland is eyeing Nashville’s Ryan Suter if the Predators can’t sign him. Holland has said with respect to the prize free agents (Zach Parise is in the same boat), he would be willing to trade for their negotiating rights, usually a window of a few days around the draft and before July 1 when they hit the marketplace for one and all.

“I’ve never done it and it would depend on what the price is, but I’m not opposed to anything,” said Holland, who knows the Philadelphia Flyers have made a history of trading for negotiating rights of UFAs such as Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen and the Predators’ Dan Hamhuis. They signed the first two, and couldn’t work out a deal for Hamhuis in 2010. They dealt his rights to the Pittsburgh Penguins six days later.

The salary cap is going up to $70.3 million from $64 million as of July 1, but only until a new collective bargaining agreement comes in, when the cap will likely drop substantially because the owners don’t want to give the players 57 per cent of the league revenue, more like a 50-50 split. The Red Wings, like most teams, are likely operating under the old model, so they won’t be spending fools. But they would love Suter; they’ve played against the Predators constantly in the playoffs. Parise, they envision, could play with Datsyuk.

Or Semin. And, according to Bill Meltzer of Hockeybuzz (click at your own risk), those in the know believe that teams which go up to the temporary cap will not be penalized for doing so if the cap’s cranked down under the new CBA, which is great news.

For now, they have Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl as their top five on defence, with two huge holes. Holland knows he’ll have to get somebody to replace Stuart too, but he doesn’t have a lot to trade.

There are even some intriguing trade proposals, the most interesting on the web having the Washington Capitals trading Mike Green and centre Brooks Laich to the Red Wings for Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Kindl. Green for Franzen. Laich for Helm and Kindl. I like the first part; that’s a wash. But Laich, who would be a top-six forward in Detroit, does more than Helm. He’s not as fast, but has better hands. And Kindl? Is he any better than a No. 6 defenceman? The Red Wings would move him but how would he make the Capitals defence better?

That was a HFboards rumor, and my boss was laughing at that one on Friday—and encouraging me to read the comments and laugh, too, which Paul never does—while I was translating the Slovak Jurco article which preceded news about why he has yet to be signed, so let’s just say that I’m not buying the concept of any “intriguing” trade proposals given that Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Jimmy Devellano, Mike Babcock and now Chris Chelios, Kris Draper and perhaps Lidstrom himself, at least eventually, usually open Mike Ilitch’s checkbook instead of shuffling personnel…

And Paul was laughing for a reason. Helm? Hell no.

Free agency will be the means by which the Wings will primarily operate, barring every attractive player re-signing with their current rights-holders or not signing with Detroit, and after the organizational powwow wraps up on Tuesday, the brass will have to put out feelers with player agents (which isn’t technically CBA circumvention, especially given that the agents might call them and say, “Hey, might you be interested in player A for B years at C dollars? Or perhaps A for D years and E dollars?” and it’s legal to answer, “Yes” or, “No”) and get to work.

Also of Red Wings-related note on Saturday night:

• The New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein and Stu Hackel’s Saturday notebook involves the drop-off in obstruction calls, but while I’m anything but happy about clutching and grabbing, is “shadowing” a player by skating in his lane really something that we need to see penalized?

• AmericaJr.com is an odd, odd website, but they posted two videos from Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement ceremony;

• Friend of TMR We All Bleed Red posted Ken Holland’s interview with The Fan 590 in video form:

• Take note of this press release from the Griffins, folks:

The Grand Rapids Griffins are joining forces with the Fox V.O.I.C.E. this summer to support our veterans with a paper American flag sale that will benefit the West Michigan Veterans Assistance Program.

Now through September, fans can visit the Griffins’ office – located on the east side of Van Andel Arena – and make a donation of at least $1 to write their name on a paper flag to display in the Griffins’ windows, with the goal of covering the windows completely. All proceeds will go toward the West Michigan Veterans Assistance Program, a nonprofit organization that provides 100% of the money it raises to local veterans in need of assistance with necessary bills, including housing and medical expenses.

The Fox V.O.I.C.E. is a community involvement committee comprised of the Griffins and all other DP Fox Ventures affiliates, including Fox Motors, Fox Powersports and Grand Rapids Harley-Davidson. For more information, and for a complete list of participating locations, click here.

• And finally, for the moment, anyway (FFTM), I have acquired the services of someone who actually speaks Swedish to translate what even she said was a difficult-to-translate interview Lidstrom gave Hockeysverige.se’s Ronnie Johansson. I can usually make a lot of sense out of the Google translation with the aid of a fantastic dictionary, some side-to-side text comparisons and my years of experience roughly translating a language that shares many commonalities with German, which I studied for about seven years in high school and college…

But this mofo’s a baffler. I’ll get it to you when my kind translator is ready, and not before.


Update: I guess we need to be reminded how special the captain is to know how much we’ll miss him. TSN’s Aaron Ward and the Red Wings’ Facebook page added photos and a video to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert equation…

And while the New York Post’s acerbic Larry Brooks was instead incredibly kind in describing Lidstrom’s place in history…

All of the other great defensemen in NHL history were dynamic whereas Nicklas Lidstrom was all about subtlety. Where then to rank the Red Wing, whose departure leaves a crater in the Detroit room, lineup and organization?

And does it matter beyond stipulating that this classiest of gentlemen — why can’t they all be like him? — is in the class of the greatest of all time?

The Detroit Free Press asked its current and former sportswriters to empty out their notebooks with remarkable tributes to Nicklas Lidstrom, and while the starter is more of a historical note, let’s read ‘em in chronological order:

• Starting with Zlati Meyer...

Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch bought the Detroit Red Wings on June 3, 1982. The purchase price for the team that Hockeytown called its own—and its two farm teams—was $10 million to $12 million ($23.8 million to $28.6 million in today’s dollars).

It had not been a good run for the Red Wings. The team did not make the Stanley Cup playoffs for 14 of the previous 16 seasons. They had last won the cup in 1955. Three months before the pizza titan bought the team, the coach, Wayne Maxner, was fired and replaced by Billy Dea.

“I’m going to surround myself with a lot of competent people. I’m not going to interfere in the hockey area, because I’m not qualified,” Ilitch said at the news conference announcing his purchase. “My responsibility is to provide the environment to make the ball club want to play, to make the organization want to go. I feel that’s up to the leader.”

The Norris family of Chicago and Miami had owned the team since 1932, the year the team name was changed from the Detroit Falcons, previously the Detroit Cougars.

Ilitch said at the time that he expected the Red Wings to make the playoffs the following year. They didn’t. The New York Islanders faced the Edmonton Oilers and won. The Red Wings’ first Stanley Cup victory under Ilitch ownership came in 1997.

• In 1989, from Keith Gave, who covered the team wonderfully until he got bitter and pissed off (Gave ends his reminisce by calling the Wings “just another average team” ???) and left to cover the Dallas Stars, this happened:

On June 17, 1989, the Red Wings made history at the NHL draft at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minn., a building demolished a few years later to make way for The Mall of America, a bastion of capitalism in a city that inexplicably let its hockey club move to Dallas. But for the moment, Jim Devellano rarely had been more delighted.

“I’m just ecstatic,” the former Wings general manager said moments after the draft. “You want to know why? Because today we drafted the best (young) hockey player in the entire (expletive) world. And we got him in the fourth (expletive) round. His name is Sergei Fedorov, and wait until you see him play.”

We all know Fedorov went on to have a sensational career. As it turned out, though, he was merely the second-best player the Wings selected that day. One round earlier, with the 53rd pick, Detroit acquired the player who would become the greatest defenseman in NHL history.

Who knew then about Nicklas Lidstrom, the slender Swede who would become Detroit’s most important player for every one of the 20 seasons he wore a Red Wings sweater? No one, obviously, since NHL teams drafted 18 other defensemen before Lidstrom’s name was called that June day.

And while Devellano entered those proceedings intent on overcoming his anti-European bias by adding a Soviet-bred player or two (Detroit took Vladimir Konstantinov with the 221st pick in the 11th round), the credit for Lidstrom lies squarely at the doorstep of the chief scout, Neil Smith, and his European bird dog, Christer Rockstrom.

I remember my first conversation with Lidstrom hours after he’d arrived in Detroit during an exhibition game at The Joe. He was peddling intensely on an exercise bike after the game as he politely answered questions in better English than most of us will ever speak. I feel privileged to have been able to watch him night in and night out over so many great Wings seasons, isolating on him for one perfect shift after another.

• As his career began to take off during the Wings’ Cup Finals run in 1995, but he remained a relative unknown because the press insisted that he was “too quiet” amongst the Shanahans, Yzermans and Drapers, per Viv Bernstein...

I’ll never forget a Mitch Albom column that best captured Lidstrom in those days. It was about two Swedish reporters who followed Lidstrom’s every move in the 1995 playoffs. He already was a star in Sweden, less so in Detroit. It was Nick at night. Nick in the morning. All Nick, all the time.

Who knew a story that quoted Lidstrom actually could be funny?

In the mid-90s, Lidstrom already had established himself as one of the best players on the Wings. But remember, he was surrounded by stars—Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Paul Coffey and living legends Igor Larionov and Slava Fetisov. Lidstrom wasn’t in that category yet.

If Lidstrom got overshadowed amid the myriad of spotlights that shined in that locker room, those who saw him play nightly understood his impact and import. Funny, the mumbling in Detroit then was why Lidstrom wasn’t getting more Norris Trophy hype. Maybe it’s because he was so understated not enough people noticed him.

I guess they finally noticed. He won seven of those trophies in the end.

There are no perfect hockey players, but I honestly can’t remember Lidstrom making a glaring mistake on the ice in my time on the beat. He always was in the right place, always made the right decision, never swung his stick in anger or elbowed someone too high.

• Somewhere in the middle of his career, from Jason La Caforna, Lidstrom nearly moved back to Sweden, receiving perhaps the most flak in his career from Wings fans for seemingly bailing on a team that had just won its second Stanley Cup for the sake of culture (I still maintain that there’s an IKEA in Canton because of Lidstrom, but that’s just my theory)...

Thankfully, for Hockeytown, and for anyone who knows and appreciates the game for that matter, Nick stayed in Motown ... only for another 14 years or so. Talk about longevity and consistency and professional excellence. Nobody did it better.

But back in ‘98, all the intrigue that swirled around Lidstrom says you all you need to know about this man. He was principled and forthright and selfless and moral enough to have walked away from NHL fame and fortune to raise his family back home if he deemed that the right move. And he was seriously considering it. His teammates knew it. And it scared the heck out of them.

Nick stayed—and, let it always be known, carried a tremendous weight having to hold up the blue line in the wake of Vladdie’s tragedy—and merely continued a legendary career. He defined the greatness that was Detroit Red Wings hockey. He made everyone in a winged-wheel sweater better.

And as we gradually watch the Wings of this certain era depart the game, let us celebrate not only their careers, but the confluence of hockey genius that made this all possible, from Scotty Bowman to Hakan Andersson, to Jim Nill to Kenny Holland to Jimmy Devellano, to Mr. Ilitch, who was savvy enough to put this organization together. As we wave a teary good-bye to Stevie and Igor and now Nick, keep in mind the personnel structure that procured and developed this talent, and that still stands uniquely qualified to find the next Nick Lidstrom.

• We learned that the “Perfect Human” stood by his principles, and perhaps by staying in Detroit, he earned the “A” that was given to him more or less because it was removed from Sergei Fedorov’s sweater for sitting out for half a season and then signing an offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes. As it turned out, as Gave suggests, Lidstrom’s dedication to the Winged Wheel and dedication to being the best hockey player he could be (Sergei was my first favorite Wing, but after 1998, we all know that he kinda enjoyed the lifestyle more than he did the game, and living like a rock star and continuing to play at a superstar level rarely intertwine), and thanks to people like Nicholas J. Cotsonika, we found out that Lidstrom was perhaps in fact vanilla, but very much so vanilla bean instead of the 5-gallon tubs of generic-brand-bland ice cream you can buy at the grocery store:

It was February 2001. I had traveled to Sweden on assignment, and while seeing some Russian prospect named Pavel Datsyuk for the first time, I had made a pit stop at the sports bar Lidstrom co-owned in his native Vasteras. I told him I was going to mention his drink, the “Red Wing No. 5,” a mixture of booze and cranberry juice, served with an umbrella and silver tinsel. He seemed nervous.

“That,” he said, “was not my idea. I mostly drink beer.”

What kind?

“Any beer, really.”

Now that was a scoop. Lidstrom drinks beer! As I said in the story, you could see Chris Chelios owning Cheli’s Chili and cracking open a couple of cold ones. Lidstrom was the kind of guy you imagined walking into a bar and saying, “Got milk?”

Back then, I thought Lidstrom suffered from a strange double standard. While professional athletes were criticized for being too bold and brash, he was supposedly too bland and boring. Some figured that was why he had finished second, not first, in voting for the Norris Trophy three years in a row.

As the years went by, Lidstrom received his due. He won the Norris seven times. He became known as “The Perfect Human.” Still, I thought that could work against him.

Lidstrom was not beloved quite like Steve Yzerman, who transformed from slick scorer to gritty winner. Who can relate to perfection? If there seems to be no adversity, how could he triumph over it?

I’ve wanted to say this over and over again, but haven’t yet, perhaps saving it up for a “thank-you” article that may not be written: if you watched Lidstrom play, and watched him play regularly, you could slowly realize that perfection took a ton of effort.

When the puck was 200 feet from his goal, Lidstrom would continue to shuffle his feet to both get between the puck and his own goal and to try to find an opening to provide an outlet for his teammates—I’ve never seen a defenseman move his feet more than Lidstrom—he could walk the blueline with that remarkable lateral mobility (he may have lost half a forward step over the years, but he was always faster side to side and skating backwards, and in all honesty, never particularly fleet of foot; if you could split Lidstrom and Larry Murphy, you were in like Flynn), head up the whole damn time, head up while he was carrying the puck, head up while he was passing, shooting, intercepting passes, poke-checking and using that long reach to sweep check, but when he tore a tendon in his right elbow, a man who’d played the vast majority of his career with one hand on his stick learned how to play with two, and I can sure as hell tell you that he probably learned every dimple and divot and soft spot in the boards behind both nets at the Joe (which Al Sobotka reinforces every couple of months with plywood, thus the ever-changing bounces from those springy boards) while helping Tomas Holmstrom tip shots for 15 or 20 minutes after almost every practice.

He worked real hard at putting no effort in. The biggest asset and advantage he had was his brain, knowing when to make the right play and making the right play all the damn time, but it wasn’t as if he just stood around.

• Anyway, and in 2006, from the Free Press’s Helene St. James, his patience shone through…

I’ve never met anyone more polite. It must be a little bit genetic, because a few years ago I was at Metro Airport waiting for a flight to Toronto to attend that evening’s NHL awards show. Lidstrom was a finalist, as usual, for the Norris Trophy. He was on the same flight, along with his wife and their four sons. When I boarded, I found Lidstrom in my seat, next to his wife. He asked if I minded switching, adding, “although maybe my wife would rather sit next to you.” He laughed, his wife laughed; of course I switched with him.

Then we sat there, and sat there, and sat there, until we told to de-plane, and then we sat and sat at the gate. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland was there, too. I got irritated with waiting, Holland got irritated with waiting. Lidstrom was imperturbable—and so were his kids. Not one temper tantrum thrown during the 3 hours of delay, followed by the flight being cancelled.

In 2006, at the awards show in Vancouver, the Lidstrom clan already was in Sweden for the summer, so he opted to attend the event, where he collected his fourth Norris Trophy, with a childhood friend, Joakim Enocksson, a car sales manager in his hometown. Enocksson had just gotten married the previous weekend, and Lidstrom had given a speech at the wedding, culminating with Lidstrom telling guests that now he and Joakim were going off on the honeymoon. Priceless.

Lidstrom was a beat writer’s MVP, because he nearly always made himself available. Once captain, he knew, especially after losses, how important it was his voice be heard.

If a poll had been done at any time in the past decade asking every NHL player which colleague he most respect, I think there’s little question Lidstrom would have won by a landslide. I’ve talked to dozens upon dozens of players about him over the years, and I never heard anything other than a glowing reviews. He earned the nickname “The Perfect Human” from teammates not just for the way he played but for the way he carried himself off the ice, right down to the fact he always hung up all his gear in his locker, unlike, for example, Dominik Hasek, who shed his into a pile on the floor and expected an assistant equipment manager to clean up.

Lidstrom’s future with the Wings hasn’t been decided, but he likely will take on some sort of ambassadorial role. It’s a perfect for him, because they don’t come any more polite, any more professional, any more perfect.

• Regrettably, however, from St. James, Lidstrom’s sidekick will be holding a press conference of his own soon, though he’ll remain in the U.S. for at least “one or two years,” and has entertained the thought of applying for a permanent visa:

Speaking at Thursday’s news conference for Lidstrom, Babcock rattled off the names of other Wings who’ve retired the past couple of summers: Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski.

At the end of the list, Babcock said, “I bet Homer.”

Holmstrom is 39, has played on bad knees for years and has been plagued by various injuries. Babcock said last month he considers Holmstrom a guy who’ll play on the fourth line at even strength and on the power play—the role Holmstrom had this past season. That’s a tough gig for a guy of Holmstrom’s age, because it’s hard to get nearly 40-year-old legs to warm up quickly after sitting on the bench for several minutes.

Holmstrom said he’d need time to think it over after the season and stuck with that line Thursday. “I go back and forth,” he said. “I haven’t really decided yet, but for sure it’s going to happen soon. My wife wants me to play and the kids want me to play. I have to see if I can do it, and if my body is fresh enough to battle through a new season.”

The Wings’ brass kicked off three days of meetings with plans to have supper and attend Saturday night’s Tigers game. General manager Ken Holland and company will assess how best to forge a competitive team for 2012-13 and whether that will include a role for Holmstrom. Holmstrom, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, has been a key component of the power play for most of his 15 seasons, from retrieving pucks in the corner to tirelessly setting up in front of the net.

The Wings already have 11 forwards under contract for next season and plan to re-sign Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, as well as be active in free agency. Losing a beloved guy like Holmstrom would be tough, but, Babcock said, “you have to embrace change, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

So this morning, that’s where we’re at.


Also of Red Wings-related note at 5:17 AM: Birmingham’s “Art of Strength” gym has a YouTube channel, and you can take a look at the pair of front office executives, one representing the Tampa Bay Lightning and one from Detroit, who were tossing around sixty-pound kettle bells:

• At the other end of the spectrum, from the Free Press’s sports staff, I think these are kind of dumb, but you may not:

Not only is it the perfect thing for sitting outdoors at the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, it’s part of the Father’s Day collection at the Red Wings’ website.

It’s the Game On Glove foam beverage holder (and that refers to the foam rubber it’s made of, not the foam on the beverage).

It keeps your hand warm and your beverage cold. It might be just the thing to get fighting out of hockey, too, because who’d want to drop the gloves if you’re going to spill something?

Image courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

I’m not paying $35 for a pair of beer hands, but I never really drank before finding out I was allergic to alcohol, either, and those big mitts won’t hold my Shirley Temple worth a crap.

• Speaking of half-baked cra…I mean in a similarly unnecessary vein, the Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp went from covering the Wings’ presser on Wednesday back to covering the Tigers, but he made sure to offer the usual cross-sport comparison while grumbling about the Tigers’ maddening inconsistency:

Mike Ilitch declined to comment about the Tigers’ current struggles when asked after Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement news conference Thursday. It was Nick’s day, a time for celebrating one of the greatest athletes in Detroit sports history rather than lamenting what could become one of the city’s biggest sports disappointments.

But he will be heard from soon.

• And I’ll kick off the Prospect Camp Pledge Drive another day. As I wrap up what I’m guesstimating is about seventy hours’ worth of work over the past five days, mostly due to a quiet Saturday, I’ll let the Free Press’s Steve Schrader have the last word via his “Stevie Awards” for the week:

The “Enjoy the Rest of Your Life” award

To Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired last week and plans to spend more time with his family. And for once, you can actually believe an athlete who says that.

Update #3: The news cycle never really ends, thus the ever-present lack of sleep and metaphorical hamster wheel. We All Bleed Red on YouTube, who keeps my hours, offers us an embeddable clip of Off the Record’s Michael Lansdberg’s interview with Nick…

And seriously, subscribe to his channel< because it's all good stuff, mostly Wings-related, including the previously-listed Ken Holland clip, and this little ditty, too:
Off the hamster wheel. I bought myself a $10 soccer ball when I went on a “pop run” for the mom and aunt tonight…Here’s hoping I get some quiet summer nights to actually use it. I used to play soccer as a kid, from about 7-14, and given my lack of physical activity, it seemed like a cheap and easy way to do something I enjoy, even if I have to drive myself to South Lyon High School’s parking lot to goof around with it as I live in a condo complex that’s too, let’s say close to get anything other than very weird looks from people who want lots of peace and quiet (great place to live at, not so great to do physical activity in)...So I’ll kick around the ball and see what happens. In theory, anyway. Good night and good morning. Update #4: Why yes, good sirs and madams, I’m still up. Getting the brain to slow down is the hardest thing to do after a grueling slate of work, ironically enough, and while I battle anxiety and major depression, my body tends to run like someone who’s bipolar—or, as I’ve been told, is “Bipolar II,” which is bipolar without mania. I get depressive and I get compulsive, but never manic or elated. Aaaaaaaannnyway, here’s one more Lidstrom tribute, from the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa and a player I can only describe as, “Brian Rafalski before there was a Brian Rafalski”:
During a conversation about defensemen making first passes, Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney ticked off a list of players who excelled at the maneuver. There was only one player Sweeney described with marvel in his voice: Nicklas Lidstrom. Sweeney praised Lidstrom for the acumen with which he tracked down pucks, processed the available options, then hit the right player with the perfect tape-to-tape pass. “Not fair,’’ Sweeney said of Lidstrom’s skills. The uncanny thing about Lidstrom, who announced his retirement Thursday, is that he executed just about every other part of the game with similar efficiency. Without his gear, Lidstrom looks like a civilian, more museum director than blue line legend. In that sense, he might be the primary example of how hockey sense can trump physical gifts. Lidstrom retired as his generation’s best defenseman and an unparalleled hockey ambassador. Teammates and opponents often referred to him as a machine. But as good as Lidstrom was on the blue line, he was an even better person off the ice. His big heart proves he is human after all.
Now that’s a good way to end the morning. Or begin it if you’re normal.

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Two, count them 2 mentions of Red Kelly in one evening—Steve Simmons and Jery Green. Wow. wink  The old school, as you mentioned in the previous post, goes by what they see. This doesn’t mean that Jerry Green didn’t consider enough (numbers) or perspective in putting Kelly ahead of Lidstrom, but I do have some respect for what the naked eye does provide that numbers never will (and if anything, the visual evidence of how good Nick was fills out the picture of his career—the numbers aren’t able to get the full picture since they don’t keep track of odd man rushes broken up for example).

Posted by Bugsy on 06/03/12 at 03:21 AM ET

John's avatar

Washington Capitals trading Mike Green and centre Brooks Laich to the Red Wings for Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Kindl. Green for Franzen.

I’d laugh at that too.  I am a little disappointed in Franzen’s performance over the last two seasons just like a lot of wings fans, but trading him for Mike Green would be a mistake.  Green has had some scoring prowess in his young career, but he is not responsible in his own end and I don’t think the Wings would trade for him.  Maybe trade for his rights as an RFA, but not for him outright.  And they certainly wouldn’t give up Franzen for him.

And as someone who has had Brooks Laich on his fantasy hockey team for three season, I can tell you that he is streaky as hell.  He produces like Jiri Hudler does.  And Helm is much more valuable to the team than Laich would be.

This deal can’t be real.

Posted by John from Pittsburgh, PA (Wings fan for life!) on 06/03/12 at 05:56 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Paul’s not dumb—and that kind of trade would be the Red Wings trading Kris Draper’s successor, someone who might be just as essential to the third and fourth lines and PK as Draper was, except that he’s *faster* and *more physical*—as well as a 25-to-30-goal scorer (ups and downs included) and at least a promising puck-mover who could find himself on the move for a) a player whose health and productivity have fallen off as, at least if you are to believe self-declared fangirls, his priorities have shifted away from being the best professional athlete he can be, and someone who can’t quite out-score his mouth in Laich. From a personality standpoint, never mind potential and real, genuine year-to-year productivity, it’s silly.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/03/12 at 06:13 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

As the draft approaches, I hope everyone remembers that Nick Lidstrom was the 53rd pick in the year he was drafted.  Anything is possible.

Thanks for all the wonderful stuff, George.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 06/03/12 at 11:24 AM ET

Tuba Guy's avatar

Moving back to Sweden, Lidstrom is going to miss his coneys and I miss his magic energy drink radio commercials.

Posted by Tuba Guy from Royal Oak, MI on 06/03/12 at 11:35 AM ET

Tuba Guy's avatar

By the way, the more I read about the future of Holmstrom, the more it sounds like Babcock doesn’t want him back.  I think Holmer wants to come back but realizes that he isn’t wanted (but his spot is available should he decide to return).

Posted by Tuba Guy from Royal Oak, MI on 06/03/12 at 11:37 AM ET

RWBill's avatar

Back in February in March I started, as unemotionally as possible, to critically analyze Holmstrom’s contributions.  He’s obviously still a warrior, but he doesn’t fit what Babcock wants on a 4th line, and is not fast enough to play with a quick transition, high skill top line.

At the time I think 11 of his 12 goals were on the PP, which had nose dived from mid season on.  It’s hard to justify keeping him on, occupying a forward roster spot, to specialize 3:30 of PP time a game, especially when it was wasn’t working.

The other side is that any young, quick banger who takes his place hasn’t shown any great scoring skill either.  I don’t know if NyQuil is counted among those 11 already on contract, but he needs to play with Top 6 or 9 players to bring out his best.

Posted by RWBill on 06/03/12 at 01:09 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl as their top five on defence

I was going to comment earlier in the week about this.  Just read those names again.

That’s it on defense.

That is fracking (tip of the hat to Battlestar Galactica) scary.

Posted by RWBill on 06/03/12 at 01:13 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Thanks George for the link to Aaron Ward’s twitter photo of Nick on stage Friday night.

Posted by RWBill on 06/03/12 at 01:17 PM ET

gowings's avatar

Tuba Guy :

Just curious, why do you think Babs does not want him back? I mean, yes, there is younger talent that can fill the void, but what I think he wants to say is that he does not want him to play on the top 2 lines. If he is ok with that, then I guess management will assess the situation…

Posted by gowings from MTL on 06/03/12 at 01:18 PM ET

gowings's avatar

Oh, a friend just forward me this :


I am getting old, but anyone remembers anything about that Nov 3rd 1999 game?

Posted by gowings from MTL on 06/03/12 at 02:47 PM ET

Michiru Kaioh's avatar

I think all the Wings brass would prefer Homer retires, to be honest. Holland doesn’t want to have to make the decision on whether or not to bring him back when frankly he doesn’t bring much to the table anymore. His skating is so diminished that he has a difficult time retrieving the puck anymore on the power play and even strength, and that was always one of his two biggest assets. He’s a liability at even strength, and I would even say on the power play at times now as well.

Babcock would prefer someone with more speed on the bottom lines so they can actually play solid defensively and rotate the lines more frequently, and using a roster spot on a power play only player is silly.

Posted by Michiru Kaioh on 06/03/12 at 02:58 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Just curious, why do you think Babs does not want him back?
Posted by gowings from MTL on 06/03/12 at 11:18 AM ET

I think Babs’ playing him on the 4th line and publicly stating that’s where he envisions Homer playing next year is a signal.  Homer and few others see Homer as having the physical attributes required for a 4th liner. 

The way he was utilized and the promise of the same to come if he insists on coming back next year is pretty clear handwriting on the wall for Homer, I think.

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


I am getting old, but anyone remembers anything about that Nov 3rd 1999 game?

Nothing happened then. It is a random date used by blogger DGB just for fun. Actually it’s DGB’s birthday and the year he picked is random.

Posted by Alex on 06/03/12 at 08:35 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl as their top five on defence

I was going to comment earlier in the week about this.  Just read those names again.

That’s it on defense.
Posted by RWBill from the Capital of the Confederacy. on 06/03/12 at 11:13 AM ET

No love for Ericsson, eh?  lol

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 06/03/12 at 10:35 PM ET


came in his final year; 2) In his 20 seasons in Detroit, not only did the Red Wings never miss the playoffs but they accumulated 16 100-point seasons as a group. That means he has played for more 100-point seasons personally than 26 entire NHL franchises have in their history. The Maple Leafs, for the record, have had three 100- point years.Philadelphia Movers

Posted by Philadelphia Movers from Philadelphia on 06/09/12 at 10:19 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.