The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/01/12 at 12:25 PM ET
Updated 2x at 12:23 PM: The Red Wings news cycle never stops, it seems, and as the Free Press’s Mike Thompson wonders whether Al the Octopus pointed to the rafters to remind Nicklas Lidstrom where he will see his jersey next, and the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness offers a Lidstrom career timeline, and, via RedWingsFeed, Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner recalls what he believes was Lidstrom’s arrival as a superstar in playing over 50 minutes during the team’s Triple Overtime victory over the Hurricanes back in 2002…
Wings’ MLive’s Ansar Khan discusses the fine line the Wings’ management must ride in attempting to “retool” the team’s defense instead of “rebuilding” it and the team—or, as one of my favorite Red Wings shirts said, “Detroit: We Don’t Rebuild, We Just Reload!”
Starting with this weekend’s organizational meetings, the Wings’ brass will map out its “retooling” strategy, and Khan spoke to Holland about the team’s plans, which involve more than just adding a defenseman or two:
“We want to compete. We don’t want to go into any rebuild,” Holland said. “We have a lot of pieces in place. We need to make some moves, either through trades or free agency. We have a lot of work ahead in the next 4-6 weeks.”
With or without Lidstrom, the Red Wings planned on being aggressive in the free-agent market. Losing the seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman puts more pressure on the organization to land a quality player. But it helps having upwards of $20 million in salary-cap space, potentially.
“We’ve had a lot of great players here, but (Lidstrom) is one of the two or three special ones at a position that really controls the game,” Holland said. “In order to be a really good team you need to have great defense.”
They have six defensemen: Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, top prospect Brendan Smith and restricted free agent Kyle Quincey, who will be re-signed this summer.
Holland can’t comment on potential free-agent targets, but it’s no secret that Nashville Predators star Ryan Suter is at the top of their wish list for July 1. After Suter, the free-agent pool for defensemen thins considerably. Alternatives include Dennis Wideman (Washington), Jason Garrison (Florida), Matt Carle (Philadelphia) Filip Kuba (Ottawa), Barret Jackman (St. Louis) and potential college free agent Justin Schultz. If Brad Stuart doesn’t sign with San Jose, there is a chance he might return to Detroit.
“We’re not going to have that star power on the back end with Nick walking away (unless they sign Suter),” Holland said. “But we have cap space and I feel real confident in our scouts, pro and amateur, and our coaching staff. And we’ll find a way to make some moves and we’ll put a team on the ice that we think can be competitive.”
Holland’s definition of competitive is to make the playoffs, which the club has done the past 21 seasons. Once you make the playoffs, it’s anybody’s game, he said, noting that a sixth seed (New Jersey) is playing an eighth seed (Los Angeles) in the Stanley Cup finals.
“It just got harder today, but we’ve got great ownership that’s committed to this team and this city,” Holland said. “I’ll sit down with Mr. Ilitch (owner Mike) at some point prior to the draft (June 22-23) and let him know what I’m thinking and what I want to do and then we’ll see if we can make some moves to keep the team competitive.”
As Khan points out, Lidstrom himself said that he believes the team still has a solid nucleus and core which can compete for a Cup…
And if you missed this, MLive’s Josh Slaghter provides an annotated semi-transcript of what Holland had to say to the Huge Show’s Bill Simonson, which you can listen to below:
Amongst Holland’s comments:
“We’re going to be aggressive as we possible can be,” Holland told The Huge Show’s Bill Simonson on Thursday. “Problem is, over the next month, a lot of players are going to re-up with their teams. You’ve got to have a whole lot of plans because there’s a whole lot of moving parts that’s out there. Twenty-nine other teams have got the same desire that we’ve got.”
One player the Red Wings are hoping doesn’t re-sign with his current club is Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter. While Holland can’t comment on potential free agents, it’s no secret the organization is eying Suter as a potential replacement for Lidstrom on the blue line. Detroit could have upwards of $20 million in salary-cap space.
Holland said even if the Red Wings don’t land any major free agents, the tone of the new NHL is teams have to get better through the draft, too, and the key is just getting into the postseason.
“You’ve got to draft and you’ve got to develop. We want Brendan Smith to make our team, we’re going to give Gustav Nyquist a chance,” Holland said. “You just need to make the playoffs and you need to get hot. You need to get some luck with injuries. Everybody that makes the playoffs now legitimately has a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”
This season’s Stanley Cup finals feature the No. 8 seed out of the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings, and the No. 6 seed from the East in the New Jersey Devils. As for Lidstrom, Holland said he thought even at age 42 he was among the best defensemen in the league until he got hurt last season.
“His game hasn’t fallen off very much,” Holland said. “He’s comfortable. He wants to be the best defenseman in the world. He doesn’t feel that he’s got everything internally and externally to play at the level he’s accustomed to. He’s walking away on his own terms. He feels good about his decision. We felt he had some hockey left in him. At the end of the day, I’d always be looking for one more year, one more year.”
USA Today’s Kevin Allen also offers his take on the Wings’ options:
Pursuing Ryan Suter: Presuming he doesn’t re-sign with the Nashville Predators, Suter will be the top available free agent defenseman. He has some traits, particularly defensively, that are similar to what Lidstrom offers. He’s a composed presence like Lidstrom. Suter would enjoy being surrounded by Detroit’s skilled players. The Red Wings have plenty of cap space to attract him. The problem is a long line of teams will be interested in Suter.
Get more from Kronwall: Niklas Kronwall was already playing an expanded offensive role, maybe because he knew he soon was going to be driving the offense. But Kronwall isn’t the efficient defensive player that Lidstrom is. He is more of a risk-taker, and he might have to tweak his game. Presuming the Red Wings lose Stuart, returing defensemen include Kronwall, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey (a restricted free agent) and Jakub Kindl, who was a part-time player last season.
Promoting Brendan Smith: He is Detroit’s top young prospect, a player in the mold of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson. He can be a dynamic offensive presence. He’s aggressive. As he matures, he could be an impact defenseman.
Changing styles: Other successful defenses around the NHL didn’t have Lidstrom for two decades. If the Red Wings don’t land Suter, they could adjust their approach to fit the available talent. Potential available defensemen include Jason Garrison, Barret Jackman, Matt Carle and Bryce Salvador. Garrison is offensive-minded and Jackman and Salvador are defensive-minded. Carle is offensive-minded, but his defensive game has improved. The Red Wings will also be helped by the continued improvement of goalie Jimmy Howard.
Souping up the offense: If the Red Wings can’t upgrade their defensive personnel, maybe they will look to put a charge in their offense. They are expected to pursue Zach Parise as well as Suter. If they can stay healthy up front and add a couple of scorers through signings and trades, they might not need to be as strong defensively. Depending upon what happens in the marketplace, it might make more sense to try to upgrade their offense.
Thus far we’ve got a solid crop of audio rolling in this morning, with Kirk Maltby speaking to WCSX’s KC & Jim about Lidstrom’s retirement…
And WDFN’s Matt Sheppard offering a slate of interviews from yesterday’s presser, including comments from Chris Chelios…
And of course Ken Holland:
This has nothing to do with Lidstrom, but Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji provides an update on Darren “Lightning Bolt Scar” Helm’s status…
Darren Helm is healing nicely and had the contraption attached to his right hand and arm was removed Wednesday.
“Whenever you’re missing something, it feels weird,” Helm said after watching Lidstrom’s press conference. “It feels good to have it off. Seven weeks with it on, not a lot I could do. Just kind of awkward, prevented me from doing a lot of stuff. Now it’s off, it feels good, starting to use it more. It’s my dominant hand so I think that will help with the healing process. It sucked when it was on but now I’ll be using it more and more and it should heal up pretty quickly.”
Helm returned from a knee injury in time to play in the first game of the Wings’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators, only to leave a few minutes into the game. Helm checked Nashville forward Alex Radulov along the boards and Radulov fell to the ice, his skate came up and slashed Helm’s right forearm, cutting tendons. Helm rushed off the ice.
The speedy forward had to undergo season-ending surgery, much as Mike Modano did the previous season when he was cut by the skate of Columbus’ R.J. Umberger. Although Helm had the cast removed, it does not mean he can get back to full activity yet.
“I’m cleared to do some therapy activity with elastic bands and play-dough, small things,” Helm said. “I think right now if I keep doing that stuff it’ll kind of take off positively and the healing process will go pretty quick now that I’m actually using (the arm).”
Helm said he’ll likely be able to resume full activity at the 12 to 16-week point, about a month and a half from now.
And in the dueling Swedish banjos category, after Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman offered a fantastic interview with Lidstrom earlier this morning, Expressen basically fired back thanks to Mattias Eriksson industriously calling Zetterberg in Bali…
Zetterberg can take over the captaincy after Lidstrom
Henrik Zetterberg is expected to be Nicklas Lidstrom’s successor as the captain of the Detroit Red Wings.
Now, celebrating “Lidas,” he tells us what it would mean to take over as team captain.
“There will be a huge void for all of us over there,” says Zata.
Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement has touched the entire hockey world, and one who’s always hailed Lidstrom as the very bes is Henrik Zetterberg, his teammate in Detroit since 2002. Now they have played their last game together.
“I’ve had a bit of a feeling [about this], but I was hping he’d play for another year,” said Zata about the news that Lidas retired.
“It would be incredible”
What did he mean to you?
“He meant a great deal to me, from my first camp until now. He’s always been there, both on and off the ice. There will be a huge void for all of us over there this fall.”
Zetterberg remembers, above all, when they won the Stanley Cup together in 2008, and Lidstrom lifted the trophy as the captain for the first time—and Zata looks at Lidstrom as the team’s backbone over the years.
“He was always the best when it was most important. Whether we needed a goal, or had to defend a leader, we always relied on him,” says Zetterberg.
When Lidstrom became the captain in Detroit, he replaced the legendary Steve Yzerman. Now there’s speculation about who will succeed Lidstrom, and the hottest tip is Zetterberg. Among others, Lidstrom himself says that he thinks it’s Zata who will take over.
“We’ll see what happens when I head over there in the fall, but if it happens, it would be an incredible honor to wear the “C” in a Detroit uniform,” says Zata.
And this took quite a while, but Mats Larsson, who attended Lidstrom’s presser, offers both an embedded video interview and a conversation with Lidstrom:
Lidas: Shall go home and enjoy the summer.
Detroit. Nicklas Lidstrom said a tearful goodbye to the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings yesterday.
Sport-Expressen was there to give its own parting gift.
But it’s not a farewell to hockey [for Lidstrom].
Both the Detroit Red Wings and Vasteras IK want to offer him a job.
“But right now it just feels good that I made this decision. Now I’ll go home and just enjoy the summer,” says Lidas.
It was a little after 11 AM at the Olympia Club in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena where Nicklas Lidstrom sat behind a table and said what all of Detroit’s feared. The news that probably robbed some of them of sleep.
That yes, number 5, the team captain, “Nick,” has decided that after 20 seasons, enough is enough.
“Know that I’m finished playing”
It was a long farewell to Detroit. Four hours later, “Lidas” was saying farewell to the last local reporters, and shaking hands with them, one by one.
“It feels a little sad in some ways,” says Lidstrom to Sport-Expressen when it’s only us left in the room. “Some of the reporters have been working here since I got here in the 1990’s. But it feels good that I made my decision. I know that I’m finished playing now.”
The news that Nicklas Lidstrom retired was top news in both Detroit newspapers yesterday. The homages never ended. The superlatives were tightly wound.
But we’re also talking about one of the NHL’s best dever defensemen. A winner of four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies. Only Bobby Orr took more home (eight). And the praise from the press conference started with owner Mike Ilitch:
“This is one of the most emotional days in Detroit Red Wings history. Nick’s been a Rock of Gibraltar for us.”
The decision emerged
Even Nicklas Lidstrom and his wife, Annika,who was there, became emotional. His three youngest sons, Adam, Samuel and Lucas, were also there.
“My wife sat crying the whole time. It was hard to look at her,” says Lidstrom afterwards.
“I had tears in my eyes myself. There were so many memories that came back. I’ve been with the same team for 20 years.”
The decision to retire emerged over the last couple of weeks, he said. Detroit general manager Ken Holland met the Swede last Thursday, and was told about his plans. He asked Lidstrom to think about it over the weekend. Last Tuesday, Holland understood.
“I’d barely been able to sleep,” says Ken Holland. But the decision stood firm.
“You can’t cheat”
So why did Nicklas Lidstrom decide now?
“It was when I began my summer workouts again. I didn’t have the motivation that I know I have to have. At the age I’ve reached, I know it’s impossible to cheat during the summer.”
On the tribute poster that Sport-Expressen gave to him, Nicklas Lidstrom is wearing the Tre Kronor uniform, not that of the Detroit Red Wings’ red and white. He doesn’t mind, however.
And the picture was taken during one of his best memories during a great hockey career. Olympic gold in Turin in 2006.
“I’m very proud that I managed to win Olympic gold with the three crowns. I only have good memories from that time. And the praise we received when we got home!”
Difficult to rank championships
What’s the most important, the Olympic gold or Stanley Cup victories?
“It’s difficult to rank the Olympics or the Stanley Cup. I’ve said before that it’s like ranking your children. You love them all but in different ways.”
Nicklas Lidstrom has lived in Detroit for over 20 years, and this is where his four sons grew up. But now the family will move back to Sweden. Their house has been sold, and the journey home will take place within a few weeks.
But it might not be the last time the Detroit Red Wings get to see Nicklas Lidstrom. Ken Holland told Sport-Expressen that he hopes to be able to attract the Swede to cross the Atlantic multiple times.
“We have many former players in the organization. We haven’t really sat down and talked about it, but he has said that he’d like to remain linked to the team. Of course, it wouldn’t be as often now that he’ll be living in Sweden, but I hope he can come over three or four times a year. Maybe at the draft, to welcome new players, young talent.”
Nicklas Lidstrom confirms that the two will have discussions. And at home in Vasteras, Lidstrom’s old team, Vasteras IK, will welcome him with open arms.
“I talked to Nicklas last August, and he’s been telling us for years that the day he moves home, he’d like to work with youngsters and us. It would be a dream,” says Vasteras
team director Anders Eklund.
Hasn’t thought about his job
Even though he’s retiring from the NHL, hockey will continue to be an important part of his life, The game’s been handed down to his four sons.
“I will certainly be in arenas, helping them with practicing and so on.”
Could there be a future with the Tre Kronor? Head coach, perhaps?
“I really haven’t thought that far ahead. I haven’t thought about being a coach at an elite level at all.”
You’ve won just about everything but a national championship. Will we see you on a Swedish team?
“You can never say never, and it’s something I will think about over the summer. But right now it just feels good that I’ve made this decision. Now I can go home and really enjoy the summer.”
Few have deserved that more.
Annika Lidstrom, Nicklas’ wife, on the Wings organization: “From the start, just the kind of people they are, down to earth, family people. We knew they were amazing people.”
Annika, on moving back to Sweden: “We go back as usual now for the summer. The kids have to start school, so we will put them in school in Sweden for the fall.”
Update #2: Of course Lambert thinks that Lidstrom’s presser taking place during the Stanley Cup Finals makes both #5 and the Red Wings big jerks (meh, whatever);
• The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman offers different takes on Lidstrom:
“We used to watch Nicklas get dressed before a game,” Kirk Maltby said with a laugh Thursday. “He’d tape his socks, and there wouldn’t be creases where he rolled the tape. His skate laces would never be curled or rolled over. They were always perfectly flat and straight. We’d say, ‘He even does this perfectly. What’s wrong with this guy?’’”
There was nothing wrong with Nicklas Lidstrom. In an age where hockey highlights are basically goals, saves or big hits, Lidstrom controlled games doing very little of that. Yes, he could score, but that wasn’t what he was known for. The Detroit captain was a master of the game’s subtle skills - walking the blue-line, using angles to his advantage, getting pucks through, having an active stick, making a great outlet pass. He was so good at avoiding checks that teammates would be surprised when he actually took one.
Mike Babcock once said his greatest attribute was that “he doesn’t think he’s important.” What is important, though, is that Lidstrom went out on his terms.
There were a couple of occasions this season where opponents noted that, for the first time, Lidstrom was making concessions to age. The gap between him and his forwards was slightly larger than before, with the captain hanging back a little more to guard against speed. It wasn’t a criticism. People have too much respect for him for that. It was jarring, more like, “For 20 years, we’ve never seen Lidstrom need to do it before.”
There is one harsh similarity between being an athlete/coach/manager and working in television. You rarely get to walk away on your own terms. The majority of the time, someone tells you you’re done, whether you like it or not. We know we’ll see him at least twice more: when the Red Wings retire his number and, in 2015, when he goes into the Hall of Fame. The number of tweets from peers proved Lidstrom is the most respected player of his generation. That’s why it’s so great to see him go out on his own terms.
1. In my experience with Lidstrom, he had a certain method of doing post-game or post-practice scrums. He preferred to stand and would turn to look directly at whoever asked each particular question. The only other athlete I ever dealt with who always did it that way (unless at a podium) was Michael Jordan.
19. A couple of weeks ago, the Penticton, B.C.-based Young Stars Tournament, a rookie event featuring the Canucks, Oilers, Flames, Jets, Sharks and Ducks over the past two years, was cancelled due to the uncertain CBA. The teams involved in the other major prospects showcase (Traverse City, MI) are trying to save it by starting earlier. The 2011 participants were St. Louis, the Rangers, Dallas, Carolina, Buffalo, Columbus, Minnesota and Detroit.
• If you are interested, the Wings are holding a social media meet-up at the MotorCity Casino on June 30th;
• And my favorite person at MLive, former editor Phillip Zaroo, takes note of some of Lidstrom’s favorite memory from his long career with the Wings—his first Stanley Cup:
“I remember the first one very (well) because it happened here at the Joe,” he said. “We were up 2-0 against Philly in Game 4, and they scored with 10 seconds left to make it 2-1. And it’s a very tight game. We have the chance to win the Stanley Cup here on home ice, and the puck goes down in our corner, and I’m out there with Vlady Konstantinov, and you’re just hoping that you can keep the puck in the corner. He falls on it, and we’re all just waiting for the buzzer to go off. That feeling, when you’re waiting for the buzzer goes – the arena went nuts, the crowd went nuts, the players went nuts. The city’s been waiting 40-some years for it. That moment when you’re winning it all at home – all the players are hugging your goalie, you’re all celebrating ... that moment is something special.”
Of course, competing doesn’t come without some moments that are, well, less special. Miraculously, Lidstrom never won the Lady Byng Trophy, despite the fact the NHL describes the award as “given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
Maybe they were just planning to rename it the Nicholas Lidstrom Trophy all along.
The one thing that stuck out to Lidstrom was losing the 2009 Stanley Cup to the Penguins after crushing them, 5-0, to go up 3-2 in the series with a game left in Pittsburgh and Detroit. The good times far outweigh the bad for Lidstrom, though, who keeps things in perspective.
“There are things you would’ve liked to have turned out differently,” he said, “but I’m still looking at it as being fortunate to have been part of so many great teams and so many championships.”
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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.