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Trying to read the, ‘Will Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom retire?’ tea leaves

On Thursday, the Red Wings’ players, coach and captain were asked what have become customary questions about Nicklas Lidstrom’s future, and the usual refrain—nobody knows what where Lidstrom’s leaning, Lidstrom himself says that he hasn’t considered whether he’ll play, and says he won’t make his decision until a few weeks after the regular season ends—but USA Today’s Kevin Allen, who covers the Wings on a relatively regular basis, suggests that even he’s starting to wonder whether Lidstrom might actually consider retiring this time around:

At 41, he is still playing at a remarkably high level. He’s still among the league’s top five defensemen. I believe he’s still the NHL’s best one-on-one defender. It seems to me, Lidstrom is still enjoying the game.

He says he won’t make a decision until he has some distance from the playoffs, but my radar detects worry around the Red Wings organization that Lidstrom is seriously considering putting his skates on a nail. I’m told Lidstrom has a beautiful home waiting for him in Sweden. His oldest son has been playing hockey over there. His close friend, Tomas Holmstrom, also is also inching toward the end of his career. They have been driving to the rink together. Maybe what Holmstrom does will have an impact. I’m just not sure what Lidstrom is going to do, not like I was last year at this time.

What I do know for sure is that Lidstrom’s retirement would be a major loss for the Red Wings and for the NHL. You saw how shaky the Red Wings’ defensive play was when he was out this year.

The Red Wings are expected to lose Brad Stuart this summer because he wants to get closer to his family in California. If Lidstrom retires, the Red Wings will be completely revamping their defense for the first time in many, many years.

The NHL would be losing the most effective player it has had over the last two decades. Name one player who can match Lidstrom’s blend of performance, durability, longevity, awards, championships and leadership over that period? You can’t. No can match his résumé.

ESPN’s Craig Custance took note of the fact that Wings coach Mike Babcock has gone from suggesting that Lidstrom will absolutely, positively, 100% return because the Wings are hosting the Winter Classic next season to yesterday’s, “I’d be shocked if he retires, but I’ve been shocked before,” and Custance, who suggested in an ESPN chat that Lidstrom’s chances of returning are an even 50/50, also wonders whether Lidstrom’s wavering in an ESPN Insider article (subscription only, and thanks to RedWingsFeed for the link).

Custance notes that Lidstrom’s line remains the same, with the Wings’ captain telling the press that he hadn’t given any thought as to whether tonight’s game might be his last…

“I don’t think like that. I think I’ve learned from other years; I try to push that aside and try to play a real solid game and come out with a win,” Lidstrom said after practice on Thursday. “That’s something I’ll look back at once the season is over. Once the summer comes, you start thinking about the future. That comes into your thought process again.”

LIdstrom’s teammates say they aren’t necessarily doing the, “Win for Nick’s sake” dance, either…

“We’re saying he has a few more years left,” said Valtteri Filppula. “We don’t even want to throw that out there yet.”

Said goalie Jimmy Howard: “It’s crossed my mind; try not to think about it. It’s been quite the honor to play with Nick. I hope he comes back but that’s up to him.”

But Custance also duly notes that Wings GM Ken Holland had to telegraph his shot at the trade deadline, dropping out of the Paul Gaustad sweepstakes because every indication suggests that, somewhere between January and February 27th, Brad Stuart told Ken Holland that he’s officially returning to California to be with his wife and kids (Mrs. Stuart can’t move out of California until her daughter from a previous marriage turns 18 next year, and Mrs. Stuart wants to stay in San Jose until her daughter graduates from high school), and just as the Predators’ press theorized that a longer Nashville playoff run means a higher chance of retaining Ryan Suter (who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer) and Shea Weber (who will be a restricted free agent), Custance wonders whether Detroit’s 1st first round defeat since 2006 and it’s third second-or-lower round defeat over the past three seasons might give him pause about joining the Predators’ arch-rival:

If Lidstrom and Brad Stuart don’t return next season, Detroit will still have Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Jakub Kindl, Quincey and Brendan Smith available on defense. They will be the front-runner to sign Ryan Suter if he ultimately decides to test free agency. But if Nashville beats Detroit in five games, you can’t help but think Suter will have second thoughts as to whether the Red Wings are the best option for him as a place to try to win a Stanley Cup. There are other potential options on the UFA market—Dennis Wideman, Matt Carle, Barret Jackman—but nobody close to Lidstrom or Suter.

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If I remember correctly, Lidstrom was considering leaving five years ago or so because he wanted his kids to attend high school in Sweden, and he wasn’t too keen on sending them to an American high school. I think this was around the time of a few horrific school shootings.

Anyways, it seems his kids should be in high school now. I’m sure he found an excellent private school in the ‘burbs. So if that isn’t a consideration anymore, I believe he will stick around at least one more year.

Posted by Red Winger from work on 04/20/12 at 02:27 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I just posted this on the previous thread, but JEEBUS I wish people could leave Nick and the team alone about this until the Wings’ season is, indeed over.  The man has a game to win tonight.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 04/20/12 at 02:31 PM ET


I’d like him to stick around one more hear to help groom Smith. Sign Wideman and we’d have a pretty deep 8-man defense core.

Posted by AZWinger from Phoenix, AZ on 04/20/12 at 02:40 PM ET

awould's avatar

Lidstrom has a nice house in Sweden? And a boy playing hockey there? And all that other stuff!? When did that happen!

So, basically, everything is the same as it is every year except Lidstrom is one year older? Great journalism, every sportswriter who wastes time speculating without a shred of new information.

Posted by awould on 04/20/12 at 02:41 PM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

Posted by MsRedWinger from Michigan, now in Flori-duh on 04/20/12 at 12:31 PM ET

^^^ This.  While it may only be one more game (I hope not, but it could be) there is still a season yet to play.  Let him and the team worry about the future then.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 04/20/12 at 04:02 PM ET


AZ winger, I’ve been saying the same thing.  I don’t want Suter (he hasn’t gotten a monster contract yet, and he’ll be looking to cash in for more than $7M per year.)

Wideman on the other hand is just a SMALL step behind Suter, has size and is a right hand shot.  (I think he’d play for 5.25M or so) If the Wings got him, I think TPH would return for one more rodeo.  I also REALLY like Babchuk from Calgary (Size and also a righty), he’s not a UFA, but should be relatively cheap.

Even if TPH retires:


I’d ultimatey like to see the Wings move one of the bottom 3 dmen preferably Ericsson and/or Kindl for a younger forward (a la Ottawa’s Turris move).  The Wings need to make room, the youngsters below the AHL are pushing hard to be Griffins next year.  Plus, the DeKeyser situation will be in play as well.

Meanwhile, I don’t know about Parise either…I’m thinking just a step down from him is Penner (who should take a pay cut) and/or Kostitsyn.  I’d even like Jim Slater from Winnipeg for the bottom 6.  (And keep Nyquist in the top 6).  Tatar has no more waiver exemption next year either.

Posted by BobaFett from Las Vegas on 04/20/12 at 05:32 PM 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.