The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/20/12 at 01:20 PM ET
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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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.