The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/19/12 at 12:21 PM ET
Amongst this morning’s crop of Red Wings stories, which include an, “It’s not over yet!” from WDIV’s Katrina Hancock and a note about the Wings, “One game at a time” mindset from from MLive’s Brendan Savage,, something inevitable this way comes.
The National Post’s Michael Traikos believes that the Red Wings’ management cannot afford to wait to decide which player might have to fill the role of succeeding Nicklas Lidstrom, regardless of whether Lidstrom chooses to continue playing after this season…And Traikos suggests that, should the Wings not pull off a miraculous comeback against Nashville, Ken Holland might tip the scales toward his captain returning by, say, promising to add a Ryan Suter to the mix during an all-too-long off-season:
It is difficult to imagine anyone filling the skates of a seven-time Norris Trophy winner who has won four Stanley Cups and missed only 40 games during his 20-year career. But sooner or later, the Red Wings are going to have to contemplate life without Lidstrom or — at the very least — a day when his skills diminish to the point where he is just another defenceman.
“He’d probably tell you he doesn’t recover like he did when he was 20 or 25 or even 35,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said earlier this week. “But he’s still a pretty good player and important to us.”
Indeed, Lidstrom was on the ice for a team-high 25 minutes and 47 seconds in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Predators. That was more than four minutes more than the next-highest Detroit defenceman logged. But like 39-year-old Tomas Holmstrom, another soon-to-be free agent veteran who could also be done after this season, you have to wonder if the minutes are starting to add up.
Lidstrom has no goals and no assists in these playoffs. And aside from the strike-shortened 1994-95 season, his 34 points this year were the lowest of his career, although he did finish with a plus-21 rating. Part of the reduction in offence was having missed 11 games — another career high — because of a bone bruise on his ankle. During that span, the Red Wings went 3-6-2, providing a glimpse of what the future might hold when Lidstrom finally decides to hang up the skates for good.
When asked for their thoughts on Lidstrom’s future, teammates shrugged their shoulders. No one knows, they said. Maybe not even Lidstrom, who for the past two years has signed one-year contracts with the Red Wings after contemplating retirement in the summer.
Aside from his health and his family, Lidstrom’s reason for returning has largely depended on the Red Wings’ chances of competing for a Stanley Cup. At this stage of his career, he does not seem interested in wanting to play for a team that is treading water in the standings. He wants the commitment from management that winning a championship is still high on the agenda.
That was the feeling around Detroit for most of this season, where the Red Wings set an NHL record for consecutive victories at home and had been one of the top teams in the Western Conference. But then the team ran into Pekka Rinne in the first-round of the playoffs. If the Red Wings are eliminated, however, it will not be a total loss. Playing the Predators has allowed management to get a closer look at ]Ryan] Suter, who logged almost 31 minutes in Tuesday’s 3-1 win. A player like that might convince Lidstrom to come back for another kick at the can. At the very least, Suter would keep the tower from tumbling over.
Ditto, perhaps, for a promise to bolster the Wings’ scoring, as well as general assurances that the Wings won’t be broken down and rebuilt, and the whole, “We’re hosting a Winter Classic, Nick, don’t forget about that” line might help, too…But we won’t know whether Lidstrom wants to return until, sometime this spring, he chooses to emerge from a two or three-week break not thinking about much of anything to discuss his playing future with his family while determining whether he still has the “fire” to grind through off-season training.
Something tells me the severity of the bone bruise in his right ankle, and whatever repairs might be necessary to fix that injury (if there are any), will play a positive role in his decision-making process as we can at least say that Lidstrom very publicly admitted that he despised sitting in the press box while missing 11 games.
“There are no surprises,” Holland said. “They made a lot of pickups at the (trade) deadline. We knew that they were going to be real deep. They can roll four lines. We’ve got a veteran team. We feel like we’ve done lots of good things in this series. We know they’re a really good team. It’s two really good teams and a good series.”
With the parity in the NHL, Holland said it’s no longer a given to advance in the playoffs. He pointed to No. 8 seed Los Angeles being up 3-0 on Vancouver and other perceived underdogs hanging in their series.
“It’s a different league now. Ten years ago, we felt if the other team’s goalie didn’t win the series there was a talent disparity where we could get into the second round. That’s not the case (now),” Holland said. It’s just parity. It doesn’t matter who you play and if you’re going to win the Cup, you have to win four rounds and you’re going to have to beat these teams somewhere along the way.”
KH, regardless of whether the Wings lose and regardless of Lidstrom’s future, your job this summer involves reinforcing your team’s ranks to help stack the deck against 3-point game and CBA-enforced parity…
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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.