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The Malik Report

What might entice Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom to play for at least one more season?

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.

Also: As noted yesterday, Wings GM Ken Holland appeared on WBBL’s Huge Show to discuss his team’s playoff predicament, and MLive’s Brendan Savage provides a partial transcript of the interview:

“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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Comments

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I think he comes back for not only 1 but possibly 2 or 3 more.  He is still top 3 in the league.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/19/12 at 01:39 PM ET

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I love the idea of getting Suter but it has to be said: if the Predators eliminate the Wings in 5 games, and especially if they make any kind of real run at the Cup, why would Suter want to leave them for a team that made its third straight early exit?

Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 01:40 PM ET

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Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 11:40 AM ET

I should add that I think Lidstrom returning might have more of a positive effect in luring someone like Suter than the other way around.  Especially if you were to take into account the effect that playing with Lidstrom has had on Ian White.

Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 01:42 PM ET

DocF's avatar

I think he comes back for not only 1 but possibly 2 or 3 more.  He is still top 3 in the league.

Considering the source, this is a high compliment to Lidstrom.  I would not be surprised to see him go for one more year.  A race car driver I knew said, “It is better to have hung on too long than to have retired before it is time.”

Doc

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 04/19/12 at 01:42 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

It’s too bad we’re not sweating Hudler’s return. It’s pretty easy to figure out enticement packages for that little Czech.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/19/12 at 01:43 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

It’s a two-way street for Holland and Lidstrom. Lidstrom is a draw but drawing Lidstrom involves promising him that the team will reload instead of rebuild…

And while Suter might be completely unrealistic—I think that the Predators will re-sign him, honestly—a Dennis Wideman or Matt Carle wouldn’t hurt as UFA signings, nor would making some sort of trade.

Hudler…I don’t know what’s going to happen with Hudler. He’s actually changed his game to go to the net more regularly and serve as a fine forechecker/give-and-go winger for Filppula and Zetterberg, but we’re going to find out in a hurry whether his salary expectations are at a KHL level or not. I don’t know if the Wings could get much of anything for a UFA-to-be like Hudler on the trade market, maybe a 2nd-rounder at best, even if there was a sign-and-trade deal in the works, so the Wings’ best option is probably to make an attempt to re-sign him and then see whether he’s interested or whether they can take his cap hit and invest it in other players.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/19/12 at 01:55 PM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

he’s done.

Posted by Rdwings28 on 04/19/12 at 02:25 PM ET

Ducksworth's avatar

I love the idea of getting Suter but it has to be said: if the Predators eliminate the Wings in 5 games, and especially if they make any kind of real run at the Cup, why would Suter want to leave them for a team that made its third straight early exit?

$$$$$$$$$

Posted by Ducksworth from Brownstown, MI on 04/19/12 at 02:38 PM ET

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$$$$$$$$$ is something he can get pretty much anywhere.  There are plenty of teams that will have plenty of money and be willing to overpay for Suter’s services, which is something that Holland is historically loathe to do.

I’m not saying the Wings don’t have a chance, I’m just saying that the idea of signing Suter isn’t anywhere near the done deal that a lot of people around here and in the Detroit media seem to think it is.

Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 02:44 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

IIRC the UFA crop for this year’s defensemen will be much better than last year - so a $3m Ericsson deal is not as likely to happen this time around.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/19/12 at 03:10 PM ET

shazam88's avatar

IIRC the UFA crop for this year’s defensemen will be much better than last year - so a $3m Ericsson deal is not as likely to happen this time around.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/19/12 at 01:10 PM ET

Suter, Wideman and Carle are the first names that come to mind.  Too lazy to hit up CapGeek.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 04/19/12 at 05:13 PM ET

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If they lose this series, he will retire. Same situation as Yzerman in 2006.

Posted by Jeremy from Toledo, OH on 04/19/12 at 05:46 PM ET

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Same situation as Yzerman in 2006.

Really?  Nick Lidstrom is an injury ravaged superstar-turned-roleplayer who could barely walk on off-days?

Honestly, if you think this is anything like the situation Yzerman was in six years ago then you’re just plain out of your mind.

I’m not saying whether Lidstrom stays or goes, I’m just saying this is absolutely nothing resembling the “same situation as Yzerman in 2006”.

Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 07:54 PM ET

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This is like groundhog day, Wings-style.  Another early exit, this time in the first rather than the 2nd.  We’re buzzing about the possibility of losing one of the best defensemen in history instead of asking why the team wasn’t reinforced while he’s still around. To end the year $5M under the cap is a disgrace ... sorry, but I wold have paid for a Gaustad and/or a winger who can power into the slot and out the puck in the net.

Posted by scott_hutch on 04/19/12 at 11:45 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.