In three out of their four playoff losses to the Nashville Predators the Detroit Red Wings fell by only one goal. Clearly, the biggest difference wasn’t the number of goals each team scored. Detroit had a roster full of aging veterans who looked less hungry than the team on the other side of the ice, which is made up of young players looking to prove themselves. Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and the rest of the leadership in Detroit have simply done it before, and more than once. No matter how slight it was, the Predators were able to expose that competitive edge they had over the Red Wings and dismiss Big Red in five games.
Not one player on the Detroit Red Wings has accomplished more than the team’s captain, Nicklas Lidstrom. Now, obviously Lidstrom is old; He turns 42 years old this weekend, which will make him a full 13 years older than the average age of the rest of his team. I know this will be tough for many fans to hear, but it’s time for Lidstrom to retire. Although never the fastest player on the ice or the one with the hardest slap shot, he’s a first ballot hall of famer who’s dominated the Norris trophy discussion and has his name all over the Stanley Cup. That resume casts a long shadow on the rest of the Detroit dressing room and it’s time for Lidstrom to let Detroit turn the page.
While some disappointing teams are locked in salary cap jail (COUGH San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks COUGH), Detroit GM Ken Holland will have just north of $20 million coming off the books on July 1st. There will be a lot of fresh blood in the locker room, and some of that blood could run through the veins of Ryan Suter or Zach Parise. Both seem like nice Midwestern boys, and would fit perfectly into Detroit’s plans. It might be greedy to assume both would want to come to Detroit, but they each would be coming from teams that have iffy ownership situations to a franchise that’s one of the most respected in sports.
It’d be ridiculous to say that Detroit’s defense would be better without Lidstrom. Even in his latter years, he’s the prototypical defenseman. Lidstrom routinely plays against the best players in the league and hasn’t taken more than 30 minutes in penalties since the 2007/2008 season. With that said, a hockey player’s mentality is hugely important. Parise has played in the shadow of Illya Kovalchuk and Suter behind Shea Weber, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that both players would want to sign with a place where they’ll be “the guy.”
This is a big summer for the Red Wings. They’re no longer one of the top dogs in the west and while Lidstrom could never be a burden for a team, he should also consider handing over the reins to the younger core, whoever they’ll be.