Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.
For the first time since 1991, the Red Wings will open the season without Nicklas Lidstrom on the roster.
Just think about that for a minute.
The last time Detroit had a Lidstrom-less roster, John Ziegler was the NHL commissioner and Dan Quayle was the Vice President. Nirvana released Nevermind. Tim Berners-Lee built the first-ever website, and Dances With Wolves won Best Picture.
Yeah. Long time ago.
How Detroit adjusts to life without Lidstrom remains to be seen, but the general consensus is it’s going to be tough.
At his peak, Lidstrom was the best defenseman in hockey. In his decline, he was still a vital cog. Last year, at 41, he finished second among Wings rearguards in scoring (34 points) and played 23 minutes a game — this despite being hobbled by a foot injury that cost him 12 games.
He was also the team’s undisputed leader.
After inheriting the “C” from Steve Yzerman in 2006, Lidstrom led an amazing stretch of hockey — Detroit went 294-114-60 in the regular season under his captaincy and made two Stanley Cup finals, winning once.
Now he’s gone.
So, what lies ahead?
Many within the Wings organization have offered up “no replacing Nick” platitudes, which are boring but fair. There is no replacing him.
Yet Lidstrom’s departure has a wrinkle to it. Since the last lockout, the Wings have lost vital pieces — Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby — but also acquired them.
GM Ken Holland has been aggressive in replenishing talent via free agency and trades: Dominik Hasek, Brian Rafalski, Todd Bertuzzi and Marian Hossa, to name a few.
This year? Lidstrom leaves, and the response is…Carlo Colaiacovo.
Yes, it’s unfair linking Colaiacovo to Lidstrom — he of the seven Norris Trophies, four Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe — but that’s the nature of the beast.
To his credit, Holland tried to go big. He reportedly offered Ryan Suter a 13-year, $90 million deal to sign in Motown, but Suter opted for Minnesota.
So Colaiacovo ended up as Detroit’s lone defensive acquisition and, as such, had to field the requisite Lidstrom questions — even if everybody already knew the answers.
“I just want to be straightforward: I’m no Nick Lidstrom, but I think I’m a good complement to what they have there,” he told USA Today. “I just want to come in and be the guy that can help in any way possible.”
Oh, and for those thinking a shortened season has left the door juuuust slightly open for a Lidstrom comeback — sorry.
It’s not going to happen.
According to Swedish news outlet Sportbladet, head coach Mike Babcock already looked into that option on Tuesday.
From Google Translate:
“Yes, [Babcock] called yesterday and asked if I was keen to come over and play. But I said I’m pretty happy with life and my decision from last spring,” says ‘Lidas’ to Sportbladet.
“We talked yesterday and the question was whether I was eager to play again. He wondered if his wife was tired of being at home all the time. But she has not tired of me, not yet anyway, haha. Comeback is not an issue,” says Lidstrom.
So with all the great unknowns in Detroit, the one thing everybody knows is perhaps most worrisome of all:
Whenever the season starts, No. 5 won’t be there.