The Detroit Red Wings are doing something next season they haven’t done since 1991-92: Play without Nicklas Lidstrom on the blue line.
When Lidstrom called it a career following the season, it ushered in a new and frightening era for the Red Wings. For 20 seasons Lidstrom was the rock on defense. He played the biggest minutes and was simply the greatest defenseman of this era and now the Wings have to find a way to replace his minutes and production. Uh oh.
Without Lidstrom, Detroit’s blue line is a bit suspect. Niklas Kronwall becomes the default No. 1 guy and (likely) will pair up with Ian White on the first pairing. Jonathan Ericsson and recently signed Kyle Quincey shape up to be the next best pairing and one that comes with a lot of questions. Ericsson was, to put it nicely, inconsistent last year while Quincey has a penchant for poorly timed penalties.
Rounding out the potential top-six are a pair of young hopefuls in Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith. Smith comes in with high hopes of being the next big thing on the blue line with an offensively strong game and a University of Wisconsin pedigree. Kindl will get his first big chance to prove himself after getting peeks the last few seasons.
No one can recreate what Lidstrom brought to Detroit and the prospect of moving on without him must be terrifying for Wings fans, but for coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland, figuring things out from this point on will prove to be their biggest challenge.