Niklas Kronwall recently signed a 5 year, $15 Million deal that has been highly criticized by many hockey fans, including fans of the Detroit Red Wings. I think now with the departure of Markov (Rafalski replaces Schneider), that Kronwall will get top three minutes after Lidstrom and Rafalski. Kronwall has had some fluke injuries, such as the one he suffered just before the play-offs. In hopes that he will realize his potential this year, I wrote an article.
After Mathieu Schneider sprained his knee (he would miss 10 games), Kronwall was thrust into the number one power play unit until Schneiders return and the results were astounding. Detroit's power play percentage went up five percent and started climbing the charts as it had been in the bottom half most of the year with Schneider and Lidstrom manning the point. When Schneider came back, the power play struggled again and ended up 21st.
According to many fans, 2006-07 was going to be a breakout year for Kronwall and it ended with mixed results. Kronwall was slow to start, skating out of position to much and not making the smart plays with the puck. The second half was better though and he finished the season with 22 points in 68 games.
A reason for Kronwall's slow development has been the injuries. He missed 10 games earlier in the year with a groin injury. He also missed the last four games of the season and the entire play-offs because of a broken sacrum after being hit by Dallas Stars forward Joel Lundqvist. He also missed 52 games in 2005-06 with a knee problem.
The heat is on Kronwall this year however, after he signed a 5 year, $15 million extension during the season last year. He will be expected to step up in Markov's place and will probably be paired with Lidstrom as new Wing Brian Rafalski will likely get the privledge of playing with veteran Chris Chelios.
Kronwall has always had the skills to be a great defense men in the game today, so lets hope he stays away from the injuries this year. He skates very well and has a excellent shot. He doesn't shy away from physical contact but he must work this off-season in getting stronger. Look for a 5 goal, 30 assist season from him this year.