(The Incredible) Josh Howard and NOHS - Please see full view
Doing it right doesn't mean doing it quickly
As we'll soon be reminded on the ice, the Red Wings will play this shortened season without the best defenseman in hockey since the beginning of the 90s after their last captain, the only man worthy of stepping into the role left by Steve Yzerman's retirement, announced the end to his own career. On May 31st, 2012, Lidstrom's incredible Hall of Fame career came to an end.
While his departure left many questions for the Red Wings going forward, there is one question that had an insanely easy answer: Should the Red Wings send Lidstrom's #5 to the rafters of the Joe? Absolutely they should and there's no question they will.
What remains to be decided is when the Red Wings will have the ceremony to lift the banner. There are no real rules about when a number should be retired. When Steve Yzerman retired in the summer of 2006, the Wings waited until the following January to honor him (Jan. 2nd, 2007, a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks). Peter Forsberg retired in February of 2011 and watched his jersey number hilariously join Ray Bourque's in Denver the following October (in a 3-0 victory for the Wings over the Avalanche).
Pre-lockout wisdom dictated that the Wings would probably follow the Yzerman script and retire Lidstrom's jersey around the turn of the year, near the time of the Winter Classic. Since that plan is out the window, the team needs a new one. Detroit could certainly honor Lidstrom during this lockout-shortened season, or they could wait until next year's home opener. It's entirely possible that they may wait to see if they bring back the Winter Classic for next year and do it around that timeframe.
Personally, the Wings should absolutely wait to do it next season. I'm not as particular about season opener vs. New Year's, but I'd probably prefer the former to the latter for Lidstrom's benefit. There's just something that doesn't feel right about making a player of his caliber wait more than 18 months for such an honor. In the same vein, something doesn't feel right at all about rushing to fit such an important ceremony into a season that's generally going to be viewed as at least "damaged" and at worst less-than-valid.
It would feel a little cheapened to me if the organization decided to use Lidstrom's jersey retirement as a ploy to get fans back into seats as soon as possible.
The schedule, when it comes out, is going to be hectic and it's going to be a little thrown together. There's just not a way to honor perhaps the game's coolest character in a manner completely opposite his demeanor.