As most on WIIM know, I am a big supporter of Jonathan Ericsson. Last year, he took major strides towards being recognized as the lock-down defender we all hoped for. This season he's continued last year's steps and is finally receiving broad spectrum recognition for being more valuable than some generic free agent. He isn't out of the woods yet, though. While on the ice, he can be a physical presence, has a long reach, and stand his ground by the net. He seems to me to be a bit injury prone. Despite his aptitude for freak injuries, it's quite clear, the Red Wings are a much better team with him on the ice than with him off. I would argue he is the #1 defenseman on this team.
So what about Kronwall? He wears the A, he's the veteran leader, he was considered a Captain Candidate. Yes, Kronwall is....a good defenseman. And I'm not saying Ericsson is the second coming of TPH. But at this current instance in time, Kronwall's game is leaving a lot to be desired. And that desire isn't even remotely comparing Kronwall's game to Nick Lidstrom's. I have no doubt that Kronwall is suffering from some extreme pressure, put on himself, of trying to fill the shoes of Lidstrom, Stuart, and Rafalski. The Wings went from a HOF led defense corp to a relatively-young veteran led defense corp with a number of young defensemen. Lidstrom was leading other veterans. Kronwall is leading young, unproven players. On top of that, his group has been decimated by injury. That's a lot of pressure on him. I can see that. But at the same time, his play on the ice, has not been crisp. Passes haven't been solid, shot selection is random at best (though it looked somewhat better at times last night), and his defense has been shaky. He's been beat more than just a couple of times by stretch passes, he's not knocking guys off the crease, he often caught chasing guys into the corner where another defenseman is (though that's in part to Ericsson being out and not having a consistent partner) and overall, it's just been very underwhelming play from him. We all want him to hit somebody with a Kron-WALL, but I fear those days are behind him. As the leader of the defense, he can't risk the match penalty or a suspension. Even if the hit is clean.
Don't get me wrong, Kronwall is the most important player on the blue line, but he's not the best defenseman on the team right now. Even down the road, I don't think he will ever be the best defender if Ericsson continues to make his stride. Kronwall has always been a good defender not a great one. But his offensive side really needs to get back to where it was 2 or 4 years ago.