Jeff summed up everyone's mindset at the beginning of the season when he declared, "Life after Nicklas Lidstrom is here. It's here and it's terrifying."
At the start, it was indeed terrifying. Extremely so. By the second game of the season I was watching the Wings from a Cold War-era bomb shelter and eating peanut butter straight out of the jar. When you've spent the previous two decades blanketed with the security of D-man depth and nothing short of perfection leading your top pair, the sudden reliance on the likes of Jonathan Ericsson to shut down the opposing team's top guns can fill your shorts with all kinds of unpleasantness. But as a wise computer programmer at a failed dinosaur island once said: "It could have been worse, John. A lot worse."
#55 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Jan 12, 1981
|2012 - Niklas Kronwall||5||24||29||-5||44|
If Kronwall can net 5 goals (he's had career highs of 11 and 15 the last two seasons) and put up around 25-30 points, that would be huge in the shortened season. In addition to the offensive numbers, he really just needs to be the rock on the blueline. The Wings need to be able to count on him at all times and he needs to deliver. There needs to be a go-to-guy on the back end and it's his time to step up.
You ready for this? Niklas Kronwall has played in every single game for the Red Wings the past two seasons. For that alone, the guy might deserve an A++. Not only relative to your expectations of him, but also for how huge that was for the squad this year. If you thought it was surprising that the Wings relied on preseason unknowns Brian Lashoff and Danny DeKeyser in 2013, think of how insane things would've been if you didn't have Kronwall eating up all of those top-pairing minutes against top competition. Four years ago if you were told that Kronwall would eventually play 100% of his team's games, you might've assumed that the league was shortened to a 10 game season with the Stanley Cup awarded via a spelling bee. This all goes without mentioning, of course, that he was replacing Nicklas Lidstrom as the alpha dog on the blue line -- only one of the 15 or so greatest hockey players ever -- and he did a serviceable job in the process. He will always be prone to the occasional defensive zone blunder, but for approximately the last two months of the season, there wasn't a whole lot of Kronwall complaints being tossed around because he was quietly getting his job done. He deserves praise for what he accomplished under impossible expectations.
Kronner has finally found a consistent rhythm as an NHLer over the past two seasons now that he's staying healthy on the regular. He's the unquestioned leader of a defensive unit that will only get better. He makes genius statements like comparing DeKeyser to Lidstrom, thus redirecting his own comparisons to TPH. Shit, wouldn't you? Why would you want to live up to Nick Lidstrom? It's impossible. Make somebody else do it. "This broom right here is a lot like Lids. Very sturdy, doesn't say much, always in the right place. Just sweepin' stuff."
#28 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Jan 27, 1983
|2012 - Carlo Colaiacovo||0||1||1||-4||2|
Not really sure. If he can get 100% healthy --
-- he could be an asset to the Wings. If Smith isn't paired with Krownall, I could see the two as a pair. If he gets back on the ice in a reasonable time. He could add 15-18 points to the team.
When the Red Wings signed Colaiacovo, I expected him to get injured. He got injured. He played in more playoff games than regular season games because he is a fragile little man and got injured.
If he goes forward at a high enough velocity and makes contact with another solid object, he is once again going to get injured. Chances of this happening in a game are slim, because while he's under contract for another year, he will only get significant playing time if there are injuries to players that aren't him, while he remains healthy. Your top six next year will be Kronner-Ericsson-Quincey-Smith-Kindl-DeKeyser, and that's if they don't sign somebody/buy someone out/make a big trade -- which won't happen because this organization is really turned on by continuity and keeping things as familiar as possible.
Grade: A+. I expected Colo to get hurt and he didn't let me down.
#52 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 02, 1984
|2012 - Jonathan Ericsson||3||10||13||6||29|
Real solid play on the penalty kill and even more improvement at even strength. He needs to play 20+ minutes a game and he needs to play well. I don't care how many points he puts up. It doesn't matter. He just needs to be an anchor and take over the Brad Stuart roll on this team.
Jonny Ericsson has done alright for himself all things considered, and now he's a decent-enough top pair defenseman on a real life hockey team. Not bad for a former Mr. Irrelevant. While we weren't concerned with his offensive output, he still put up 13 points in 45 games, which was good enough for the best per-game clip of his career to date. He was the defensive anchor on a PK unit that was 5th best in the NHL, playing the most shorthanded minutes on the team. He learned to not only cut down on his trademarked boneheaded turnovers and defensive miscues as the season progressed, but he also developed a knack for starting rushes up the the ice with long bomb passes to streaking forwards. (If he shaves his head starts skating from his knees next season, you'll swear Brian Rafalski un-retired! Okay no.)
Much like Kronwall, Ericsson has seemed to get over that hump of trying to find a consistent, reliable approach to the game. Also like Kronwall, he's never going to be a superstar and we're going to have to live with his faults, but he's a damn good value at 29 years old and $3.25 million. Really can't believe I just said that after my reaction from when he initially signed that contract.
#18 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Jun 04, 1984
|2012 - Ian White||2||2||4||5||4|
He doesn't have a ton of weaknesses, but he also doesn't have a ton of strengths. The less we notice White this season the better. Honestly, I don't expect much from him and think he's going to become the new whipping boy on the team for us fans.
He became the new whipping boy on the team for us fans. After looking like a good pickup last year and spending his time manning the blue line with Nick Lidstrom, nobody felt the loss of the former captain quite like Ian White. For us, Nick's retirement created a lot of sadness and goofy emotion, but for White, he looked like he was playing without a fully functioning brain. And in a way that was true, because Lidstrom had the hockey brainpower of two grown men and then some. Ian White's brain was gone, and it turned into his ugliest year to date -- and this is considering the fact that we was once traded 14 times in the same season.
Put it this way: Ian White couldn't get into the lineup for a single playoff game even though Brendan Smith at times looked so bad that I literally thought he might be shaving points. He gone.
#27 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Aug 12, 1985
|2012 - Kyle Quincey||1||2||3||7||18|
He's going to lead the Wings D in points this season. Quincey has to make his mark on the power play. Plus, much like a lot of guys on backend of this roster, he has to eat up minutes. No single player will take up the minutes left behind by Lidstrom. Each player will have to pick up the slack.
Somewhat of a strange season for Quincey, relative to expectations. Thinking that he would lead the Wings' D in points or making a mark on the power play before the season certainly wasn't out of the question, but the fact that he came nowhere close to either of those doesn't mean he had a terrible season. For the majority of the season he was paired with Brendan Smith, which was not totally unlike being paired with an 8 week old puppy. Q ended up with a surprisingly-low three total points in the regular season and had a lot of PP time taken by the emergence of Jakub Kindl. Some of our most adventurous and butt-puckering moments as fans this season came with him on the ice. But on the bright side: he also took way fewer PIMs/game than any other season of his career and in general just wasn't as terrible as you think he was.
At least one more year of Quincey, so get used to him if you haven't already. He'll likely never live up to the trade that brought him back to Detroit, and he will always have that annoying, concerned look on his face as long as he lives.
Up next this week: Michelle will hand out grades to the goalies, including that terrible Jimmy Howard.