Long gone are the days of Niklas Kronwall back-skating and ferociously checking his way into the hearts of Detroit Red Wings fans. Kronwall, who has been the veteran patrolman on Detroit’s blue-line since the departure of his countryman, Nicklas Lidstrom, has yet to appear in any type of NHL action this season as he continues to rehabilitate and recover from a lingering knee issue.
As Kronner rapidly approaches age 36 in January, and as the Red Wings are both learning and attempting to make the most out of Kronwall-less lineup, one has to wonder the impact number 55 will have in Hockeytown once he is ready and cleared to return to action.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not of the opinion that Kronwall is done or washed-up by any means, but I do think his best days, like many of the opponents he has laid out in the past, are behind him. However, I do believe that Jeff Blashill and the Red Wings can still make good use out of Kronwall once he is ready and cleared to play again, albeit in a more minimal role.
How He Can Help:
On The Power Play
Through the first ten games of the 2016-17 season, the Red Wings are sitting right in the middle of the pack with a 19.5% success rate while on the power play, not terrible, but not impressive either. Over the last three NHL seasons, Kronwall has totaled 62 power play points during the regular season. Adding Kronwall’s prowess with the man advantage would certainly not hurt Detroit’s power play efforts. It would be interesting to see Kronwall play alongside Thomas Vanek and/or Frans Nielsen who are both currently tied for the lead in Red Wings in power play points this season.
Putting all statistics, injuries and age aside, it’s hard to deny that Niklas Kronwall is both a veteran and a leader. With 847 total NHL games under his belt, Kronwall would continue to provide invaluable wisdom for Detroit’s younger blue-liners. Kronwall has pretty much seen and done it all on every stage possible, something that only an experienced player can bring to the table.
Having Kronwall’s leadership back on the ice could possibly help lighten the load on some of Detroit’s other defensemen. While players like Jonathan Ericsson have been surprisingly decent so far this season, other players like Danny DeKeyser have struggled in their role. Our resident statistical expert Prashanth Iyer recently broke down DeKeyser’s struggles. Could having Kronwall in the lineup help DeKeyser find a more appropriate role? Perhaps a DeKeyser and Kronwall pairing could aid DD in being the defenseman that the Red Wings want and hope him to be.
How He Can Hurt:
The Red Wings are currently able to activate Kronwall from IR but if the team decides to also activate Tomas Jurco Detroit would most likely have to risk sacrificing either Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet to waivers. Sproul doesn’t appear to be the player that the Red Wings would be willing to risk losing in this situation, so it would be a safe bet that Ouellet would be the odd man out is this situation. However, I don’t foresee the possibility of losing Xavier being a pill too hard to swallow for most.
The Wear And Tear Factor
It’s hard to not address the proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to Kronwall. He’s approaching the age of 36, coming off of a minus 21 season and will more than likely not be playing/feeling 100% for the remainder of his NHL career. It was both plain and sometimes painful to see just how much of a step Kronwall had lost in his game last season while dealing with his troublesome knee. It would be wise to see Kronwall’s minutes lessened and more wisely used once he is cleared to play.
There are definitely arguments to be made for how Niklas Kronwall can both help and hinder the Red Wings once he returns to action. Kronwall himself thinks that he still has something left in the tank and I personally agree with him. Until his return we can only speculate on the impact he will have on a Red Wings team still looking to solidify their identity while proving the naysayers wrong.