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Player Preview: Nik Kronwall

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Will Kronwall return to form with extended rest from the offseason?

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Niklas Kronwall. Assistant Captain. Devastating hitter. Part-time pirate?

Over his career, Kronwall has been many things - especially in the minds of us fans. Early on, he was a promising prospect. Then, he was the next star to rise. At one point, he himself was a verb - sorry, Martin Havlat. But now, arguably doing a better job impersonating a buccaneer captain with one wooden leg barking orders at his underlings than playing hockey, Kronwall needs to find a better way to define his days in Hockeytown than "liability".

Last Season’s Performance

OK, let’s get one thing straight up front - most of the Wings looked bad last year. In that, Kronwall was not alone, but as someone expected to help lift this team up he does bear more responsibility for that than, say, Ryan Sproul.

That being said, Kronwall’s 2016-2017 season was very not good. It was certainly bad for him, personally, by the numbers. Because of his recurring knee issues, he was held to only 57 games - his lowest percentage of games played (69.5%) since dressing for only 48 contests (58.5%) in 2009-2010. The knee most likely kept bothering him even when on the ice, leading to low numbers on the scoresheet, the idea that he’s only skating on one leg, and my continued use of pirate jokes.

Kronwall’s goals output for 2016-2017 (2) was his lowest since scoring 1 lone goal in his first year as a "full timer" in 2006-2007. His points (13) were the worst since being permanently called up to the big club. His TOI/G dipped below 20:00 for the first time since breaking into the league in 2003-2004, and both his PP and PK TOI/G were his lowest since coming onto the units. Even his Corsi, which has been slowly but steadily falling for several seasons, reached a new low.

As a 36-year-old defenseman, decline was to be expected. But to see some of the worst stats of his career still made for an upsetting season.

What To Expect

I’d be lying if I told you that you can expect improvement. Kronwall’s knee is not getting any better, and neither is the man himself. However, it may be possible to better manage him into a more effective role this season.

CBSSports (by way of Mlive.com) is reporting that this will be the case - Kronwall’s minutes will be reduced to hopefully help keep his knee from acting up even more. This could mean more games played for Kronwall, and within those games less time on special teams, but I think it’s more likely that Kronwall sees a reduction in even strength minutes while his already-reduced special teams minutes from last season stay roughly intact.

Unfortunately, given his age and the idea that he will see reduced minutes, I doubt we will see Kronwall’s points rebound into the 20s. Less TOI usually means playing with lesser skilled teammates, so I seriously doubt Kronwall will have consistent finishers to move the puck to. It would be great to see some young players really step up, and to see #55 dishing them assists all season long, but I have serious reservations about calling that a plausible future.

Perhaps, though, Kronwall will surprise us all by playing stellar hockey against lesser competition. But, as time makes fools of us all, I’d bet Kronwall continues to look more the fool (or wooden-legged pirate) and less the fooler on the ice this season.

Poll

How many games will Kronwall play for the Wings this year?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Not even 10
    (33 votes)
  • 21%
    Somewhere around 25
    (100 votes)
  • 51%
    About half
    (243 votes)
  • 15%
    Most
    (74 votes)
  • 5%
    Every. Single. One.
    (26 votes)
476 votes total Vote Now