Niklas Kronwall's Greatest Hits: 2003-2012
"I know one scout who tried to bring up Niklas Kronwall's name with his team," Andersson said. "They just laughed at him. They never even had a serious dialogue. They just stopped him. They said 'a 5-11 Swedish defenseman?' Our organization is more open-minded than that."
Nik Kronwall's greatest hits collection is still a work in progress. His collisions have actually created a new adverb: Kronwalled. While the Red Wings defenseman treads the thin line between legal and illegal hits, none of these beauties resulted in any games lost due to discipline. While opponents complain that Kronwall is a dirty player, his coach and teammates naturally all defend him.
He is the guy 29 teams hate but would kill to have. He never drops the gloves, which angers most opponents even more, because according to "hockey code," you should have to fight somebody else after you flatten their teammate.
As a former player, I get it, but it actually sounds ridiculous to say that out loud. While hockey is a game of respect, mutually earned and deserved, keeping your head up on the ice precludes any of the other "codes."
Kronwall is the perfect compliment to the Detroit Red Wings lineup that is constantly referred to as "soft" and passive, "not fighting enough to win games." While there are a slew of Europeans on the roster who boast more skill than brawn, Kronwall can change the face of a game(and a player) with a well-timed hit. The difference between good hitting and fighting is that a great hit can come during the flow of action and change the game, while a fight literally stops the game and completely disrupts momentum, no matter who wins it.
For my money, I'll take the defenseman who keeps opponents on their toes when they turn up the ice versus the one who stalks someone down just to drop the gloves. Here is the best of Nik Kronwall, so far.
Dany Heatley: May 4, 2011
Dany Heatley leads off the hit parade, with last year's blast. As you can see, Heatley gets caught puck watching and Kronwall plants him. No San Jose players come after Kronwall, either. It's almost like they knew Heatley got caught and paid the price.
The hit occurs during the flow of the play and fires up the crowd. I can imagine the Wings players watching from the bench got pretty pumped up watching it, too.
Ryan Clowe: May 11, 2011
Five days later, a little farther up the ice in San Jose, Ryan Clowe meets the same fate. Listen to the home crowd "Ooooooohhh" when Clowe gets dropped. Again, not a single Sharks player comes after Kronwall. Most likely because usually Clowe is that guy.
Teemu Selanne: October 23, 2010
Teemu Selanne is one the best players in the history of the NHL, and he rarely gets caught with a big hit. His ice awareness is beyond great which has helped him put a lot of pucks in nets. Nik Kronwall caught him with this shot from two years ago.
While you can see Selanne try to turn and stop at the last minute, Kronwall still gets him with a great body shot.
Ales Hemsky: Februay 4, 2012
Edmonton—ouch. Give Cory Potter some credit for sticking up for his teammate, but it earned him a double-minor for roughing. Advantage Kronwall.
Hemsky has a reputation for being made of 50 percent paper mache, so he's not the most impressive target. He gets absolutely smoked here, so the Oiler's alternate captain makes the top 10. Give him credit for skating off the ice, but he was most definitely feeling woozy.
Daniel Briere: February 12, 2012
Danny Briere usually doesn't end up in situations like this, but he gets wrecked by the Swedish hit man. Brayden Schenn comes over to give props to Kronwall, and offer the token protective shove. He hangs with Nik for a second to pretend like he's a fighter, but then remembers that he got beat up by Kovalchuk.
Sorry to bring that up, Brayden. Too soon?
Ryan Kesler: December 21, 2011
Though Kronwall is hated by almost all NHL teams outside of Detroit, so is Ryan Kesler. So many fans were probably hoping that when the two collided here, they would spontaneously combust and be gone forever. Thankfully for Red Wing fans, Kronwall avoided disintegration by clobbering Kesler with a modified hip/butt check.
Again, Kronwall was criticized by Kesler for not fighting. My question would be this: If I just whacked you into the boards, why do I need to fight you? I consider the "honorable" thing to be taking your lick and deal one of your own the next chance you get.
Stop your whining Kesler, and keep your head on a swivel.
Matt Greene: December 13, 2010
The most impressive part of this hit is that Matt Greene is usually the hunter and not the prey. Kronwall clobbers him, and Greene looks like he's riding a horse while he's trying to get his legs back under him.
Greene is 6'3" and 235 lbs; Kronwall is 5'11" and 195 lbs, which tells you that great checks have as much to do with technique and momentum as they do size. By the same token, don't expect to see Kronwall flatten giant Bruin Zdeno Chara. Then again...
Radek Bonk: April 14, 2008
This beauty comes during a time where Kronwall was learning to perfect his hits. He was hitting too high, and he was getting warned by the NHL about head shots. While this hit falls into what I would consider borderline, it's a thing of beauty. Bonk has the classic head down, heading out of his zone, then boom!
This happened during the Wings Stanley Cup run in 2008 and was definitely a momentum builder to help the Wings get by the Predators.
Jakub Voracek: March 6, 2012
Oh Jake! Ohhhhh Jake! The Flyers 6'2", 215-pound forward looks up, sees the smaller Kronwall near the blue line, and then gets planted shoulders first into the ice. Far and away the most impressive hit this season, there was no penalty and no subsequent suspension. The hit was high, but perfectly legal, and Voracek agreed with all of the above.
The Flyers swirl around, but there is no real attempt at retaliation. The hit fired up both teams for sure, as the physical Flyers didn't want to give up an edge on their home ice. Voracek was ultimately okay, but this hit gave me a headache, just watching it.
Martin Havlat: May 22, 2009
In my opinion, the last two slides could be interchangeable. The reason this is the No. 1 hit so far is because of the significance of the game. The Wings were in the playoffs looking to set the tone against a rising young Blackhawks team. Kronwall's frighteningly violent hit ruptured the confidence and swagger of the brash young Hawks as Detroit washed them away 4-1 in their series.
Look at the faces of the fans in the slow motion replay to see exactly what the impact of this hit had in Chicago's building. The real crime is that there was originally no penalty called on the play. The Blackhawks were given a double minor power play, and Kronwall got tossed for the game. The official call was "interference," which is a joke considering the puck was inches from Havlat's skates before he got mashed. The real penalty should have been on Dustin Byfuglien, who took a head shot at Kronwall immediately following the hit.
So while Niklas Kronwall has a reputation in the league for "questionable hits," his most recent demolition drew neither a penalty or disciplinary action from the league. This is bad news for the rest of the NHL, because Kronwall's evolution as a more responsible defenseman, and hitter will leave opponents in constant fear of getting their teeth rattled on another Kronwall highlight hit.
No. 55 is picking his spots more carefully and within the rulebook. Good news for Red Wings fans, bad news for everyone else.