As many have said since the news broke about the retirement, Nick Lidstrom is irreplaceable. Irreplaceable not only because of the numbers and results he produced on the ice, but more importantly because of his presence and impact off the ice.
When your career consists of seven Norris Trophies, 10 nominations, four Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe trophy, and people still say they will remember you most for your impact off the ice—you are indeed irreplaceable.
Of all the amazing things Nick Lidstrom did for this franchise and its fans, he did the Detroit Red Wings another huge favor in choosing this year to retire.
That's not to say he couldn't do well this next season. In fact, I think he still has Norris-like capabilities. Heck, he could win it a couple more times. But I believe this franchise 10 years from now would look very different if he chose to wait another year, or even worse, had he retired last year.
In a dream world I would've woken up yesterday to see Nick Lidstrom deciding to play another year for a pay cut. This way Lidstrom would still be playing and we would still have room to pursue the big names in free agency.
Dreams are dreams.
And the hole left now by Lidstrom's departure demands for big moves to be made.
Just look at the Red Wings since the NHL lockout.
The success these past three years pales in comparison to the first four years following the lockout.
The first four years saw four consecutive 50+ win seasons. The first season after the lockout saw 58 wins, a post-salary cap era record. The next three seasons each saw the Red Wings advance to at least the conference finals, including back-to-back trips to the finals.
Now compare that to the past three seasons. No 50-win seasons, early playoff exits, and an aging core have been the story for the Red Wings.
Now is the time to pull the trigger. And this is the offseason to do it. All of the weaknesses of the Red Wings can be cured with this class of free agents. A superstar defenseman. A goal-scoring winger. Big bodied forwards. Depth. A backup goalie. All can and should be addressed this July.
It seems repetitive at this point to talk about Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, but Lidstrom's decision does indeed enhance the likelihood of these players coming to Detroit. Not only them, but other big names could be Detroit-bound.
What if Lidstrom had retired last season? Yikes. The Wings would've had a rough year to say the least. What if he retired next season? The Wings most likely would've missed out on a franchise defender in Ryan Suter in free agency. Suter is the real deal.
The roster is aging and the gap is closing for this squad to win another Stanley cup.
This offseason is key because it gives the Red Wings a chance to not only reinvent themselves, but also to get younger.
Look at the players that could be coming to Detroit. Ryan Suter is 27. P.A. Parenteau is 29. Alexander Semin is 28. Zach Parise is 27. Matt Carle is 27. Dennis Wideman is 29. Many of the elite free agents likely to come to Detroit are young, and are either nearing or are just beginning their primes. These players and a talented pool of young prospects gives general manager Ken Holland a lot of options to get younger.
$20 million to play with this offseason has made many drool over the possibilities. And this offseason could make many of these dreams a reality.
But like I said earlier, Nick Lidstrom is irreplaceable. After such a spectacular career, it is very sad to see Nick go. But as much as Wings fans have been dreading this day, it was indeed inevitable. The "perfect human" will no longer be wearing a winged wheel.
And if it were to happen anytime, now is the best.