Lockout aside for a moment, if I asked you, the fan, which team group (forwards, defense, or goaltenders) needs the most improvement and practice in the extended off-season, I would conjecture that most fans would answer with "defense."
The defense looked very vulnerable down the stretch in the regular season last year and even more so in the first round playoff loss last season to the Nashville Predators.
The NHL season obviously isn't starting just yet, and there are four reasons that this lockout will be beneficial for the Red Wings new-look defensive unit.
The future starts with the past. The very recent past saw the Red Wings finally sign a seventh man to their roster in Carlo Colaiacovo.
The Red Wings signed Colaiacovo to a two-year pact worth $5 million (under the current CBA which expired three days after he signed).
This signing was very important for Ken Holland to orchestrate prior to the CBA expiring because the Red Wings had just six defensemen, three of which had never played a full season with the Red Wings.
This reason alone makes the lockout worth it, just to get some insurance on the back end.
Whether it is Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey or someone else, most of the Red Wings' defensemen could benefit from a little bit of time away from the NHL without violating their contracts.
The NHL is one of the most stressful leagues in the world for defensemen to play in, as they are constantly tasked with clearing people from in front of the net, blocking shots, and clearing rebounds.
Each respective Red Wings' defenseman has potential or has realized their potential, but some players such as Quincey (who did not have a good finish to the season with Detroit), Kindl (who didn't play as much he wanted to last season), and Smith (who got suspended at the beginning of the season and finished with just 14 games played) could all use more playing time this season and they will find that playing time elsewhere, prior to the lockout ending.
Players like Niklas Kronwall who played almost 23 minutes a game for all 82 games last year deserve a game off every once in a while.
Kronwall will be the number one defenseman with the retirement of Nick Lidstrom and this will almost certainly mean more minutes.
If there is a lockout and loss of any number of games this season, Kronwall will come out with more stamina and be able to play more consistently with the increased ice time that he will be receiving during the upcoming season.
I don't know about you, but the longer I go without playing a sport, the more desire I have to play the sport.
Playing a sport every day is sometimes taken for granted, and although none of these players will be taking playing hockey for the Detroit Red Wings for granted, it does end up raising some interesting questions as to how hungry the team will be come the actual start of the season.
Let me just put those questions to rest; the Red Wings will be a hungry, healthy group defensively come the start of this regular season.
There might be some rust that the team needs to shake off in the first couple games, but the excitement to be back playing hockey on an NHL level will far exceed any mental errors that will come with the first few games of the season.