Offense Or Defense If Lidstrom Retires?

Matthew FletcherContributor IMay 28, 2010

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 08:  Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on agaisnt the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 8, 2010 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The Nicklas Lidstrom era may be coming to an end in Detroit. The Red Wings best player, one of the last of the great 90’s teams, is considering retirement. And who can really blame him? He’s done just about everything a hockey player sets out to do. Stanley Cups, Gold medals, Norris trophies up the ying yang, the man has nothing left to prove. He may be ready to finally hang up the skates and make that trip back to Sweden as he has contemplated a few times before.

Then again he may lace up the skates and comeback for one more shot at the Cup. And who could blame him for that? He’s amazingly remained injury free for most of his career and therefore is still very healthy even at the age of 40. And while he may not be the Nik of old, he’s still arguably the top defensemen in the league. And if he still has the ability to play at a high level and wants to go out on top, why not come back? Lidstrom is still too good and loves to play too much just to walk away.

But nevertheless, walk away he may, which leaves the Wings with some money burning a hole in their pocket. And they may have more decisions to make then just on defense.

The obvious choice is to “replace” Lidstrom. Notice the quotation marks? That’s because you can’t replace the best defenseman of the modern age. The best they might be able to do is to find two good players that might equal one great Lidstrom. The AHL roster is another choice as well.  No doubt the wings like to stockpile their draft picks. Jonathan Erickson is also a possibility but he is still a little young and a little raw, prone to a few too many turnovers. Bottom line is, no matter what, the defense may not be the same for quite awhile.

Now some of you may be wondering why offesne should be considered at all. Their best defensman is leaving so they need to do something on the blue line, right? True, but the Wings also need to address something that is still lingering from this season, which is lack of goals. Their GF dipped considerably, going from 1st to 14th overall. While a ridiculous amount of injuries undoubtedly played a part in this, there is no denying Hossa’s 40 goals were definitely missed (albeit his playoff disappearance was not.) While they still managed to overcome their injuries and power their way to the playoffs with and incredibly win streak at the end of the season, it was obvious that this team had definitely lost is scoring touch that was so prominent the year before.

So which route do the Wings take? Since the Scotty Bowman era, the Wings have always implied defense first. Not New Jersey Devils defense mind you, but a strong defense nonetheless. Their best forwards are excellent at playing the two way game and, as some believe, defense wins championships. Mix that with the fact that they may now have a massive hole in their defense it will be no surprise to see them spend their money trying to fill that hole with the best available defenseman or men they can find.

On the flip side, the Wing could say to heck with it to use their money on a bona fide sniper. Detroit won a number of games this year by one goal, something they didn’t have to deal with much the year before. If you’re not going to have the same rock solid defense, you may want to try and bolster your offense. Do they try to recruit Kolvachuck as they did Hossa, granted he doesn’t jump to the KHL, or perhaps another pure goal scorer of sorts? They have talented players in Zetterberg and Datsyuk, no doubt, but they are even better play makers than goal scores. It would make sense to give them a pure sniper again as they once had in Hossa. And if they do rely on younger defenseman to replace Lidstrom, then there is a good chance they will need that extra scoring touch.

Keep in mind that Hudler is on his way back and Fillpula seems to be getting better every season, so offense is something they may not even consider. The smart money is on Lidstrom to come back, so it may also not even be an option to spend money on a Kolvachuck. But if Lidstrom does indeed say farewell, then the Wings may have a lot more thinking to do this summer.

 Feel free to comment. I'm curious about what other people think.