At the start of the 2010-11 season, it may be the first time since the 1996-97 season that the Red Wings will not have Kirk Maltby and Tomas Holmstrom in their line up. Holmstrom may still be a Red Wing next year, but it all depends on if Nicklas Lidstrom retires or how much of a pay cut he takes to play another season.
General Manager Ken Holland wants to do everything possible to make sure that number 96 is on the ice next year in a Red Wings jersey. Detroit's power play and scoring on the top line revolves around Holmstrom's huge caboose in front of the net, screening the goaltender, and banging in rebounds.
No one has done a better job in front of the net than Holmstrom has in his time as a Red Wing. He remains fearless in between the post as 90-100 mph slap shots are beamed at him from the blue line and from the perimeter.
We've watched Holmstrom the past 13 seasons make his living in front of the net—helping the Red Wings win four Championships in that time frame along with a game seven effort last year, in attempt to repeat as champions.
Holmstrom wants to remain a Red Wing as well; it just comes down to money and cap issues.
However, Kirk Maltby is a completely different story.
Kirk Maltby is 37 and has been a minus player since the lockout with the exception of this year. With Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader in the waiting, there's simply no more room or use for Maltby.
Maltby has never been a superstar in the league during any point of his career (or even a top six forward for that matter). He's been a third and fourth line grinder. But he's been one of the best at his role in the NHL since the 1996-97 season.
Maltby's best season was 2002-03 season where he posted 14 goals and 37 points. Maltby's most proficient time period in the NHL was from the 1999-00 to the 2003-04 seasons, during the dead puck era. He's one of the best pests in the NHL and draws penalties from players retaliating from his hard work and grit along the boards.
Maltby was a part of one of Detroit's most famous lines—the Grind line with Kris Draper and Darren McCarty—they'll never be confused with the Production line but their hard work, grit, and defensive play made them favorites in Detroit.
Maltby has also been a part of Detroit's four championship teams and will most likely retire a Red Wing where he's played 957 of his 1072 games in the NHL.
It's unlikely he'll sign with another team in the off-season as he does not want to be away from his family—so if he decides to play another year it'll be in Grand Rapids with Detroit's AHL team.
So, here I am, saying thank you to Kirk Maltby for all of his contributions and memories he's given as a Red Wing. He's done everything asked of him and truly represents what it means to be a Red Wing.
He always played hard every shift, gave it his all, and sacrificed his body. Maltby did whatever it took to win games. Thank you number 18.