Detroit Red Wings: 5 Reasons Nicklas Lidstrom Will Return Next Season
Lidstrom's teammates seem to think so, and Red Wings GM Ken Holland claims he crosses his fingers and toes every night before bed.
Despite all the confidence shown by coach Mike Babcock and Lidstrom's teammates in his return, Red Wings fans still can't help but get nervous about the idea that they may have seen the last of No. 5. Here are five reasons Detroit fans should be confident in Nick's return to the club for another year.
5. No Signs of Slowing Down
After Brian Rafalski's press conference to announce his retirement on Wednesday, Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock delivered some news about Lidstrom that may have put Detroit fans a little more at ease.
The news Babcock delivered was that his wife, Maureen Babcock, had seen Lidstrom at a local gym the day before, vigorously working out.
Hearing of Lidstrom's determination to stay in peak physical condition should make Detroit fans feel much more confident in his return.
4. Obligation to the Red Wings
Coming into this offseason, Detroit fans knew what to expect from Lidstrom regarding a retirement decision. However, even Ken Holland was surprised to hear of 37-year-old Brian Rafalski's retirement.
What does this have to do with Lidstrom's decision? Whether he is still capable of playing at the NHL level isn't even a valid question. Lidstrom, much like his predecessor, Steve Yzerman, wouldn't leave the Red Wings at a time when he was needed, and right now, Lidstrom is needed.
Rafalski's retirement opened up $6 million in cap room, which many Detroit fans will say is more than he was worth after several knee and back injuries. $6 million can buy Detroit a very good replacement defender, such as upcoming unrestricted free agent Kevin Bieksa.
However, if Lidstrom were to retire, the Red Wings would need to find another top defender in a rather bare group of free agent defensemen. Also, one could wonder that bringing in two new top defenders would almost be too much change for the Red Wings' blue line.
3. The New Generation
Many will question why player development would be a reason for Nick Lidstrom's return to the Red Wings.
Older Detroit fans will remember back in 2001, when Lidstrom, along with Hockey Hall Of Famer Steve Yzerman took pay cuts so that the Red Wings could add the services of Brett Hull. This addition was made not only to increase the Cup chances, but also to help Pavel Datsyuk, and eventually Henrik Zetterberg, develop their hockey skills.
Detroit is quickly coming into an age of new defenders with the retirement of Brian Rafalski. Jakub Kindl is expected to be a regular for the Red Wings next season, after being the seventh defender for the Wings in the 2010-2011 season. While 24 years old might seem a late age for a full season debut, it's the typical age of entrance for a Detroit prospect.
Kindl isn't the only defender expected to see more time for the Red Wings, as Ken Holland said he believes top prospect Brendan Smith will make the club next season. Smith, who is just 22, is known mostly for his strong offensive skills. Under Lidstrom's wing, he could learn to be equally strong on the defensive end.
2. Still on Top
While 41 might seem like an old age to keep playing at, time seems to have stopped for Nick Lidstrom. The star defender has been nominated for what could be his seventh Norris Trophy win as the NHL's best defenseman. If Lidstrom were to win, he would be just one win short of the legendary Bobby Orr's eight Norris wins.
Lidstrom and Lubomir Visnovsky were the only two defensemen in the NHL to finish the season with more than 60 points.
While some will point to Lidstrom's -2 plus-minus rating as a sign that he's slipping, it should also be pointed out that Detroit's defense as a whole was ranked 23rd in the league. Some lineup improvements and the addition of a new defensive coach following the departure of Assistant Brad McCrimmon should have the Red Wings defense, and Lidstrom's plus minus, right back up with the league's other top teams.
1. Five for No. 5
Lord Stanley's cup should be reason enough for Lidstrom to return to the Red Wings.
Detroit will certainly be in the Cup hunt next year. If the salary cap goes up to a reported $62.2 million, the Red Wings will have roughly $22 million to spend.
Detroit already has 12 forwards signed, counting Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton, who would have to clear waivers to be sent down to the Red Wings' AHL affiliate, and Ken Holland has still expressed a desire to hold on to unrestricted free agents Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller.
So, with enough forwards signed, Detroit will have more than enough money to add four defenders and a backup goalie, which will position them to be a top team in the NHL and a likely favorite for the Stanley Cup.
With a good chance to win his fifth Stanley Cup, why wouldn't Nicklas Lidstrom return to Detroit? Five Cups for No. 5 has a nice ring doesn't it?