After an unexpectedly busy month of May which saw the Red Wings bid adieu to two assistant coaches and one Brian Rafalski, the largest question looming over Hockeytown has been answered—Nicklas Lidstrom will return for the 2011-12 season.
The reasons why Lidstrom's return is a very good thing for his hockey team are obvious considering what he can (still) do on the ice.
At 41, he still thinks and plays the game better than most competitors half his age.
His offensive instincts are alive and kicking as he still boasts one of the most deflectable shots from the blue line and can set up his teammates with uncanny accuracy.
Defensively, Lidstrom's reputation took a slight hit last season as he finished on the stinky side of the plus/minus column (minus-two) for the first time in his legendary career.
Still, his diminished ice time and the team-wide decline in defensive commitment has as much more to do with that stat than Lidstrom's defensive abilities.
He's still one of the toughest players to beat one-on-one and uses his seemingly omnipresent stick better than anyone in the defensive zone.
Even 20 years into his career, the Red Wings are still a far better team with Lidstrom on the ice.
However, Lidstrom is quite obviously not going to play forever and this season may indeed prove to be his last.
Replacing him entirely is impossible, but, the Red Wings are going to have to think about finding someone to fill his slot sooner rather than later.
To this end, Lidstrom announcing his return to the team next season might actually help bring in a player who could help take over some of his duties once he does decide to hang up the skates for good.
When all is said and done, Lidstrom's return to Detroit this season could improve the team's chances of one or two free agents this summer.
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