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Teams go with transition periods all the time; it is part of the natural life cycle of a team. However, teams like the Red Wings, who have stayed on top for so long, often have transitions that are seamless. Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov gave way to Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and the team just kept rolling.
One of the reasons why the transition between those players went so well is that there are many similarities between those players. Zetterberg is the all-around playmaker and distributor in the mold of Yzerman, and Datsyuk is a mirror image of Fedorov. That allowed for the team to maintain their place among the elite of the NHL. One major concern for the Red Wings is that the next transition may not go as smoothly.
Nicklas Lidstrom is quickly approaching the end of his remarkable career and there is no Lidstrom junior on the team. Niklas Kronwall made huge strides last season and the hope is that he will grow even more this year and possibly become a top defender. The style he plays though is very different from Lidstrom. While that does not mean that Kronwall can be successful, it just means the transition has more questions and uncertainty surrounding it.
This means that the Wings need to win now. In addition to Lidstrom, the Wings also have Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi in the 35-and-older crowd who are also key players on the team.
Most teams are not able to rebuild or retool and still maintain their perch near the top of the league. The Red Wings have done so for nearly 20 years now. Odds are the run will end at some point but for this coming season, with the pieces still in place, Howard needs to be strong in order to give the team a chance.