With Nicklas Lidstrom retired and Brad Stuart requesting a trade to the west coast, the Detroit Red Wings defence will look a lot different next season. In years past they could handle a defenseman leaving through trade or free agency by being patient and using what they had in their system the reason they could do that was because they had one of the best defenseman who ever played the game on their roster. Now that Lidstrom is retired they no longer have that calming presence he created every time he was on the ice. The veteran leadership Lidstrom provided aside the Detroit Red Wings knew they needed to change things up going into the 12/13 season. They won’t find a replacement for Lidstrom but they do need someone on the back end and in this article we examine their best options.
A Red Wing staple has always been promoting from within and so the first option we look at is 2007 1st round draft pick Brendan Smith. The Red Wings certainly have let him develop by giving him 3 years in U.S College Hockey and then one season in the AHL before splitting time between the AHL and the big club this year. He appeared in 14 games for Detroit and 57 more in Grand Rapids. In the AHL he had 10 Goals 24 Assists for 34 points and a + 2, in 14 games in Motown he put up 1 goal 6 assists for 7 points and a +3. He is ready to make the jump as a full time NHL defenseman but I don’t see him as anything more than a 2nd pairing D man next season. He seems more suited to fill the void left by Stuart which would still leave Detroit seeking a top pairing D man. Maybe Nik Kronwall can step up and become the top guy on Detroit’s backend, he has the offensive skills and his style of play keeps opposing players from getting too comfy in Detroit’s end.
Detroit’s second option and most likely is by a trade, not many teams are looking to give up top pairing defenseman and if they are they want a lot of assets that Detroit just doesn’t have in order to get them. Jay Bouwmeester is a name that is constantly linked to Detroit, he seems a good fit and if he can return to his Florida rate of play he could excel in Detroit’s puck possession system. Robyn Regehr is a player who hasn’t exactly enjoyed success post Calgary and may be looking to change things up. His veteran presence would be a welcome addition.
Detroit has a final option and that is free agency, but considering it is now almost mid August the pickings are slim. The best available free agent D man I see is Pavel Kubina and Carlo Colaiacovo. Kubina can put up offensive numbers in the right situation but he is too old and doesn’t skate quick enough to hold the defensive responsibilities of a top pairing defenseman. Colaiacovo is an intriguing option as he is pretty young at 29, put up 19 points in just 64 games and playing for Hitchcock last season can really help him going forward.
All in all look for the Detorit back end to struggle a bit at the start of the season as they adjust to life without Lidstrom for the first time since 1991. For them to be a contender again next season Brendan Smith has to make the jump to full time NHLer and they need atleast one more top 4 Defenseman.
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