The Detroit Red Wings' stealth rebuild
It's going to happen eventually, maybe even next summer. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will retire. He's back this year to defend his Norris Trophy, which he won at 41 years old, but it's quite possible this could be it.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland likes to joke that Lidstrom's retirement press conference will be followed shortly by his own, but during a conversation at the Red Wings-hosted prospect tournament in Traverse City, Mich., Holland said a stealth rebuild has been going on for quite a while in Detroit.
The Red Wings have been planning for life after Lidstrom, and the rest of their recently retired players such as Brian Rafalski, for years.
"We're trying to rebuild," Holland said. "The planning can't just all of a sudden be 'Nick Lidstrom's gone, what are we going to do?' We started the process in 2005."
In '05, the Red Wings drafted Jakub Kindl in the first round, a defenseman they'd love to see grow into a regular on the blue line. From that year on, rather than dealing their first-round pick at the trade deadline for help in the playoffs, the Red Wings' focus was on getting max value out of their typically low first-round pick to restock the system.
They've traded down in the draft three times since 2005, adding Landon Ferraro, Andrej Nestrasil, Cory Emmerton, Shawn Matthias, Tomas Jurco and Xavier Ouellet in the process. Detroit's first-round pick in 2007, Brendan Smith, is a defenseman the franchise is watching closely this week at the prospect tournament.
It's possible Smith finds his way onto the Red Wings' roster out of training camp.
"We're going to give him a chance," Holland said.
Smith will certainly be part of the next wave on defense in Detroit when Lidstrom retires.
"To be part of that wave would be huge," Smith said. "To have us as the next wave and fill in for him is nearly impossible. Hopefully I can find myself up there and helping out."
Holland is trying to compile as many options as possible when the day finally comes that Mike Babcock can't automatically send out Lidstrom against the opposing team's top line. Smith is one option, but there are others.
To see some of the Red Wings' options for replacing Lidstrom, plus notes on the Wings' goaltending situation, an up-and-coming prospect in Buffalo and at least one NHL player who thinks the Caps have a better shot at the Cup than Detroit, sign up for ESPN Insider today.
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