Wings Defense Evolving Into A Physical Unit
The change has been evident over the past half decade or so in Hockeytown. A franchise that once favored speed at the blue line has evolved into a physical unit.
In my opinion, the transition began in 2007-08. The Wings opened the season with a formidable blue line including aging Chris Chelios (a young 45 years of age that season), Nick Lidstrom, Brett Lebda, Andreas Lilja, Nicklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski. While possibly the best passing and puck possessing defensive unit in the league, opposing forwards did not have much to worry about when entering the attacking zone. Outside of the young Kronwall – who was playing in just his 2nd full NHL season – this group was more likely to use their stick than their body to thwart oncoming attackers.
Ken Holland then made the move that I believe resulted in the Wings next Stanley Cup. Giving up only two draft picks (neither of whom would ever play for the Kings) the Red Wings acquired hard hitting Brad Stuart from Los Angeles in late Feburary. He made sure opponents knew from Day 1 that things had changed in Motown.
Paired with Kronwall, the two formed a physical presence that manhandled opposing forwards throughout the playoffs. Stuart took Pens forward Sidney Crosby off the ice with a devastating blow in the decisive Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Today’s group of defenseman features more than just a pair of hard hitters. Recently acquired Ian White & Mike Commodore have replaced the likes of Rafalski and Ruslan Salei (who tragically passed in a plane crash in Russia last week). Both should compliment the physical style of Stuart and Kronwall.
Add captain Lidstrom, fellow Swede Jonathan Ericsson, and young talent Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith, and the Wings have a diverse, deep, and well rounded unit heading into this season.
Posted on September 14, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged Andreas Lilja, Brad Stuart, Brendan Smith, Brett Lebda, Brian Rafalski, Chris Chelios, Ian White, Jakub Kindl, Jonathan Ericsson, Ken Holland, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Commodore, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.