While I was grocery shopping in preparation for being gone from the mom and aunt for two weeks and/or preparing for the Traverse City trip, the Red Wings’ media corps–and a few others–paid tribute to Niklas Kronwall.
Here’s a summary thereof:
- The Hockey News’s Jared Clinton did a really good job of framing Kronwall’s career in both team-based and history-based contexts:
By his fourth season in Detroit in 2007-08, under the guidance of defenders such as Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, Kronwall had grown into a legitimate top-pairing defenseman in the league, one that any number of teams throughout the NHL would have fallen over themselves to add to their own blueline. Offensively, he could contribute. He averaged upwards of half a point per game from 2007-08 on through to 2015-16, and often overlooked was his ability to patrol the blueline on the power play. Across the aforementioned nine-season span, only 18 defensemen registered more power play goals than Kronwall’s 29 and only 15 defensemen compiled more points than his 143 with the man advantage.
Across those same nine seasons, and particularly after Lidstrom’s departure in 2011-12, Kronwall became the cornerstone of the blueline. By 2007-08, he had graduated into a role in which he played upwards of 21 minutes per game for nine consecutive campaigns, and during that time he ranked 20th among all NHL rearguards in time on the penalty kill. This is to say nothing of his 5-on-5 efforts, either. Among the 151 defensemen who played at least 5,000 minutes throughout that nine-season span, Kronwall ranked 16th in Corsi percentage (53.4).
But be it in Detroit or on a league-wide scale, Kronwall was often overshadowed. Skating on a Red Wings blueline led by Lidstrom meant Kronwall spent the first half of his career playing behind one of the greatest defensemen to ever play the game. And even once Lidstrom departed, Kronwall still played something of a second fiddle to the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and even a young Dylan Larkin. Kronwall didn’t win a single major award, never once played in an All-Star Game, nor did he earn entry onto an end-of-season all-star team.
2. MLive’s Ansar Khan took note of the comments made by Steve Yzerman in the official press release declaring Kronwall’s retirement…
“I had the pleasure of playing with Niklas early in his career, and it was evident from his first season what a special player and person he would become,” Yzerman said in a statement. “He was among the NHL’s best two-way defensemen of his era and will go down as one of the greatest at his position in Red Wings history.”
Kronwall, 38, on Tuesday announced his retirement after 15 NHL seasons. He will remain with the organization as an adviser to the GM.
Yzerman said in June that Kronwall would be welcomed back if he wanted to play another season, but the skilled, puck-moving, hard-hitting defenseman decided it was time to call it a career.
“Niklas has a sharp hockey mind and is highly respected in the hockey world,” Yzerman said. “He has the makeup and work ethic of someone who will have a very successful career in management, and I am thrilled that he will remain with the franchise on the hockey operations staff.”
3. And the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner hit the Way Back Machine into gear to reflect upon Kronwall’s time with the Griffins…
Skating in a pregame warmup with the Red Wings in January 2004, Kronwall broke his leg. Even though he couldn’t play, Kronwall was selected to the 2004 AHL all-star game.
With Kronwall on the mend, the Red Wings targeted him as a top three blueline in 2004-05. But that also deteriorated as a labor dispute and lockout led to the 2004-05 NHL season being cancelled.
Instead, he returned to the Griffins.
“I’ve just tried to come back as strong as I could,” Kronwall told the Grand Rapids Press in December 2004. ” It was good for me to have the whole summer to prepare for this season … My leg felt great right from the time I went back onto the ice. It’s been no problem whatsoever.”
It was the first good break for Kronwall. He played the entire season in Grand Rapids and thrived. He appeared in 76 games, had 53 points (13-40-53) and was named the top defenseman in the AHL. His point total and assists were team records.
4. The Free Press’s Helene St. James paid tribute to Kronwall the person…
The bone-crunching hits that earned Niklas Kronwall the enmity of opponents were in stark contrast to the person he was off the ice.
His decision to retire Tuesday and move into a front-office position makes sense: Kronwall put punishing miles on his 6-foot, 190-pound body during a 15-year NHL career that spanned 953 games, all with the Red Wings. His left knee is in such bad shape that he tried stem cell therapy in 2017. Yet even as his body told him to slow down, Kronwall maintained an admirable work ethic, altering his training to be of most value to the Wings.
When a reporter approached him in the locker room at Little Caesars Arena before the Wings’ April 6 finale last season and mentioned he led the team with 79 games played, several teammates, including fellow 30-something Jimmy Howard, clapped in approval.
Kronwall was immensely popular among teammates, appreciated for both his performances and personality. He was soft- and well-spoken, one of the most accountable guys in the locker room. If the Wings played poorly, he would always start by saying he’d have to play better.
Even as his knee inhibited him, Kronwall was the most dependable defender on the team, and someone coach Jeff Blashill trusted in any situation. Even at 38 years old, he was the most durable guy on the team.
5. And St. James also pondered what Kronwall’s absence will mean for the Red Wings’ blueline:
Kronwall’s departure should add to the competition among prospects vying for a job.
Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Filip Hronek and Nemeth are projected to fill the top four spots on defense, leaving three spots open for a mix of veterans, prospects or other young players.
Yzerman was adamant during the summer that every player will have to earn his job, regardless of level. Veterans Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson, who both missed significant time last season because of a multitude of injuries, are supposed to be ready for camp, but their injury history leaves their status for the season up in the air.
On the younger side, that puts Dennis Cholowski, Madison Bowey, Oliwer Kaski and Moritz Seider in the spotlight for jobs. Cholowski leads the pack after appearing in 52 games last season, before being sent to Grand Rapids to work on the defensive side of his game. Bowey, acquired in the Nick Jensen trade, was seen as a reclamation project.
6. The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also pondered what Kronwall’s retirement means for the Wings’ current blueline…
Kronwall had been troubled with an arthritic left knee the past several seasons that made Tuesday’s announcement expected.
At the end of last season Kronwall said retirement was a distinct possibility, noting he wasn’t sure he could mentally and physically commit to another summer of working out and preparing for the upcoming season.
The Wings have been preparing for Kronwall’s announcement, having signed defenseman Patrik Nemeth, a defensive defenseman capable of taking over Kronwall’s minutes, in free agency.
7. Fox Sports Detroit posted a video paying tribute to Kronwall…
8. The Red Wings are practicing at Little Caesars Arena’s Belfor Training Center already, and DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji spoke with several of Kronwall’s longest-serving teammates regarding his retirement:
“I think he was all set to have last season as his last season but the way he felt and played and everything, I think that made him really have to think about it because I don’t think he expected to feel as good as he did and play as good as he did because he was feeling so good,” longtime teammate Jonathan Ericsson said. “I think that was probably the hardest decision for him because (he thought), ‘I can do this for another year.’ Obviously it’s sad but I kind of had the feeling that I knew where it was going.”
Justin Abdelkader, another alternate captain and another longtime teammate, said he heard the news directly from Kronwall.
“Kronner had called me a little bit ago and mentioned to me that he was going to retire,” Abdelkader said. “He just had a bunch of the guys over at his house to kind of tell everyone. I think a lot of guys had known but just kind of to get guys together and formally tell everyone.
“It’s obviously been a pleasure to play with him. He’s been such a great role model for me from day one. Always such a positive guy to talk to, someone that I looked up to for how he carried himself on the ice but especially off the ice and the person he was in the room. Just learned a lot from him and just such a pleasure to have the opportunity to play with him.”
9. And The Athletic’s Max Bultman paid tribute to Kronwall in a superb article:
On what turned out to be his final game day as a player, though, Kronwall was asked again how satisfying the season had been for him personally, considering the problems he had had with his knee. This time, he was a little more reflective.
“That part, in that way, has been extremely satisfying, to be honest with you,” Kronwall said at the time. “To be able to come back and play and not be in the same discomfort that I was for a few years there. So that part, I’m very happy with the way I feel, really, right now. If someone would have told me this a year ago, I would have taken it any day.”
He was 38 years old and led the team in games played with 79. At the time, it would have been easy to hear that as a reason to keep going. He felt good.
Bultman continues, of course (paywall)
Kronner, it has been an absolute pleasure and honor to play alongside you and go to battle together each night. You exemplify what it means to be a Detroit Red Wing and wore the jersey with pride each time you put it on. pic.twitter.com/fPrG21pTtO— Justin Abdelkader (@justinabss) September 4, 2019
One of the best if not the best teammate I’ve had, thanks for taking care of me when I first got to detroit and I’ll always appreciate I got a chance to play with this legend ❤️ #55 https://t.co/Km4JBcWazG— Jacob de la Rose (@JacobdelaRose) September 3, 2019
Really enjoyed watching Nick Kronwall play. Old school guy. Tough as nails, hard hitter and class individual. Very good leader in the room. Missed games early in his career with injuries otherwise he would have hit 1,000GP. Will miss him on the ice but glad he’ll still be around.— Ken Kal (@KenKalDRW) September 3, 2019