Niklas Kronwall is not coming back this year.
While many Red Wings fans won't be surprised, and perhaps even relieved by Kronwall's decision to retire, let's not forget he was a huge part of a very good Red Wings team between 2006 and 2012.
During those years, Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski formed one of the stingiest, most talented blue lines in the league. Without Kronwall, the Red Wings probably don't have the depth to go to back-to-back Stanley Cup finals in 2008-09.
Kronwall was the ultimate Red Wings' sleeper draft pick out of Sweden. He was selected 29th overall in the 1st round of the 2000 NHL draft. There were six defensemen selected before him, including both Ron Hainsey and Brooks Orpik -- Kronwall ended up being a steal. He played a total 953 career NHL games (83 goals, 349 assists) and another 109 playoff games (5 goals, 42 assists).
His retirement is the end of an era in Detroit, for sure. He is the last of the Swedish elites that once riddled this Red Wings lineup -- Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Franzen, Holmstrom, Alfredsson, Samuelsson, etc. He's also the last big piece of that '08 team to leave, too (not counting the return of Valtteri Filppula). So if Zetterberg's retirement felt like the end to that team, well then here's the real, official, end.
Kronwall's legacy is strong. He may not reach the Hall of Fame -- even though he is a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club -- but he will be remembered as one of the most consistent Red Wings defensemen ever to play. He made a name for himself with his heavy open-ice hits -- "Kronwalled" became a term, for better or worse -- as he was the first Red Wings d-man to be known for such hitting since Vladimir Konstantinov. But it was his skilled skating and vision up ice that made him such an impactful player for a decade.
Fans are ready to move on now with a younger team, however. There is no space for a 38-year-old defenseman, especially one who has been obviously battling through injuries on the back half of his career. Steve Yzerman allowed Kronwall to take the summer to decide on his future, leaving a spot open for the veteran.
Now he will join Yzerman's staff as an advisor.
-- Dave Bartkowiak Jr.