Not to state the obvious, but the Red Wings miss Nick Lidstrom. When the 42 year-old defenseman announced his retirement over the summer, everyone knew Detroit would struggle. Just three games into the season the Wings have allowed 10 goals and used 9 different defenseman mostly due to injuries. The current unit includes a mixture up and coming prospects like Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith along with recently signed Kent Huskins who had been playing for Norfolk of the AHL prior to inking a deal with Detroit.
There is no replacing a seven time Norris trophy winner, but the Wings did try. This summer they attempted to lure Ryan Suter with a big ticket contract offer, but the unrestricted free agent opted to sign with the Minnesota Wild instead. With few options left on the free agent market, the Wings opted to sign the oft injured Carlo Colaiacovo before the lockout. The 29 year-old defenseman has a long history of injuries so it shouldn’t have been a shock when he went down with an injury in just the second game of the season.
Detroit, who also lost free agent Brad Stuart this off season, traded a first round draft pick for Kyle Quincey late last season in anticipation of a defensive corp transition. They had hoped that the 6-foot-2, 207 pound defenseman would provide stability and depth, but Quincey has struggled since his acquisition and hasn’t found his rhythm this season either.
The Wings brass has also put heavy focus on drafting defensemen over the years in the hopes of building a stable of capable reserves. Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith are examples of this focus and both are currently with the big club. Detroit also has promising blueline prospects in Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, Adam Almquist,Mattias Backman and Nick Jensen among others. While there is plenty of promise among this crop of defenders, they are all years away from NHL consideration and won’t provide an immediate impact.
With injuries and defensive lapses mounting, the Wings were forced to sign Kent Huskins to a contract prior to the home opener. The 33 year-old played in just 25 games last season for St. Louis and was on a professional try-out contract with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL before joining the Wings. While the Clarkson University alum will help bolster the Wings patchwork defensive corp, he isn’t a long term solution. If the Red Wings want to make the playoffs they will need a significant upgrade on the blueline.
Defenseman are always tough to come by late in the season and a deal can be costly, but a heavier than normal emphasis is expected due to the shortened season. Ken Holland knows he is on the clock and the pressure is mounting with each goal against Jimmy Howard. Despite his reluctance to give up top end prospects, he’ll need to be active and aggressive in the trade market otherwise Detroit will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs start.