Along with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall is one of the Red Wings’ top three veteran leaders in the dressing room and on the ice. Under the mentorship of Niklas Lidstrom, Kronwall excelled as a young defenseman on a team transitioning from one era of superstars to the next. In 2007-08, the last time the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, Kronwall had a career high 33 points.
All seemed well with the Detroit D-corps when Lidstrom decided to retire and turn leadership responsibilities on the blueline over to Kronwall. Alas, these turned out to be too big of skates to fill and as Kronwall’s age continues to rise, his stats continue to fall.
This latest season was not one of Kronwall’s best. In a way, it mirrored that of the greater team. His offense was down, his physical play was sub-par, and he missed some time due to injury. But enough of the vague descriptive talk, let’s dive into some detail!
Despite receiving top-pairing minutes, Kronwall’s offensive contributions were those of a bottom to mid-pairing defenseman. The team’s offense was down overall this season, so it’s hard to fault Kronwall for this, but when your role is meant to drive offense from the blueline, the stats above tell me you are not delivering on this objective.
The stat that jumps out the most to be on this chart is Kronwall’s minus-21 this season. You can blame the fact that he mostly played with Jonathan Ericsson all you want, but at the end of the day it’s Kronwall’s responsibility to clear the zone and drive offense. This is a clear reflection of his poor possession impact from the HERO chart.
This was also, in fact, Kronwall’s worst offensive season when you look at it from a point-per-game perspective.
While Kronner’s possession stats were better this season than they were last, he’s been on a steady decline since 2010. This is expected in veteran defensemen, but Kronwall’s help was required this season when offense was tough to come by. His Corsi was just okay, nothing to write home about.
Kronwall was on the ice for 11 more goals against than goals for. This is, obviously, not good. Both his GF% and OSh% are low. This is all supporting evidence to the general theme of this year in review that Kronwall was not offensively present this season.
Kronwall’s on-ice scoring chances differential (SC+/-) was -14. That tells you all you need to know about where the play was happening while Kronwall was on the ice and how good he was at suppressing the opposition’s offense.
I don’t expect Kronwall’s play to get better. At 35 years old, Kronwall’s body is taking less and less abuse over the long 82 game season. Expect him to be sidelined with more injuries. As for his actual on-ice play, Kronwall’s offense will take more of a hit and he’ll end up playing more of a defensive role while Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, and Brendan Smith take more responsibility for blueline scoring. If I’m Blashill, I’m giving Kronwall less 5-on-5 minutes and using him more on the powerplay and penalty kill.
He is on the other side of his prime, so I get that Kronner’s stats are going to be decreasing from now on, but in a season where the Wings could never quite find their stride, they needed their leaders to step up and set the tone. Part of this responsibility falls on Kronwall and, in my opinion, he did not deliver.
It’s been a long time since we’ve truly seen somebody Kronwalled. And I fear we won’t ever see it again.