Niklas Kronwall continues to keep on chugging for the Detroit Red Wings despite essentially playing on one leg. The 38-year-old logged a pretty impressive season on a team that continues to get younger and younger.
That’s not to say he’s found his second wind as a player and should be logging top-pair minutes, but based on his injury history and age, Kronwall can still be a somewhat effective defender.
His defensive numbers, no doubt, are helped out by the fact he sees a lot of offensive zone faceoffs (52.04%), with Dennis Cholowski (59.57%) the only defenseman ahead of him.
His power-play numbers leave little to be desired, further proof he should receive less power play time.
Kronwall matched his point production from last season in the same amount of games. It’s an improvement from his dreadful 2016-17 campaign, but he also saw about 1:30 more of ice time per game in 2018-19 than he did in 2017-18, so the same amount of points despite playing about 100 more minutes.
At this point in Kronwall’s career, coach Jeff Blashill has to be happy he’s getting close to 80 games and nearly 30 points out of the Swede.
Despite the RAPM chart giving Kronwall a positive defensive Corsi for mark, he suffered his worse 5 on 5 Corsi for percentage of his career at 47.69%. However, it was the 10th-best mark on a team that struggled defensively.
Kronwall had a favorable pairing with Nick Jensen for 277 minutes, but he also spent 422 minutes with Mike Green, a defenseman not known for his defensive abilities, and 163 minutes with Hronek, who started to show promise toward the end of his season but also went through some rookie growing pains.
Kronwall has declined every season since the Cup-winning 2007-08 season, and it’s unbelievable to see just how dominant he was 12 seasons ago.
Kronwall is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and it hurts to see the reliable blueliner decline year after year. It’s time for Kronwall to call it a career.
Detroit has a number of defensive prospects that could and should take his place. Even if someone like Joe Hicketts or Vili Saarijarvi top out as bottom-pairing defensemen, either of those players would be an upgrade over Kronwall.
It seems counterintuitive to advocate for retirement after I just mentioned he can be effective defensively, but it’s only going to get worse for Kronwall. He doesn’t have the speed to keep up with today’s NHLers, and I’d rather see Kronwall go out on a “high” note rather than run his body into the ground to the point he’s forced to retire.
The Red Wings can keep Kronwall on the staff as an adviser, but he shouldn’t be on the ice.