Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall heads into offseason uncertain about his playing career
Detroit — Niklas Kronwall wasn’t giving any sort of clue or indication.
If Saturday was his last ever game at Little Caesars Arena, Kronwall wasn’t saying, as the Red Wings’ season came to an end.
Was it the end to Kronwall’s long and successful career, too?
“I don’t really have a time table,” said Kronwall after the morning skate. “We (Kronwall and general manager Ken Holland) talked in January, or whenever it was, and (agreed) to sit down after the season. Everything is going to figure itself out over the next few weeks or months, or whenever that’ll be.
“I’ll spend some time with the family now and be a full-time dad and that’s something I’m looking forward to now.”
At the beginning of the season, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Kronwall, 38, was going to call it a career after this season.
But the way Kronwall performed on the ice, plus the fact he wound up playing a team-high 79 games this season — a bet not many people at all would have won at the beginning of the season — has made the notion of Kronwall returning for one more season somewhat expected.
“He’s made a huge argument that he can, for sure, play one more season, and good for him,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s put himself in a spot where he can make that decision, and he’s not being forced into a decision. The decision will ultimately be his.”
Of leading the team in games played, Kronwall said: “That’s just how it works sometimes. We had some injuries to key players and unfortunately, too many guys missed too many games. But at the end of the day it’s up to the guys who were playing to get the job done, and we weren’t good enough to do that.”
Blashill, who has consistently said in recent weeks he believes Kronwall can play another season, was pleased with Kronwall’s level of performance.
“He’s not only been the last man standing on that defensive core, but he’s arguably been, on a night-to-night basis, certainly through this stretch where we’ve had success, he’s been excellent,” Blashill said.
The fact Kronwall was able to play so many games this season despite so much previous knee discomfort — he said he’s feeling fine now — and various injuries, was a stunner.
“In that way, it’s been extremely satisfying to come back and play,” Kronwall said. “To feel the same discomfort for a few years there, if someone would have told me a year ago (I’d be feeling this way) I would have taken it.”
Kronwall is 47 games way from 1,000 games played in his career, something it sounds as if Kronwall would enjoy attaining.
“I definitely look at that as a huge milestone, and it’s something if it were to happen, a huge milestone I’d be proud of,” Kronwall said. “But just getting the opportunity to represent this organization would mean a lot to me.”
Forward Thomas Vanek, who missed the final seven games with a finger injury after being hit by a Madison Bowey shot, wasn’t sure about his future, either.
Vanek, 35, said his family would have a big impact on whether he continues to play, or decides to retire this summer.
Vanek had 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 64 games this season, fighting off a knee injury early in the season that impacted him.
“It took him a while to come back from the knee, but it’s like Kronwall, in the sense he (Vanek) can still make an impact and offensively, the thing about Thomas, he’s a great competitor and he knows what it takes to win,” Blashill said. “It’ll be interesting to see what he decides.”
Dylan Larkin entered the final game leading the Wings in goals (32), assists (41), points (73) and penalty minutes (75). Should Larkin hold the lead in each category, he’d become the second player in franchise history to lead in each of those categories. John Sheppard (1926-27) was the other.
…While Kronwall tied Pavel Datsyuk for ninth in Wings’ history with 953 games Saturday, Martin Frk played in his 100th NHL game.