Kronwall is reliable, durable force for young Wings

Niklas Kronwall has weathered all the adversity and embraced the challenge of filling the role of a Red Wings legend.

Rick Osentoski

As the Detroit Red Wings continue their transition into a younger and faster hockey club, some of us tend to savor the past, while we anticipate the future.

While we no longer pine for the days of Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Dominik Hasek and the Grind Line, our fond recollections only whet our appetite for what is just around the corner for Detroit’s franchise.  

After all, Detroit’s top prospect Anthony Mantha has us drooling at the possibilities of his goal scoring prowess, many of us are clamoring for Detroit’s slew of young defensemen to be called up ASAP, and we’ve already convinced ourselves that goaltending stud Petr Mrazek is a perennial all-star.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming, and the performance of the Wings ‘kids’ has raised our expectation level. But through all this transitional hoopla, one player has been Detroit’s rock — a player that has weathered all the adversity and embraced the challenge of filling the role of a Red Wings legend.

Without the steady guidance of defenseman Niklas Kronwall, the Wings’ situation could be borderline catastrophic.

Kronwall has been a reliable and durable force for a Detroit team that has been besieged with injuries to their most important players over the past few years.

Since the 2010-11 season, Kronwall has missed a total of 7 games. He has averaged over 23 minutes of ice time and has mentored an inexperienced defensive corps that is beginning to grow into a formidable unit.

"It’s really exciting to see how far our young guys have come," Kronwall said. "Our guys have really taken some steps, there’s no doubt that we were shaky at times last year, but down the stretch (last season) the situation that we were faced with a lot of injuries, really got our team together.

"Going through something like last year will only benefit the team in the long run, we’ve learned a lot from that and hopefully we can just keep going and building."

In his 10th season in Detroit, Kronwall has appeared in 596 games, he has 296 career points with 62 goals (28 on the power play), notched 11 game winners and is a plus-45. 

He is known for his open ice body checks, which has spawned the term ‘getting Kronwalled.’

"I didn’t come up with it," he sheepishly says. "I don’t know who came up with it."

It’s apparent that he’s a bit embarrassed with his body checks being labeled ‘Kronwalled,’ because in Detroit it has always been about team play and not individual accolades.

"When I came up and Hank (Henrik Zetterberg) came up for us it was huge to be in the room with guys like (Nick) Lidstrom, (Steve) Yzerman, (Kris) Draper, these guys that had been here for a while and carried the torch that set the standard for this franchise," Kronwall said. "To see how they carried themselves not only on the ice, but off the ice, in the gym, with fans, with the media, in all kinds of situations. 

"You look at what they did and you try and do the same thing. Those guys were the Red Wings, now we’re just trying to carry the torch."

Kronwall admits that he still lets his emotions get the best of him on occasion, but he’s learned how to channel his raw emotions into a positive, instead of having it consume him, like it did when he was younger.  

It’s not easy keeping your emotions in check, but he’s tried to convey to the Wings youngsters that being calm and moving on from a mistake is the key to establishing yourself in the NHL.   

"Early in my career it was a lot easier to get down on yourself if you were having a bad game or a bad shift, it’s something I’ve learned to work with over the years," Kronwall said. "What’s happened in the past is history already, you cannot affect that, all you can do is try and change your next shift or your next game."

Once the torch is past to the Wings’ young corps, they couldn’t receive it from a better man than Kronwall, a quiet leader whose play and conduct is the Red Wings way.

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