Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Art of Kronwalling: Why is it Disappearing?

I like me a good Kronwalling.  Now technically, I like any big hit dished out on an opposing player that keeps their head on a swivel for the rest of the game, but there is nothing like watching a beautiful, signature move-esque hit from number 55 in the Winged Wheel.  I get shivers when I see Nik turn that corner on the backskate and see the rear-end wrecking ball careening toward its unsuspecting prey, and I hear explosions in my head when I see the carnage before me as that opposing player drags themselves back to their feet...if they're even able to. This is a far cry from advocating injury to anyone, but I just can't get enough big hits in a hockey game!

Kronwall is one of the best at what he does, because of HOW he does it, the Kronwalling, as it has lovingly come to be known in Hockeytown is almost as important a symbol of hockey in Detroit as the octopus! ...Almost. It is still a must-see for Wings fans, but lately I've noticed that the artist has been putting down his proverbial brush and has been painting with a more defensive-minded stroke.  To an extent, yes, I understand this.  Lidstrom retired. Stuart left.  Rafalski retired before them.  The biggest keys to Detroit's blueline have packed up and gone one after another for their own reasons, and that leaves Kronwall with a bunch of kids and nomadic journeyman.  Like it or not, for the time being the top D-man in the D is 55.  This means a few things: much more ice-time, a more diversified role such as constant use on the PP and PK as well as at even strength.  He's out there all...the...time.  He feels he needs to shore up his defensive game.

He thinks he needs to be a Nick Lidstrom.

At least that's how it feels to me, because Nik Kronwall has not played a Nik Kronwall-like game once this year.  We've seen flashes of it, like the hit on the Av's Jamie Mcginn, but it has been a decided rarity since the departure of The Perfect Human.  Big hits are part of Kronner's game, and as long as he keeps reining it in, other teams are going to take advantage of it.

Want a great example? Anyone who watched that heartbreaker of a game last night in Chicago would've seen the Hawks get a late scoring chance in Overtime that nearly kept us from even GOING to a shootout.  The Hawks entered the offensive zone by pressing up the boards, and were primed for a Kronwalling.  Instead of stapling his mark to the glass, Nik decided to BACK OFF HIS MAN and let him enter the zone! Wanting to remain defensively sound is one thing, but when your worrying about getting caught out of position or taking a penalty results in a good scoring chance on your goaltender, that's no smarter NOR any more responsible a decision.

I've watched teams attack our blueline more this year than any other recent season in memory.  Primarilly this is due to the transition period the Wings are going through and the lack of experience and depth on the back end.  I would also argue, however, that this aggressive push teams are making against our lines would get a bit more timid if number 55 stood a guy up here or there a little more often.

There is a balance to be had between a defensive game and a physical game.  The great players who play a physically defensive style find it.  Kronwall almost had it before Lidstrom left, but now he's all out of sync with himself and his team is suffering for it.  For the good of Hockeytown, Nik, get out there and Kronwall the hell out of somebody!


Zach Alexander said...

I enjoyed this haha. Great post. There seems to be plenty of times where 55 or 52 could play the body and decide against it. You have the size.. Knock them off the damn puck!

Brad Butland said...

Glad you enjoyed! It's been burning my ass for a long time, and you're right about Rig being not much better. It's bad enough we don't have Helm splattering dudes into the boards on the forecheck, but then coming back our way they don't get any resistance there either!!