Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had to make the phone call Tuesday, just to be sure. So he dialled long distance to Sweden and spoke with Nick Lidstrom to see if perhaps the 42-year-old defenceman was interested in making a comeback.
Lidstrom announced his retirement in late May and returned to his native Sweden, where he's based as an international scout for the Red Wings. Given how the NHL lockout has reduced the 2012-13 season to an expected 48 games, Babcock phoned to find out how Lidstrom was feeling, if there were any chance he'd like to return for a shortened run at the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"He's working on his house and hanging around with the kids," Babcock said. "They're playing hockey and Nick said, 'You get to the rink and you feel the energy.' But he said it was nothing that made him feel like putting on the equipment again.
"I didn't need to say anything more."
For the first time since September of 1991, the Red Wings are about to enter a training camp without Lidstrom in their lineup. He had been one of the league's most talented and respected players, a multiple award winner, a Stanley Cup champion and the Red Wings' captain since 2006. In Lidstrom's place, Detroit is expected to award forward Henrik Zetterberg the C. As for who inherits Lidstrom's copious amount of ice time, that remains unsettled.
The likelihood is Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson will see more action. They'll be joined by Kyle Quincey, Ian White, Jakub Kindl, promising Brendan Smith, who saw some playing time last season, and free-agent signing Carlo Colaiacovo.
"Over the last bit we've lost [Jiri] Hudler, [Brad] Stuart, [Tomas] Holmstrom, Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski," Babcock said. "We lost our big three defencemen [Stuart, Lidstrom, Rafalski]. That's a huge hole on the back end but it's a great opportunity, too. There's ice time to fill. Who wants it?"
Babcock and his coaching staff have spent the last few days preparing for the start of the season. They've not only been going over their roster and mapping out practice strategy, they've actually been working games together to get a feel for one another.
Babcock and assistants Tom Renney and Bill Peters have manned the bench of a high school team and a women's college team. On Wednesday night, they'll be coaching a midget team in Detroit.
"We're ready to go," Babcock said. "We're starting to prescout other teams now."