The Marlies will take to the ice today in pursuit of the Calder Cup, against a Norfolk Admirals team that has stampeded through the AHL over the last few months. Â Toronto will be without some of its most potent offensive weapons, as Matt Frattin has joined Nazem Kadri and Mike Zigomanis on the injured list. Â As such, Ben Scrivens and Toronto’s defensive effort will have to come up big against an Admirals team that features a number of scoring threats.
Elsewhere in the hockey universe, Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement, to the dismay of hockey fans everywhere (seriously, have you ever met someone that doesn’t like this Swedish legend?). Â As Matt accurately predicted, there are already a number of career retrospectives on the internets, with many touching on the (admittedly selfish)Â disappointingÂ notion that we won’t get to see #5 work the Red Wings blueline anymore. Â It’s a presence that the game will truly miss.
With respect to the Leafs, it’s unfortunate that Lidstrom won’t be featured in the upcoming 24/7 series between the two Original Six franchises. Â He leaves a large hole on the ice and in the dressing room, and it will definitely be interesting to see how the Detroit organization goes about filling this during the summer.
Lidstrom’s effect on the ice has been nearly unparalleled in history due to his excellence in all facets of the game. Â While the Leafs will likely never be blessed with such a talent, one would think that Toronto’s promising young blueliner, Jake Gardiner, will see success at the NHL level through a style of play that is similar to the Red Wings captain. Â The requisite high-end offensive capabilities and vision are certainly there, as is the skating ability. Â Like Lidstrom, Gardiner will never look to crush opponents in the defensive end or seek to dominate the other team physically. Â This is not to say that either player shies away from contact, but Nicklas Lidstrom excelled defensively with positioning, smarts, and an active stick.
It is in this area of defensive wiles and veteran experience that Gardiner has much to learn. Â For non-superhuman defensemen like Gardiner, this will be a process that takes years of maturation and exposure to many big game scenarios, such as tonight’s Calder Cup Finals.