Because nothing screams "cutting edge" quite like The Triple Deke, we'll be passing on the typical season preview for 2009-10. Instead, we will bring you this: a highly scientific forecast of each player's performance, which will be calculated by using an updated copy of a 13 year old video game -- Sega's NHL '97. Each statistical output will be treated as an irrefutable premonition, and anyone who challenges the accuracy of our system will be burned alive in front of their families.
Niklas Kronwall | #55 | Defenseman
* Very skilled, offensive-defenseman who can keep an eye on his own zone. A good skater and a superb passer from the back end.
* Looks like Brent's brother Jeff.
* Hits like a train out in the open ice. Skating with your head down while Kronner's playing is about as smart as bending over in front of Mike Green with assless chaps.
* You worry about his health. Last season was the first time he cracked the 70 game mark (finished with 80) in his big league career.
* Will have the occasional brain cramp in the defensive zone.
* Wakes up screaming every night thinking about "The Crossbar".
NHL '97 Season Recap: 18 goals, 52 assists, 70 points
This picture will never leave my brain for as long as I live. I don't fully know why or what the significance is, and I don't want to take too long figuring it out. It's just one of those things that sits with you. And if that's how I'm feeling about it, I don't want to know what goes through Kronner's mind on a daily basis.
I mean, not only did he look that distraught, but the dude rang a shot flush off the crossbar that would've tied the Seventh Game of the Finals moments earlier. How nut-wrenching is that? That has to mess with a guy's head. I bet it's like a Pavlov's dog situation -- every time the oven timer goes off or a kid rings a bell on his bike he thinks of the *ping* from The Crossbar and immediately starts peeing on people (For the record I'm definitely talking about Nik Kronwall here and not about something that happened to me last Sunday at a family reunion).
So while none of us should worry about his motivation level this season, you may be worrying whether or not his defensive play returns to form. In 2007-'08 he was solid, as he was on the ice for only 25 goals against at 5-on-5, but that number skyrocketed to 62 in 2008-'09, which was most on the team. He did play more games last season than the year before but that is still a noticeable climb. And, he didn't have to play against top competition like Lidstrom and Rafalski did.
So how did he correct that for 2010?
Kronwall's Sega season was a sublime combination of intelligent offensive play, commitment to defense, and staggering physicality that forced the league to adopt 26 different rule changes in order to limit the number of on-ice incidents. Following Gary Bettmen's firing after he was discovered to be a humanoid from the planet Jupiter, new Sega Commissioner Joe Kocur enacted a new rule that teams cannot hide behind one another in their own zone for an entire game without being turned into an NBA franchise. It was all a part of Kocur's new "De-pussifying The NHL" campaign that saw the dismissal of around 90 players and coaches as well as everyone from the San Jose Sharks. Teams around the league complained of bias when Kocur named Kronwall his deputy commissioner, but those voices were subdued when threats of "swirlies" were made public.
Kronwall put up impressive assist totals for the second year in a row and limited his mistakes around his own net, which helped the Wings correct their defensive miscues from the previous year. Overall, his only significant gaff was going a little too hard on Anze Kopitar.