Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 11, 2013

Wings rebuilding defense with youth


— TRAVERSE CITY — Two years ago, Jonathan Ericsson was the Detroit Red Wings second youngest defensemen.

Now, the 29-year-old is the second oldest.

It illustrates how the Wings have rebuilt their defense — mostly with young prospects they had previously drafted.

"It's been a major overhaul in terms of age," Wings GM Ken Holland said Thursday at the team's Development Camp at Centre ICE.

The transformation was kicked into overdrive last season when Nicklas Lidstrom retired; Brad Stuart opted to return to the West Coast, where his family was living; and marquee free agent Ryan Sutter turned down the Wings to sign with Minnesota.

The two veteran free agents the Wings brought in, Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo, played sparingly down the stretch.

Instead, the Wings defense, anchored by Nik Kronwall and Ericsson, relied on fresh faces that included Kyle Quincey (27), Jakub Kindl (26), Brendan Smith (24), Danny DeKeyser (23) and Brian Lashoff (22).

"I look at last year and we finished fifth in the league in goals against," Holland said. "Down the stretch, when we had to make the playoffs in our last 11 games, we allowed 14 goals in regulation. Our young defensemen we're learning on the fly. At times, there were some growing pains. Maybe they made decisions that led to goals against, but there is no other way to go about building a team."

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