Niklas Kronwall skipping the World Cup in order to strengthen his knee and prepare for the season could have been seen as a good thing for the Detroit Red Wings, but it’s hard to put a positive spin on the fact the veteran blueliner won’t be ready for the start of training camp.
Kronwall, 35, has been battling with knee injuries for much of the past year and missed nearly a quarter of 2015-16 due to a knee ailment. After his summer rehab didn’t have him at the stage he wanted, he officially pulled out of the World Cup tournament nearly a full month ago. However, with training camp mere days away, Kronwall said he’s still not ready to get back on the ice.
"I won't be starting day one at camp with the guys," Kronwall told DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji. "I'll be skating a lot on my own up there. I don't want to say too much because I really don't know where that's going to take us. But hopefully things will progress and we'll know more in a week or two.”
Kronwall said he’s “very disappointed” with his health at this point, believing the extra time off would have helped him recuperate. And while it’s not the worst break for Kronwall to have to miss training camp, it’s not comforting when Kronwall admits that his knee was feeling like it could be ready for the season up until the point he got back on the ice. That said, Kronwall said things are moving in the right direction and the past two weeks have been “pretty good.”
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill isn’t worried if Kronwall has to miss some time during camp, either. Blashill knows Kronwall understands what’s required of him in the regular season, and Blashill understands that a veteran players such as Kronwall doesn’t necessarily need a big run up to the season to be prepared.
"Once he pulled out of the World Cup our goal wasn't necessarily to have him ready for Day 1 of training camp," Blashill told Wakiji. "Our goal was to have Nik Kronwall ready to play and be a big impact in our first game. It takes build-up to get there but you don't necessarily need all 2½ weeks to get there.”
When it comes to the long-term health of Kronwall’s knee, though, it sounds as if his “pretty good” diagnosis might be about as good as things get. Kronwall said he doesn’t know if his knee will ever be “pain-free,” adding that he wants to get to a place where it simply doesn’t bother his as much as it has throughout the off-season.
Even still, that’s a tricky position to be in, especially with three years and $14.25 million remaining on Kronwall’s contract. The defenseman the Red Wings signed to a seven-year, $33.25-million deal isn’t the same one who suited up this past season. Kronwall was a step slower, and his minutes dropped for a second consecutive season. And while there could be a way for Kronwall to get his knee back to perfect health, it’s not exactly something he can do while his career is still continuing.
"I think the surgery that was talked about was something that wouldn't be the best idea if I wanted to play again,” Kronwall told Wakiji. “Let’s just put it that way.”
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