Tomas Holmstrom’s Retirement and Legacy

March 6, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Holmstrom (96) screens Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) during game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in fifteen years, the Detroit Red Wings’ roster will not have a player that was present for the 1997 and 1998 back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

With the return of hockey, the announcement fans have anticipated since Nicklas Lidstrom‘s departure has finally come to light:

Tomas Holmstrom is hanging up his skates.

Holmstrom has had a solid career and made a name for himself in the sport of hockey. He’s the player goalies hate, and every single NHL goaltender is breathing a bit easier now that his retirement will be official. They will no longer have to deal with his butt in their face during every game against the Red Wings.

The lack of presence at the top of the crease will have many fans shaking in their seats. Much like there is no way to replace the hole Lidstrom has left on the blue line, there is no one that will be able to crash the crease like Holmstrom. Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen have their moments of Holmstrom-ness, but no player can match what the Swede has done game in and game out for so many seasons.

April 17, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) makes a save as Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Holmstrom (96) and Nashville defenseman Shea Weber (6) fights for position in the second period of game four of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Tomas Holmstrom has left Red Wings fans with many questions around his career – questions that may make us laugh, cry, but most of all, reminisce:

-How many times has Holmstrom ticked off an opposing goalie so much that they’ve lost their temper and thrown a fit?

-How many times has he just managed to get a stick on a Lidstrom slapshot, only to tip it just over the goalie’s glove/pad/helmet/blocker?

-How many of his goals could theoretically be Lidstrom’s?

-How many goals have been called off due to “goalie interference?”

-How many times did those “goalie interference” calls happen during playoff games and riled the fanbase?

-How many times has it been Holmstrom on a rare breakaway, with fans screaming, “NOT HIM! HE CAN’T SKATE!”

Holmstrom was drafted 257th overall in 1994. And since he cracked the Red Wings’ roster in 1996-1997, his numbers were consistent. He found his niche on the team, and he exploited it for all it was worth. Fans would be upset if they ever imagined a power play without Holmstrom skating immediately to the front of the net.

After all, what other player would willingly put themselves in harm’s way of a 90 MPH slap shot? And what other player would be successful in tipping the shot just enough to result in a goal?

Holmstrom leaves behind a legacy. It may not be one as outstanding as the Lidstroms and Yzermans of the league, and it may not be as well-known outside the Red Wings fanbase. But it is a legacy that no player will be able to fill, not at least in the near future. No player will ever be able to do what he did as consistently or successfully as he did it.

Tomas Holmstrom and his net-front presence will be missed, of that there is no doubt.