When the Detroit Red Wings signed then-free agent Ian White to a two-year, $5.75 million contract last year, there were certainly some high expectations. Red Wings’ fans had seen White play as a member of the San Jose Sharks the previous playoffs, and they knew how effective he had been against their own team. Still, it was uncertain whether or not White would be able to continue playing at a high level once asked to eat up top-4 minutes on a regular night. Additionally, he was signed as a way to fill the right-handed void left on the powerplay with the departure of Brian Rafalski.
Last season, it is safe to say, was a success for White. He played most of his minutes next to one of the greatest defense man of all time, Nick Lidstrom, and was able to comfortably adjust. He put in seven goals himself and assisted on 25 others, giving him over 30 points in his first full season as a Red Wing. The 28-year old Canadian was also strong on the defensive end, being tied for the lead in +/- at the end of the season. The dip in offensive production from Rafalski’s numbers were notable, however many Red Wings fans would agree it was the significant improvement on the defensive end that made White successful in his first season in Detroit.
Looking onto the 2012-13 season, there is one major difference that White will have to adjust to: there will be no Lidstrom on his side.
Seeing as this is an issue for all Wings players, one could argue that this is not specifically an issue of White’s. The problem is however, that the White-Lidstrom defensive pairing was a standard used throughout the regular season and playoffs. Regardless of with whom White is paired, that player will definitely not be the caliber of the 7-time Norris Trophy winner Lidstrom.
How White can continue his success into the next season is clear: he cannot be focused on who is paired with him, but rather on his own game. He showed throughout the season that when confident he can pass well, plays stingy defensive both in front of and behind the net, and work well on the Wings powerplay. Look for coach Mike Babcock to put White out in pressure situations early in the season to show his confidence in him. At that point White needs only to do what he does best: play hockey.