How do you replace Nicklas Lidstrom, the greatest defenseman of the past 20 years and one of the best of all time?
If you're Niklas Kronwall, you just keep doing what you do. You come in in 2003-04 alternating on the third paid as a #7 defenseman that's full of promise, then spend a year in the AHL with the Grand Rapid Griffins and win the Eddie Shore Award as best defenseman, then come back to the Detroit Red Wings and try to keep improving.
Then, as the years pass, trades and retirements make way for you to be an essential component on the second pairing, and finally you graduate to the top unit and top powerplay crew. You have fulfilled the promise of a first-round draft pick (the Wings chose him with the 29th-overall choice in 2000) with your perfect balance, strong skating, booming shot and knack for open-ice hits, which have now been named after you (search "getting Kronwalled" on YouTube, you'll squirm on your seat as if you were watching videos of baseball pitchers getting hit in the nuts with line drives).
It's easy to forget his smallish stature (in comparison to the force of the impact on the hits he delivers) because he plays like a giant, and his personae and aura reflect much larger than he actually is.
He won the Stanley Cup with the Wings in 2008 and is part of the Triple Gold club thanks to his Olympic gold (2006) and World Championship gold (2006) medals, and he also won silver at the Olympics (2014) and Worlds (2003) with Team Sweden. With Henrik Zetterberg and Mikael Samuelsson, he's part of the trio who own the distinction of having acquired the Triple Gold title the fastest - in just over two years' time.
He has played in 674 NHL regular-season games so far - all with the Wings - and stands at 339 points and 426 penalty minutes. He averages roughly the same types of statistics in the postseason, with 46 points and 81 penalty minutes in 104 playoff games.
Here he is wearing the Wings' classic red (now-home) uniform, with a matching game-used jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 set: