He was one of the greatest of all time.
On Thursday morning, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement from the National Hockey League after 20 seasons.
Starting in 2001, the 42-year-old Lidstrom won seven Norris Trophies. He was selected to play in 12 NHL All-Star Games and was named to the league’s First All-Star Team 10 times between 1998 and 2011. In 2002, he became the first European player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Lidstrom had remarkable skill. He could skate, move the puck and had an innate ability to see the entire ice surface. The game moved in slo-motion for Lidstrom. No defensemen in NHL history won seven Norris Trophies in 11 seasons.
Not surprisingly, most media outlets decided to ask a question: Where did Lidstrom stand among the all-time greats of the game? The fans who were allowed to weigh-in showed their age. Seems no one heard of Doug Harvey or Eddie Shore and while they’d heard of Bobby Orr, none of them ever saw him play.
It was a classic example of media-made idiocy: The insane arguments that result from the futile attempt to compare the eras.
Sorry, you can’t compare Nicklas Lidstrom to Paul Coffey. You can’t compare Paul Coffey to Bobby Orr. You can’t compare Bobby Orr to Doug Harvey. You can’t compare Doug Harvey to Eddie Shore. The game has changed dramatically since 1970. It’s changed even more dramatically since 1930.
Lidstrom played 1,564 NHL games, scored 264 goals and finished with 1,142 points. He won four Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal. He was a great, great player.
Obviously, I’m not going to compare Lidstrom to some other defenseman who once played between 1910 and 2012. However, I would like to ask this question: Is there anyone who could become the next Nicklas Lidstrom?
Consider two things. Lidstrom was a third-round draft pick (53rd overall) in 1989. He played nine seasons, and was a regular Top 4 defenseman with the Wings, before he won the Norris Trophy. However, he stayed shockingly healthy for 20 seasons. Until this, his final year, he never missed more than six games in a season and did that only one.
Nicklas Lidstrom was 31 when he won the Norris Trophy for the first time and that means there are all sorts of excellent young defensemen who could one day grow up to be Nick Lidstrom.
Here’s our list of seven potentials:
1) Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators: Frankly, Karlsson was the best defenseman in the NHL this season. He had 19 goals and 59 assists and was a finalist for the Norris Trophy. Just 22, he’s Swedish like Lidstrom and he possesses a lot of the same skills. At 6-foot, 180-pounds, he’s on the small side, but it’s not like you’d notice.
2) Shea Weber, Nashville Predators: An all-star defenseman at age 26, Preds coach Barry Trotz calls Weber “the best in the game.” At 6-foot-4, 232 pounds, he’s huge, owns the front of his own net and can score a little – with 19 goals and 49 points, he was sixth among defensemen this season. As Trotz claims, Weber is already one of the game’s best. He was plus-21 this season and is destined to be a Norris Trophy winner soon. However, because the Preds don’t like to spend a lot of money, Weber might spend his entire career in Nashville.
3) Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings: He’s an outstanding young defenseman who skates extremely well and can move the puck quickly. In 77 games this season he scored only 10 goals and dished out just 26 assists but he’s been a monster in the playoffs, often playing as much as 28-30 minutes a game. He’s a potential Lidstrom.
4) Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators: He had seven goals and 39 assists this season and was a plus-15. He’s a terrific defender who can set up the forwards and still play well in his own end. At 6-foot-, 200-pounds he’s certainly big enough. He plays almost 30 minutes a game and although he’ s 27, he’s already been an all-star.
5) Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: This year’s playoffs were somewhat of a coming out party for Pietrangelo who is the best young defenseman nobody knows. Only 22, he was the fourth overall draft pick in 2008 and at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, he’s talk smart and fast. This season Pietrangelo finished fifth in scoring among NHL defensemen with 12 goals and 39 assists.
6) Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks: At 28, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Hawks rearguard is the oldest member of our group and the only one to have already won a Norris Trophy (2009-10). He’s a gifted playmaker who can move the puck with the best in the game. He’s steady, poised and the Hawks leader on defense.
7) Zach Bogosian, Winnipeg Jets: He can skate and move the puck with the best of the NHL stars. And while he’s still virtually unknown around the league, Bogosian showed for most of this 2011-12 season that he’s going to be a tremendous player. Of course, it might not always be for the Winnipeg Jets. He was a tough sign last year and he’ll be tough next time. This year, despite injuries, he scored five goals and had 25 assists in 65 games and averaged about 25 minutes of ice time per game. Pretty good for a 21-year-old who is also shoe-leather tough.
(Listen to Scott Taylor every Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on NCI FM and Streetz 104.7 FM in Winnipeg and every Wednesday morning at 10:05 CST on The TEAM 1260 in Edmonton. And don’t forget the www.360winnipeg.ca Sports Report, Major Misconduct with special guest Curt Keilback.)