May 31, 2012

Red Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom: I don't have drive to play another season: Citing a lack of motivation and a knowledge that he no longer had the drive needed to play at the only level acceptable to himself, Lidstrom retired from hockey today after 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. Lidstrom, 42, retires with four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe Trophy. Mike Ilitch ~ “I hate to say this, but we’re not going to see anybody like him again,” the Detroit Red Wings' owner said at Lidstrom’s news conference today at Joe Louis Arena. “We’re going to get some good players, we’ll have good teams, but there won’t be another Nick Lidstrom.” Ilitch called today “one of the most emotional days in Red Wing history.” He called Lidstrom “a Rock of Gibraltar” and marveled that, for 20 years, there never was an off-ice misstep, never an embarrassment and he always was the epitome of class. “There were no variations.”

posted by tommytrump to hockey at 01:37 PM - 16 comments

The league should make every incoming rookie sit and watch hours upon hours of game film of Lidstrom. The guy played skilled, clean hockey, yet was one the most, if not THE most effective defenseman in the game. He played tough, but with respect for his opponents and the game itself. If more played like him, we wouldn't see nearly as many concussions and shitty neck injuries. Congratulations to him on an amazing career.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:25 PM on May 31, 2012

Another good one has hung up his skates. He has to be a first ballot lock for the HOF.

posted by Howard_T at 03:39 PM on May 31, 2012

He was a great competitor and given the way he played against the Sharks I'm not unhappy to see him go. ;)

posted by billsaysthis at 04:09 PM on May 31, 2012

He was a great competitor

The understatement of the year.

Lidstrom's retirement got me thinking about where he would rank all-time among defencemen, Top 10? Top 5? Top 3? Top....?

posted by tommybiden at 05:42 PM on May 31, 2012

Acknowledging my bias for the modern era, because it's what I know. But my (waaaay off the top of my head) short list would have Lidstrom, Borque, Orr, Coffey, Stephens (homer pick), and maybe in five or ten years Shea Weber. My feelings will not be hurt by those who choose to amend this list.

posted by tahoemoj at 05:47 PM on May 31, 2012

Stats about Nicklas Lidstrom:

  • He never had a season with more than 50 penalty minutes. Yet, he never won the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play.
  • He missed a grand total of 44 regular season games over 20 seasons. He played in more than 97.25% of the team's regular season games.
  • He's 2nd all-time in games played for a single franchise (behind Mr. Hockey), and 1st all-time for games played by someone who ONLY played for a single franchise.
  • His career was so long, he played against someone born in 1951 and against someone born in 1993 (after he was already playing in the NHL).
  • Since he played his first game, 5 teams have moved, 8 teams have been added, and five different franchises ended 25+ year Stanley Cup droughts.

posted by grum@work at 05:49 PM on May 31, 2012

Lidstrom's retirement got me thinking about where he would rank all-time among defencemen, Top 10? Top 5? Top 3? Top....?

Well, among his contemporaries, his career crossed over that of Ray Bourque, who I would rank ahead of Lidstrom.

Then there are the legends like Orr, Potvin, and Harvey. And what about Red Kelly? Eddie Shore? Serge Savard? Larry Robinson? Slava Fetisov? Brian Leetch? Al MacInnis? Paul Coffey? Scott Stevens?

I think top 10 is the best that I could comfortably rank him, but if someone wanted to slot him into the #5 spot behind Orr, Potvin, Bourque, and Harvey, then I wouldn't be too shocked.

posted by grum@work at 05:57 PM on May 31, 2012

I misspelled "Stevens" despite owning a "Stevens" jersey. Dumbass.

Also, maybe I'm just remembering the slow end of Bourque's career, but I remember Lidstrom being much sturdier defensively than Bourque. He was a magician with the puck, but sometimes looked lost in the defensive zone. Of course, his ridiculous speed helped make up for some of his defensive shortcomings. In all, I'd take Lidstrom over Bourque.

posted by tahoemoj at 07:29 PM on May 31, 2012

He missed a grand total of 44 regular season games over 20 seasons.

That's just amazing. He clearly belongs on the list with Borque in the "Possibly Part of the Super Soldier Program" category.

posted by yerfatma at 08:07 PM on May 31, 2012

Off the top of my considerably emotional head, I would rank him ahead of all but Orr and Potvin. I didn't have the privilege of seeing Harvey or Robinson, and Fetisov didn't have the opportunity to play in his absolute prime in the NHL (but his story is equally impressive for different reasons - in some ways, he shaped the modern NHL). But I do think he was just a tiny bit better than Bourque who played in an epic offensive era.

For my money, Lidstrom is the epitome of a professional hockey player and a legendary talent combined with an unheard of lack of selfishness. It was an honor to watch such a player, play such a game for such a long time. At 42, he was still a top player for a top team. His game seemed effortlessly simple, but was in scrutiny, unimaginably complex.

He was the best of his time. One of the best all-time. The league is now poorer for his absence.

And I fucking HATE the Red Wings - with an equal amount of grudging respect. And that respect is almost all due to Lidstrom. With apologies to Jaromir, Lidstrom was the best European hockey player to ever lace 'em up. Period.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:17 PM on May 31, 2012

Lidstrom is easily a top 5 defenceman. I would rank Lidstrom behind Orr, Bourque and Potvin.

With apologies to Jaromir, Lidstrom was the best European hockey player to ever lace 'em up. Period.

I gotta put Hasek as the greatest European born Hockey player.

posted by Whizbang at 11:25 PM on May 31, 2012

Yeah, Hasek is an interesting choice. I have some reservations about putting him ahead of Lidstrom by virtue of his only becoming a starter in his thirties. But he is a top five all-time goalie. Highest save percentage all-time (though it was in the clutch-and-grab era). There's a good argument to be made, for sure.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:56 PM on May 31, 2012

European list?

Hmm...I'm not going to include Russians, just because I think they are their own (impressive) category.

1. Jagr (just edging out Lidstrom)
2. Lidstrom (best Euro defenseman)
3. Hasek (I generally reward long careers, but even his short career was too amazing to ignore)
4. Kurri (not just Gretzky's buddy)
5. Selanne (I might swap him and Kurri on any given day)
6. Forsberg (Probably would have been top of the list if healthier)
7. Statsny (Another pioneer, and lost to history because of era and team)
8. Sundin (Leaf bias)
9. Salming (The pioneer and my bias again)
10. Alfredsson (You can imagine how much this pains me to say)

Note: Stan Mikita would also count, but I was looking for players who learned the game in Europe, not just European-born.

There is a real lack of non-Russian Europeans in the HHOF. I count three (Kurri, Salming, Statsny). That's going to be fixed very soon.

posted by grum@work at 11:02 AM on June 01, 2012

I would love to see someone crunch the numbers relative to era (maybe someone has, but hockey stats analysis is harder to track down than similar for baseball and even basketball). Like the baseball stats debate (when comparing, say, Bonds to Ruth), the performance of Lidstrom has to be viewed in terms of overall talent pool (much greater now than it was in years past with the European players -- but it could also be argued that the original 6 era had better overall talent because there were only 6 teams), scoring trends in the various eras, etc. And Lidstrom also has to be given credit for his longevity and reliability and, frankly, for things that are probably really tough to measure/quantify such as positioning and passing. I would probably put him in the top 3 D-men of all time, but that is likely in part the result of biases related to immediacy and straight-up homerism. An all-time great any way you cut it, though, and also one of the all-time class acts.

posted by holden at 02:01 PM on June 01, 2012

There is an attempt to create a similar statistic to Win Shares (which pretty much works for comparing players across eras in baseball) for hockey.

It's called "Point Shares". It's complicated, and messy (because hockey stats weren't very detailed until even just recently), and might be too daunting for the uninitiated.

posted by grum@work at 02:46 PM on June 01, 2012

One of the things that will stick with me about Lidstrom is that he played for decades at a very high level without being a dick on or off the ice.

posted by Samsonov14 at 09:43 AM on June 09, 2012

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