We’re not giving this year’s Norris Trophy to Nicklas Lidstrom as a lifetime achievement award. But if we were handing out figurative hardware based on the past couple decades’ worth of hockey, here’s a pretty compelling case why Lidstrom should top a few lists, courtesy Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland.
“He's the best defenseman of his era and I think he's the most valuable player of his era and any time you have a dominant defenseman you have a leg up on a lot of teams.”
The Red Wings have now made the playoffs for 20 straight seasons, a streak that began in 1990-91. Lidstrom joined the team one year later.
No. 5 didn’t win his first of six Norris Trophies until age 31 and, even with the effusive praise he gets now, in some ways you wonder if his value still isn’t fully appreciated by those who don’t watch him often.
The nature of sports and sports viewing is such that conversations like, “Hey, did you see Lidstrom’s gap control on Patrick Kane last night?” tend to be buried under ones that take on the tone of “Do you think Shea Weber could cripple an elephant with his slapshot?”
When it comes to nicknames, ‘Nick the Stick’ doesn’t quite have the same highlight-friendly ring as ‘Lidstrom the Lopper.’
Point is, Lidstrom continues to do every little thing right, while still placing among the top-scoring defensemen in the league. True, he plays fewer minutes per game now than he used to and could finish the season as a minus player, but the bottom line is if you polled 30 NHL coaches, an overwhelming majority would want Lidstrom as one of their two blueliners for the last minute of a game, regardless of the circumstance.
That’s saying something, considering the swath of great young defensemen who now populate the league. The fact Lidstrom has to be so good to stay ahead of all the up-and-coming stars (and let’s give some love to 34-year-old Lubomir Visnovsky, too) is why winning a seventh Norris at age 41 this June would be a little extra special.
“Yeah, I think it means more and more the older you get,” Lidstrom said. “You appreciate it even more. I think people realize that it's harder; it gets harder as you get older to win.
“So I'm sure if I had a chance (to win the Norris), I would appreciate it even more as I get older.”
THN’s TOP THREE CANDIDATES
A seventh Norris would tie Doug Harvey for the second-most all-time behind Bobby Orr’s eight.
Good chance he’ll lead his Phoenix club in scoring, just in time to become a 24-year-old RFA.
Maybe the best D-man in the 2011 portion of the season with 30 points in 42 games, in addition to being a great big meanie out there.
THN PUCK PANEL: NORRIS TROPHY TALK
Producer: Ted Cooper
THN.com's Norris Trophy Watch appeared monthly throughout the season. And don't miss out as we'll also announce our winners for the Hart, Jack Adams and Calder this week. Check out our Vezina Trophy winner.