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Lidstrom for Norris?

Over at RLD Hockey today, hockey blogger Brian Huddle and I debate who the Norris Trophy winner should be at the end of the season.

In another Red Wings supporter moment, I took Nicklas Lidstrom:

However, when it comes to Lidstrom, it is not all about the statistics. Simply put, this is a defenseman that does everything the right way and has been doing so for his entire career.

Obviously, point-production is part of his forte. Night in and night out, you will spot the 40-year-old defenseman’s name on the score sheet whether it is a goal or an assist. He is the quarterback of the team’s power play and knows how to find the open man.

Click here for more on the seven-time Norris Trophy winner.


Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: detroit+red+wings, nicklas+lidstrom, rld+hockey



Safe enough pick.

This is one of those years that there’s no clear runaway contender that doesn’t have some sort of downside associated with him. I can’t say I would be surprised if Byfuglien’s game fell apart in the second-half, since no scout ever said he played like Paul Coffey. Letang still makes an occasional bone-head play (he’s mobile enough that Pittsburgh rarely gets burned on them, but they’re still bone-head plays). Keith’s offensive numbers and +- aren’t near those guys, nor are Pronger’s or Doughty’s.

This pretty much just leaves Chara (+15 is way above most of Boston’s d) and Lidstrom. Either make sense.

Posted by StevieSteve on 01/01/11 at 09:03 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I argue that Kris Letang has been the best defenceman this season.  That comes from a statistical argument and also from watching the players in question play.

The main argument for Lidstrom over Letang is that he has been so great for so long.  He clearly has a better legacy and has proven himself to be a better player.  As a result of this track record, if I had to pick one of Letang or Lidstrom for a seven game playoff series starting tomorrow, I would likely pick Lidstrom, but that doesn’t change the fact that Letang has been better this season so far.

Defensive trophies are often legacy trophies.  You can’t win hem in your first big season, too many people pick on reputation instead of what they actually see on the ice (assuming the watch at all).  So I imagine Lidstrom would win a popular ballot right now, but once again that doesn’t change the fact that Letang has been better so far this season.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/01/11 at 09:28 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

Lidstrom deserves the Norris at this point. As far as evidence, he’s having a great year even by his standards. Plus, TPSH picked someone else, so that kind of reaffirms Lidstrom’s probability.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 01/01/11 at 10:29 PM ET



Offensively, he has the slight numerical edge (36 points and 11 goals in 38 games, versus 32 points and 7 goals in 39 games for Letang). Both guys play nearly even minutes on the PP (4:20 per game for Lidstrom, 4:18 for Letang) and Letang plays about a minute more per game even strength.

Defensively, Lidstrom is one of his team’s top-pairing penalty killers (second on the team’s defense corps with 3:14 in PK time per game). Letang is fourth among Pens blueliners in PK time per game, more than a minute and half per game behind the shutdown duo of Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek and 42 second behind Paul Martin. Paul freaking Martin.

Lidstrom is regularly paired against the opposition’s top lines, and is always out to protect a lead in crunch time. When the Red Wings need a shutdown shift, Lidstrom is always there. I don’t watch a long of Penguins games, but I would guess that when the they need a big defensive stop or a good matchup against a top line, they lean on Orpik and Michalek, not Letang.

Lastly, plus/minus is a nearly worthless statistic. I don’t think it means anything in particular that Letang is +19 and Lidstrom is only +1. I mean, Brian freaking Rafalski is +9, despite the fact that AT BEST he’s Lidstrom’s equal offensively (.93 ppg, to Lidstrom’s .95) and not even one-tenth of the player Lidstrom is defensively.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/01/11 at 11:26 PM ET

Chris in A^2's avatar

I haven’t seen much of Letang so maybe somone that has can answer this for me:

Is he the best defensive player on the ice every night?
The way he plays in his zone right now, can you make a case for him being the best player of all time?

I can say that about Lidstrom, he’s playing about as good as he ever has in the regular season.  Either Letang is the second comming of Lidstrom and playing historically great hockey, or he’s not the best defenseman in the league.  It has nothing to do with legacy; Lidstrom is a generational talent and, even at 40, is still that good.

Posted by Chris in A^2 from Nyquist Puck Control on 01/02/11 at 01:20 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Simply put, this is a defenseman that does everything the right way…

You’re spot-on, Patrick. Anyone who’s watched Nick this year has to be impressed with the way he effortlessly handles opponents in the defensive zone. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen him play a better defensive and offensive game than he’s playing right now.

I argue that Kris Letang has been the best defenceman this season.  That comes from a statistical argument and also from watching the players in question play.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/01/11 at 06:28 PM ET

Well, that’s why you’re considered the dumbest blogger at KK. Letang has 6 goals and 33 points. Nick has 11 goals and 36 points. So statistically Letang is inferior. And no one would trust any personal observation that you make, Mr. Corsi Numbers. You’re a joke TPSH – and everyone knows it.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 01/02/11 at 03:08 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Letang has 6 goals and 33 points. Nick has 11 goals and 36 points. So statistically Letang is inferior

As OlderThanChelios clearly implies there is nothing more valuable than point totals to determine how well a defenceman is playing.  That is why he supports Dustin Byfuglien for this year’s Norris and Mike Green for the last couple before it.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/02/11 at 03:11 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

As OlderThanChelios clearly implies there is nothing more valuable than point totals to determine how well a defenceman is playing.

Well, as uasual, you misunderstand anything relating to hockey. You’re a statistics junkie who thinks the game can only be defined by your statistical criteria. Anyone who points to anything else is, by default, wrong.

Just give it up, little boy. As a blogger, no one respects your opinions. And I predict that within a week of Paul finally implementing the “block this blogger” feature at KK, you will be the most blocked blogger by far. And I’ll bet you a grand on that.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 01/02/11 at 03:28 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I’m with OTC on this.  TPSH you started by saying letang had statistical advantages… Sven said TPH has more PK times (as a defenseman this is VERY relavent, means you are good defensively… sad I have to explain this to you) and more points in less games(which means he’s better offensively)

So we’ve got Lids is better defensively, puts up more points in fewer games playing a minute LESS on average, but he’s the one who only cares about points???  You aren’t the only one allowed to talkstats.  Sorry OTC didn’t get all winded ‘bout it but youcan’t argue the stats.  I’d actually be interested to know what stats aside from your Corsi stat that Letang camein ahead of TPH.  It’s personally responses like yours that make people hate yourblog and when you have to mention that youactually watched the players too, that should tell you about yourhockey credibility.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 01/02/11 at 07:15 PM ET


Couple misconceptions to clear up about Letang.

Orpik doesn’t play with Michalek unless Letang’s tired from a powerplay. This is also why Letang’s fourth in pk time; it has nothing to do with Bylsma’s trust and everything to do with spreading minutes out across the top 4 d to keep from fatigue. If the Pens PK were coming out to make a kill at the start of the second, what determines whether Letang or Michalek start is how much time is left on the penalty (there’s a post-kill 5-man unit Bylsma uses that Letang’s part of). If it’s late in the game with the other goalie pulled, the only determining factor for who is on the ice between these two seems to be who’s fresher.

Bylsma uses both of his top units (Martin/Michalek, Orpik/Letang) interchangeably as #1 and #1a shut-down pairs. Makes line-matching a lot easier on the D.

That said, I’d still pick Lidstrom or Chara for Norris, for reasons I’ve stated above.

Posted by StevieSteve on 01/02/11 at 07:35 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

If you need a statistical argument to show how well Letang is playing, I will provide it.

First a few words about defence in the NHL this season.  Nobody is performing at the level that would have won the Norris Trophy in the past few years.  Lidstrom is clearly one of the top defencemen as he has been for years.  He is into his downslide, but is clearly still near the top - as he was last year.  People look at the lack of a runaway Norris leader this year and see Lidstrom and assume this is a great comeback for him.  Its not.  He is playing at approximately the level he played at last year.  He wasn’t nominated for the Norris last year, but he could have been.  This year, there is no Keith, no Doughty, no Green at the top.  So Lidstrom at about the same level is near the top.

The other candidate at this point is Kris Letang.  Where is Letang ahead?  Two of the areas where Lidstrom always used to dominate.  The fact Letang is ahead shows (among other things) that Lidstrom is no longer at the level he was say five years ago and that letang has come a long way.

Lets look at Corsi.  Letang has a +11.42 Corsi rating per game.  Lidstrom is at +4.94.  Lidstrom has historically dominated the league in puck possession numbers, but he no longer is.  Letang is certainly not dominating on Lidstrom’s old level, but he is doing more than twice as well.

Lets look at +/- (adjusted as a rate stat).  Lidstrom is +0.06 (essentially a zero).  Letang is +1.29, which is very good.

In Lidstrom’s favor he plays a tougher competition, but Letang is succeeding far more.  Letang is producing more win shares for his team.  Most of the Lidstrom argument is nostalgia for when he used to be doing this well in the league when compared to other defencemen without noticing that he is not at the level he once was (but giving him credit for it nonetheless) and ignoring the underlying numbers which strongly support Kris Letang.

Or you can watch both play for several games with an unbiased eye.  Letang is more important in moving the puck today.  Letang is more valuable to his team today.  The problem in this assessment is most of the people around here have a strong Red Wing bias and compare other players on defence to the Lidstrom of half a decade ago - so they do not make fair comparisons.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/02/11 at 07:47 PM ET

ChowYunCat's avatar

  He is playing at approximately the level he played at last year. 

What are you basing this on?

Posted by ChowYunCat on 01/02/11 at 09:14 PM ET


Let’s have some fun with the Corsi, shall we?

Nicklas Lidstrom has +4.94 Corsi rating. Teammate Jonathan Ericsson has a Corsi of +11.13—more than twice as good as Lidstrom and nearly as good as Letang! And all three of them are trailing that great defensive stalwart, Brian Rafalski, at 15.10.

Now, do these numbers mean that all our eyes are deceiving us, and that Lidstrom is actually one of the worst players on his team, and the Red Wings would be better off to relegating him to third-pairing duty and giving Ericsson and Rafalski his minutes?

The Corsi can tell you some things, but trying to use it across the board for major statistical insights is still flawed. Just like plus-minus it rewards and penalizes individual players using an extremely team-based formula (i.e., shots for and against). If you’re placed in a greater number of defensive situations, regardless of what you individually contribute, your Corsi will go down. If you line up against the top lines from other teams, your Corsi will go down.

Meanwhile, go over to Behind the Net, view the stats for Quality of Competition, and filter for players who’ve played at least 20 games. Lidstrom is ranked second in the entire NHL. Kris Letang? Sitting pretty at 184.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/02/11 at 09:49 PM ET

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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.

Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.

For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.