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Comparing Two Great Defensemen

from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,

Bobby Orr, Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom have won the most Norris Trophies as the NHL’s top defenseman, and it just so happens legendary Scotty Bowman has coached two of them, Lidstrom and Harvey.

I thought you hockey fans might be intrigued to hear from Bowman on his coaching experiences with Harvey and Lidstrom. I know I was.

“It’s hard to compare them in a way because they played in vastly different eras. I coached Harvey in St. Louis before Nick Lidstrom was born,” Bowman told ESPN.com last week. “But the two most common denominators between those two was that it was very seldom either one got caught up ice. Their passing skills were so terrific. Their first pass.

“If you charted a hockey game and you wrote down where the puck went every time those two touched it, it usually went on another teammate’s stick unless they were killing a penalty. Their positioning and that sixth sense to be aware of what’s going on ... they made a lot of partners looked pretty good.”

They also shared a common presence in the offensive zone.


added 1:17pm, Most of you probably only have heard of Doug Harvey but never saw him play, but now you can watch some video of Harvey below…

added 1:21pm, Chris Osgood interview Nick Lidstrom for ESPN, watch the video below and a follow up story on TPH from LeBrun at ESPN.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Detroit Red Wings, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: doug+harvey, nick+lidstrom


Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Before hanging up the phone with ESPN.com, Orr asked us to pass on a message to Lidstrom.

“Do me a favor and tell him how much I love to watch him,” said Orr. “He’s represented us so darn well.”

That pretty much sums it up.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 12/14/10 at 05:30 PM ET

SYF's avatar

First off, thanks, Paul, for finding a terrific vid on Doug Harvey.  I now see so many similarities through Bowman’s eyes.  I have a much, much better appreciation of Doug Harvey.

I’m privileged as a Wings fan to have witnessed Lidstrom’s amazing career as much as I’ve appreciated Yzerman’s career.  What a blessed organization.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 12/14/10 at 06:02 PM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

“Filling in for Pierre who’s to tired, cold & lazy”. HA.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 12/14/10 at 07:54 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

Why doesn’t Osgood have a shirt on?  Very unprofessional.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 12/14/10 at 11:00 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Ozzie NEVER has his shirt on.  He’s infamous for walking around the locker room shirtless and ensuring that he does interviews shirtless.  It’s sort of his thing.

I wrote a pretty lengthy response to Paul’s post regarding Lidstrom on Sunday, and I’ll repeat this much—while I’m in my early 30’s and didn’t get to see Bourque or Orr play, as far as I’m concerned, Lidstrom’s the best defensemen I have ever had the pleasure of watching in person, including Larry Robinson, ray Bourque, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Larry Murphy, the faint glimmers of the “Gretzky of defensemen” that Slava Fetisov exhibited at the end of his career, and as a Wings fan, I’ll include Vladimir Konstantinov in the mix. 

I might as well summarize: if you have the opportunity to go to a Wings game and just watch Lidstrom when he’s on the ice, you’ll be amazed at the amount of skating he does when the puck’s at the other end of the ice to ensure that he’s balancing keeping himself available for passes and positioning his body between the puck, the possible opponents who might skate it toward him, and his own net.  Lidstrom is constantly in motion and is constantly attempting to anticipate the next play (and the play after that).

I find it astonishing that nobody’s recognized the fact that, since he tore a tendon in his right elbow two years ago, Lidstrom has successfully evolved from a defenseman who used the reach of his sweep and poke-checks to separate opponents from the puck to a defenseman who does the same with two hands on his stick with almost no ill effects…

In terms of his on-ice vision, I really do believe that Lidstrom is one of the few players in the league who can quite literally pivot the entire rink when the puck is on his stick, and that speaks to his near cold-blooded calm and his ability to make the “simple play” (which is apparently an incredibly difficult thing to do) every time he touches the puck…

Those who suggest that he has “lost a step” seem to forget that Nick was never a speedster; Lidstrom skates backwards as fast, if not faster, than he does going forward, and it’s his lateral mobility that’s truly elite, so those of us who remember the lucky forward who could split Lidstrom and Larry Murphy ten years ago getting a guaranteed breakaway because Lidstrom has simply never had anything more than a third forward gear and that Murphy doesn’t get out of first find the, “He’s slowed down” argument simply baseless…

There’s certainly something to be said for the fact that his best friend on the team is a similar technician—it’s Tomas Holmstrom, a master of a slightly less glamorous yet no less subtle art—and that he wants to coach youth hockey players, not become a GM or a coach when he’s done playing…

And the last part of LeBrun’s article summarizes why I’ve told Lidstrom that he’s my hockey hero.  He has an incredibly healthy ego—he knows that he’s the captain of the Red Wings, one of the best defensemen in the NHL over the last 20 years, if not one of the best defensemen ever, and he knows he’s “that good,” and is very justifiably both proud of it and driven to exceed expectations and meet his responsibilities, but he’s also someone who believes that, driving a Bentley Continental and living in a multi-million-dollar home included, he’s a regular human being away from the rink, and that he’s no more or less a regular human being than you or I when he’s not carrying a hockey stick in his hands. 

He might be a better human being than he is a defenseman, and that probably says it all.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 12/14/10 at 11:45 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Someone should do a documentary on Lidstrom, kinda like that thing they did with Zidane, where they just film everything he does on the ice over the course of a couple games.

Posted by Nathan from wasting perfect passes from my teammates on 12/15/10 at 11:46 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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