Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/31/12 at 01:15 PM ET
“It’s hard to put into words exactly what Nicklas Lidstrom has meant to the Detroit Red Wings over the last 20 years. In my opinion he’s the best two-way defenseman to ever play the game. He’s the type of player that comes along once in a generation. We’ll miss what he’s brought to our organization as a player and as our captain, but what we’ll probably miss the most is the person that he is off the ice and having him around on a daily basis.”
-Detroit Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland. Quote is from a press release from the Wings on Lidstrom’s retirement which you can read below.
Detroit, MI... Nicklas Lidstrom, a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings and a seven-time winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the National Hockey League’s best defenseman, announced today that he will retire from the Red Wings after 20 seasons. Lidstrom finishes his illustrious career ranked in the top 10 all-time among defensemen with 264 goals (ninth), 878 assists (sixth), 1,142 points (sixth) and 132 power-play goals (fifth). He played in 263 postseason games, second all-time among NHL players (Chris Chelios – 266), and 1,564 regular season games, second in franchise history behind only Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe (1,687).
“I’m extremely grateful for having had the chance to play in Detroit for 20 years, for an Original Six franchise with such history and tradition, and for having the opportunity to play with so many world class players during my career,” said Lidstrom. “I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch for always providing us with the best opportunity to win, year after year. I also want to thank the fans for their unending support. I have nothing but great memories of my time with the Red Wings, especially the four Stanley Cup championships we were able to bring to Detroit.”
Lidstrom, 42, was Detroit’s third-round pick (53rd overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut with the Red Wings in Chicago against the rival Blackhawks on October 3, 1991. The Vasteras, Sweden, native collected 60 points (11-49-60) during his rookie campaign and finished as the runner-up to Pavel Bure for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. Lidstrom was named to the 1992 All-Rookie Team. His stellar freshman season was simply a prelude of things to come over the next two decades.
Lidstrom spent all 20 seasons of his career in the Motor City, a rare feat in today’s professional sports landscape. He never missed the playoffs during his career, advancing to the conference finals eight times, the Stanley Cup Final six times and winning the Stanley Cup four times in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008. In 2002, the steady defenseman became the first European-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP despite playing on a team littered with flashy NHL stars such as Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull, Dominik Hasek and Brendan Shanahan. He was named captain of the Red Wings prior to the start of the 2006-07 season and led Detroit to back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2008 and 2009. He became the first European-born captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup championship with a 4-2 series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008.
“It’s hard to put into words exactly what Nicklas Lidstrom has meant to the Detroit Red Wings over the last 20 years,” said Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland. “In my opinion he’s the best two-way defenseman to ever play the game. He’s the type of player that comes along once in a generation. We’ll miss what he’s brought to our organization as a player and as our captain, but what we’ll probably miss the most is the person that he is off the ice and having him around on a daily basis.”
Lidstrom was recognized as the NHL’s top defenseman seven times over a 10-season span from 2001-2011. His seven Norris Trophies (2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011) tie him with Doug Harvey for second most all-time, trailing only the legendary Bobby Orr (eight). Lidstrom won his first Norris Trophy at age 31 and in 2011 he became the oldest player ever to win the award at age 41. He holds Detroit’s single-season records for assists (64) and points (80) by a defenseman, ranks fourth in franchise history with 1,142 points and has the highest plus-minus rating (+450) in the NHL since 1991-92, his first year in the league. Lidstrom was named a First Team All-Star 10 times during his career (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011) and a Second Team All-Star twice (2009, 2010). He was selected to play in 12 NHL All-Star Games (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011) and picked to captain his squad in 2011. Lidstrom ranks in the top three all-time among defensemen in the postseason with 54 goals (third), 129 assists (third), 183 points (second) and 30 power-play goals (first). He was named the NHL’s player of the decade from 2000-2009 by both the Sporting News and SportsIllustrated.com.
Lidstrom’s durability over his 20-year career is nearly as impressive as his litany of accomplishments. He missed just 44 regular season games since he entered the league in 1991-92. Twelve of those 44 games came during the 2011-12 season. Lidstrom played in every regular season game seven times during his career and played in 80-or-more games 14 times in 20 seasons. Over his 20 consecutive playoff appearances, Lidstrom would miss just two postseason games due to injury, both in 2009. He skated in 263 of the 265 playoff games the Red Wings played from 1992-2012.
Lidstrom also found success at the international level throughout his career. He represented his native Sweden at numerous international competitions and is a member of the exclusive ‘Triple Gold Club’ having won an Olympic gold medal with Sweden in 2006 and an IIHF World Championships title in 1991 to go with his four Stanley Cup championships in Detroit.
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