The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/07/11 at 10:08 AM ET
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom earned his fair share of praise for a two-goal performance in the Red Wings’ 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Friday, but the most intriguing talk about a player who was at least willing to admit to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo that he “feels good” at 41 years of age, some of the best came from the mouth of Wings GM Ken Holland, who had this to say to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun about Lidstrom’s leadership…
“He’s a special competitor. In an elimination game, he’s our best player and steps up and led the way tonight,” Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com just outside his team’s dressing room.
Retire? Heck, this guy showed again Friday night why he can play a few more years—if he chooses to.
“There’s no doubt he has lots of hockey left in him. Lots of hockey this year, and I think lots of hockey beyond this year,” said Holland, who might have been crossing his fingers when he said that to us. I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of players who other people looked at the birth certificate, players like Steve Yzerman, Igor Larionov, Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios; Nick Lidstrom is right there at the head of the class,” added Holland. “Age is only a number. He’s just so great, so focused, so committed, so determined that the birth certificate is just a number.”
And an intriguing admission from Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika, who suggested that he may or may not have started the conversation:
Said Wings coach Mike Babcock: “You guys were talking about retirement. I think he answered that pretty good.”
Yes, I asked Lidstrom about retirement Thursday. But it wasn’t because I thought he should retire. The man is a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. If he wins it for the seventh time, he will tie Doug Harvey for the second-most ever – only one behind Bobby Orr. Obviously he can still play. As teammate Todd Bertuzzi said: “The guy is magical.”
I asked because he has taken it year to year for a while now, the Wings were facing a 3-0 series deficit and that meant there was at least a chance that Friday night’s game could have been his last at the Joe. Lidstrom said it was a tough question to answer and he would decide after the season. General manager Ken Holland said he had no idea what Lidstrom would do. The real point is that whether Lidstrom retires this year or next year or whenever, that day is coming, so the Wings had better take advantage of their playoff opportunities with one of the best defensemen of all time while they still have him.
The feeling is that Lidstrom will return as long as he feels he can play at a high level and the Wings can compete for the Cup. So if he’s still good enough to be a Norris finalist and the Wings still have a core that includes Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, why the hesitation? Is it family? He has a son going to school in Sweden. Is it business? His contract is up, but that would be a formality. He and Holland have sat down after every season and come up with something that makes sense.
“Well, that’s something I’ll think about when the season is over,” Lidstrom said. “I don’t think about it right now.”
How much longer will Lidstrom be around?
“When he’s had enough,” Babcock said, “he’ll have had enough.”
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Free Press’s Helene St. James, Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji, the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff and the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski, among others, weighed in on Lidstrom’s status, but the Detroit News’s John Niyo offered the best bottom line:
At this rate, it’s hard to argue with Holland’s assessment that Lidstrom could play “until he is 44 or 45, falling out of bed.” And how about you, Nick?
“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging off the question with a smile after Friday’s game. “We’ll see about that after the season.”
That’s how he has approached this retirement decision the last few years. And honestly, only Lidstrom knows which way he’s leaning at this point. Holland has his fingers crossed, but he readily admits he doesn’t know. Same goes for Lidstrom’s teammates.
But frankly, I’ll be surprised if this is it, whenever this season ends. Lidstrom will sit down with Holland and he’ll listen to a familiar sales pitch: The Wings have enough talent coming back to be a legitimate a Cup contender again next season. And then they’ll talk about the salary cap and how much Holland can afford to pay Lidstrom while still taking care of the Wings’ other needs. Lidstrom made $6.2 million this season, and he shouldn’t get a penny less to come back. (Brian Rafalski is due to make $6 million in the final year of his deal next season.)
The rest will be up to Lidstrom, who reiterated Friday he “feels good” physically. And I’d imagine he feels better mentally after a performance like the one his team just turned in against the Sharks.
“I think we felt that we had more to give,” Lidstrom said.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.