The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/25/11 at 02:01 PM ET
Updated 3x at 2:43 PM with Lidstrom’s teammates talking about the captain’s prowess: As Paul already posted, Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom was nominated for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman, but the probability of Lidstrom capturing his seventh Norris is about 50-50 at this point, and it may come down to adding up second and third-place votes instead of winning on first-place votes outright. An informal survey of the professional hockey writers’ association over the past few weeks seems to indicate that over half of the voters will go with the other finalists, Zdeno Chara or Shea Weber, and the other third to 40% are going with Lidstrom.
ESPN’s Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun have given Lidstrom a now-rare double endorsement...
Burnside: An incredibly close race with Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky leading all blueliners in points, Shea Weber having a tremendous second half in Nashville and Zdeno Chara and Keith Yandle making a case in Boston and Phoenix, respectively. But for me, Nicklas Lidstrom’s continued blue-chip level of play for a Detroit Red Wings team that once again has had to battle significant injuries gives him the edge. As one NHL GM pointed out to me this week, the fact that he isn’t playing as much with Brian Rafalski has put more pressure on Lidstrom, but he still does it all at the highest level. As for those who point to Lidstrom’s plus/minus (he is minus-1 through 79 games), never mind. The stat means next to nothing.
LeBrun: For a while, it appeared Lidstrom was going to run away with his seventh Norris Trophy in a cakewalk, but hard-charging Visnovsky of the Ducks has made it quite a race with his league-leading 66 points among defensemen. I also point to his plus-15 rating. And that’s what Lidstrom’s detractors are pointing to, the Wings captain’s minus-1 rating as of Wednesday morning. But I attribute that more to the team’s defensive struggles this season and not the legend’s own play.
Chara also deserves strong consideration, while Kris Letang, Yandle and Weber also have merit. In the end, I find myself vacillating between Lidstrom and Visnovsky. In the end, even at age 40, “The Perfect Human” still rocks.
And the Red Wings’ website posted a video discussion of the nominees:
As an example, USA Today’s Mike Brehm voted for Lidstrom, but Kevin Allen, the president of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, picked Zdeno Chara.
Update: Here’s what Lidstrom said about the nomination to the Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James…
“It’s always an honor to be nominated,” Lidstrom said. “I wasn’t nominated last year so I guess it means you’ve had a solid season. It means even more as you get older. You appreciate it a lot more. You know how hard it is to put all the effort in in the off-season to get ready for a long year. I’ve very proud to be nominated.”
Lidstrom, who turns 41 on Thursday, is also a finalist for the Lady Byng, recognizing sportsmanship combined with a high standard of playing ability. Lidstrom was first recognized with the Norris Trophy in 2001, picked it up again each of the following two years, and collected another three in a row from ’06-08.
Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins has a record eight (won in consecutive seasons from 1968-75), while Doug Harvey is second with seven. Lidstrom’s six are third, one ahead of Ray Bourque.
The odds of Lidstrom adding a seventh to his collection are very good, at least among voters who don’t get caught up in the plus-minus rating. Lidstrom did finish with a minus-rating (-2) for the first time in his 19 seasons in the NHL, all of them spent with the Wings. But 2010-11 was also his best season offensively in three years, as he produced 16 goals and 62 points in 82 games.
“He had a great year,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He had 60 points in a year where I didn’t think we were fantastic. He managed to keep on ticking, so good for him and good for us. He’s obviously still a real high-end player.”
And here’s a bit more from MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom was named today as a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman.
Lidstrom, a six-time Norris winner, has been a finalist for the award in 11 of the past 13 seasons. Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Nashville’s Shea Weber are the other finalists. The winner will be announced on June 22 at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas.
“He’s one of those genetic freaks, kind like (former Detroit defenseman Chris) Chelios, that keeps on ticking,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “To me, he’s in the top D-men of all-time and one of the top players of all-time. There’s not a player who’s been as good as long, in my option, that I’ve been around, like Nick.’‘
Update #2: A good update from Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski who voted for Lidstrom:
Weber wins his first Norris. Can’t see Chara getting the support he did two years ago with the optics being that Tim Thomas was the backbone of that defense in 2010-11. Can’t see Lidstrom winning the award at a minus-2, because as asinine as that measure is for a D-man’s effectiveness, the voters are going to recoil from it. Via Matt Kozlowski: “Only 2 “minus players” have ever won the Norris Trophy: Rob Blake(notes) in 1998, -3 & Randy Carlyle in 1981, -15.”
We can see Weber winning, for his ice time, his impact and being a primary reason the Predators qualified for the postseason. It’s his turn.
How We Voted
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
2. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
3. Lubomir Visnovsky, Anaheim Ducks
4. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
5. Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes
Yep, Chara out of the Top 3. Didn’t feel he had the impact that Visnovsky did, as 68 points and 116 blocked-shots are a compelling combination. Plus only 24 PIMs, which meant he wasn’t a liability.
The lack of shorthanded ice time for Visnovsky makes this a harder argument to make, but he was still a well-rounded leading scorer among defensemen, which was good enough for us.
As for Lidstrom winning, it’s a combination of plus/minus being a garbage glamour stat, quality of competition and his numbers again simply being outstanding. Weber can wait; it should still be Lids’ award.
Update #3: Per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
“When you play alongside him you get so spoiled,” Niklas Kronwall said. “Those few games I missed there I got a chance to see it from the outside and it really is ridiculous what he does out there every game. I don’t see anybody else getting it. There are a lot of other good defensemen, but they’re in a different league than he is.”
Here’s Ted Kulfan’s Detroit News report:
One of Nicklas Lidstrom’s six Norris Trophies is at his home in Sweden; the rest are here.
“I just have them in my office,” said Lidstrom, who might add to his collection.
“It’s always an honor to be nominated,” said Lidstrom, who turns 41 on Thursday. He would be the first winner to be 40 for the entire season.
Lidstrom is a finalist for the 11th time in the past 13 seasons. He ranked second among NHL defensemen this season with 62 points (16 goals, 46 assists) while playing all 82 games. He averaged a team-high 23:28 of ice time per game, but had a minus rating (minus-2) for the first time in his NHL career.
“That’s something I wasn’t happy about,” Lidstrom said of his plus-minus rating. “I tried to correct it late in the season but I was never able to do that.”
“(The nomination) means more when you get older and you know how hard it is to put all the effort in the off-season to get ready for a long season,” Lidstrom said.
Update #4: Here’s Lidstrom speaking to the press, as well as several teammates talking to the Wings’ website about Nick’s Norris nod:
And here’s Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji polling Lidstrom’s teammates:
“I never set out the goal for being nominated or trying to win the Norris,” Lidstrom said. “I always looked at it as being a bonus. If you had a solid year, you have a chance of doing it. Looking at last season, I thought I could have played better. I thought I could have contributed more offensively for the team. So that’s one of the goals I set, just to do that. Not to be nominated but to have a stronger season than I did last year.”
“I’d say consistency to play at a high level,” said Kris Draper, who has played with Lidstrom his entire career. “I think that’s the one thing that we’ve really appreciated. He’s a very intelligent hockey player, unbelievable with his stick. That’s the one thing that just amazes me. I know a lot of us in practice in 2-on-1s, we want to make that pass just to beat Nick Lidstrom, just because it doesn’t happen too often. It’s better than scoring a goal in practice, making that pass. That’s how good he is.”
“There’s a lot of things that I’ve learned that I probably can’t do,” [Brad] Stuart said. “Just seeing his patience on the ice, he can out-wait guys with the puck. Even without the puck, there are things you can learn as a defenseman—positioning, all that, poise. There’s things you can try to incorporate into your game when you see somebody do it every day and do it well. There’s a lot of things that I wish I could do but it takes a special talent.”
“When you play alongside him, you get so spoiled, you don’t really think about it too much,”[Niklas] Kronwall said. “Those few games that I missed there, I got a chance to see from the outside and it really is ridiculous what he does out there game after game.”
“To me, he’s in the top D-men of all time and one of the top players of all time,” [Mike] Babcock said. “Obviously, when he was voted player of the decade, that speaks in itself.”
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