The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/23/11 at 06:39 AM ET
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom’s -2 plus-minus rating didn’t prevent “Norris Nick” from winning his seventh Norris Trophy and making the NHL’s First All-Star Team, but after all the talk from NHL writers suggesting that Lidstrom simply didn’t dominate like Zdeno Chara or Shea Weber this past season, it was a bit of a surprise to see Lidstrom tie Doug Harvey as the second-most-decorated defenseman of all time—in the closest Norris Trophy voting from 1st to 3rd place ever!
As the 41-year-old told the Associated Press, winning the Norris never gets old, nor is it any less special, as time marches on:
“It feels surreal having reached seven Norrises, especially at this stage in my career,” said Lidstrom. “I’m very proud to still be able to play at this level and win another Norris.”
Lidstrom’s seventh Norris tied Montreal star Doug Harvey, and he now only trails the legendary Bobby Orr’s record of eight.
“It gives me some motivation to get ready for next season now having won another Norris,” Lidstrom said. “I think it helps going through the off-season workouts.”
Lidstrom, who twice has won the award in three consecutive years (from 2000-01 to ‘02-03 and 2005-06 to ‘07-08), said he thought one of the other nominees would win this year.
“Chara and Weber had great seasons. I felt like it could be anyone’s trophy really,” he said.
Lidstrom became the first 40-year-old defenceman to score more than 60 points in a NHL season when he had 62 (16 goals, 46 assists) points in 2011. This season also marked the first time in Lidstrom’s career he posted a minus rating, finishing with a minus-2. Rob Blake of Los Angeles in 1998 was the last player to win the Norris with a minus mark.
As much success as Lidstrom has had with the Norris, he’s never been able to capture the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, losing out again this year when Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis took home the hardware.
“I don’t know,” Lidstrom said shaking his head, after missing out for the sixth time on the honour given annually for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct. “I think Pavel [Detroit teammate Pavel Datsyuk] taking that fighting major helped me get here. Maybe I should thank him a little bit for getting me here and just being one of the three guys nominated.”
As Kukla’s Korner’s own Alanah McGinley reveals, Lidstrom won the Norris 736-727 in the points category (and, as Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien notes, Zdeno Chara finished only 48 points behind Lidstrom, too!), while Datsyuk, who played in only 56 games, finished 3rd in Selke Trophy voting (I agree with the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan: it’s hard to argue that Ryan Kesler didn’t earn the award), and Lidstrom also lost to Martin St. Louis by a wide margin, 994-964, in the voting for the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player.
That plus-minus stat? It’s wildly overrated, as Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom won his seventh James Norris Memorial Trophy with a minus-2 rating. Still, Lidstrom was full value for the honor in what was the closest race since 1996. Lidstrom edged out Nashville captain Shea Weber by a 736-727 margin. For the record, Weber was plus-7 and Zdeno Chara was a whopping plus-33. Chara was hot on the Norris trail, too; he had 33 first-place votes, while Lidstrom had 35 and Weber 32.
Lidstrom had 62 points during the season, second among all NHL defensemen, and logged considerable ice time with injuries to other Detroit defensemen, including Brian Rafalski.
“When I came over, I was just trying to make the team,” Lidstrom said. “I figured I’d stay a few years and see what it’s like playing over here and then go back to Sweden. I never envisioned myself playing for 20 years and having the success that I’ve been part of.
Per the NHL’s media website, here’s Lidstrom’s Q and A with the media:
Question. Is it a bit surreal to win your seventh Norris trophy?
Nicklas Lidstrom: It is surreal, having reached seven Norris’ especially at this stage of my career, having played for 20 years and reached the age of 41. So I’m proud to still be able to play at this level and win another one.
Question. It’s supposed to be, as you say, the young man’s game. Did you go in thinking you would win this year?
Lidstrom: No, I thought both Chara and Weber had great seasons, I thought either one of them was going to win, so I think that’s why it’s more special to win one.
Question. Can you win one more?
Lidstrom: It gives me motivation to get ready for next season having won another Norris, winning it helps going through the off-season workouts when you have that in the bag.
Question. It was a tight race, the votes were close.
Lidstrom: I haven’t seen the votes, I don’t know.
Question. Very close.
Nicklas Lidstrom: Like I said, I thought both the other guys had a strong season. I thought it was going to be a close race. Felt like it could have been anyone’s trophy, really.
Question. How do you think you were able to rebound this season from the season you had before and what was the difference?
Lidstrom: I think my mind-set is of not being satisfied with the way I played two years ago.
I wanted to come out and have a stronger season and prove just to myself that I can still play at a high level and be one of the go-to guys on the team and be a guy that you rely on to play a lot of minutes and play against top lines.
That was my own goals, to play a lot better than I did the previous seasons.
Question. Does the Norris matter at all as far as judging your own season? I mean, if you’re a final list, if you win it, do you say, all right, I had a good season?
Lidstrom: I look at it as being more of a bonus, if you had a strong season hopefully you have a shot at being nominated so that’s the way I’m looking at it. I’m fortunate, if you have a strong season you have a chance at it and I felt like I played a lot better than I did the previous year.
Question. Do you have a place for it at home?
Lidstrom: I’ll make a place for it, I’ll find a place for it.
Per the Red Wings’ website, after dazzling on the red carpet with Little Sweden, a.k.a. his family…
Lidstrom was brief, polite, congratulating his fellow nominees, the Wings’ ownership, Ken Holland, coach Babcock and his teammates, and then he thanked his family, wrapping up a lovely vacation—a vacation which involved a trip to California to decide his future, a flight over the Grand Canyon and a few days in Las Vegas:
Here’s what Lidstrom said to NHL.com’s Shawn P. Roarke about winning the Norris…
“I was a little bit surprised,” Lidstrom told NHL.com. “I thought it was going to be a tight race. I thought both (Shea) Weber and (Zdeno) Chara had great seasons too. Coming here, I wasn’t sure at all that I was going to win it.
But Lidstrom did win it – even if it was by the closest of margins. Lidstrom’s 736 points were just nine better than Weber’s total, making this year’s race the tightest for first place since 1996, when Chicago’s Chris Chelios finished five points ahead of Boston’s Ray Bourque. Chara was just 48 points back, making this the tightest three-way race for the Norris Trophy since its introduction in 1954.
The first-place votes were even closer. Lidstrom received 35, Chara earned 33 and Weber had 32 Yet the slim margin did little to damper what the 41-year-old Lidstrom accomplished by winning the award. He joins the most legendary of the game’s defenseman—Hall of Famer Doug Harvey also has seven Norris Trophy awards and Bobby Orr is on top with eight.
“It is very humbling, especially reaching those two players that are up there in the tops of getting the Norris,” Lidstrom said. “I’m very honored and very proud to reach that level.”
Chara, the captain of the Cup-winning Bruins, believed in his heart that he had done enough to win the award for a second time, repeating the 2009 victory that had seen Lidstrom win in six of the previous seven seasons. Chara’s plus-33 rating led the League and matched his career high and he played almost two more minutes per game than Lidstrom. Yet even he couldn’t argue with the will of the voters.
“Obviously, he deserves it,” Chara said. “Nicky is such an icon – one of the greatest, if not the greatest, defenseman to play the game. There’s not many times I watch NHL games during the season, but when it is Detroit, I watch it just because of him. I look up to him so much, and he has done so much for the game. It’s just the way he acts and plays the game that makes you want to be like him. Obviously, my style of game is different, but (he’s) such an inspirational player.”
How much do Zdeno Chara and Nicklas Lidstrom respect each other? Via the AP, this much (and you can find more images of Lidstrom with the Norris Trophy here):
And this AP picture is, well, for the ladies:
Lidstrom spoke to the Wings’ media corps after the awards, noting the following to Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji...
Lidstrom also was relieved he wasn’t a butt of host Jay Mohr’s jokes to start the show.
“I’m very happy I wasn’t mentioned with the old-man jokes,” Lidstrom said.
Can I just admit that the NHL Awards show was the weirdest I’ve seen since I started watching it in 1992? Far East Movement, really? As the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau suggests, the venerable Ted Lindsay and Mad Men’s John Hamm were far better in the hosting and humor departments than Jay Mohr, and given his wit, I really wish that the league would pay Pavel Datsyuk, who didn’t attend the show (methinks that players can be informed as to whether they win awards if they wish to), to crack subtle one-liners instead.
Or maybe the Pawn Stars, because they and the Hanson Brothers were genuinely funny. If Chumlee mispronounced names, it would be expected.
Hell, Vezina Trophy winner and Flint native Tim Thomas has a better sense of humor…
Anyway…Here’s what Lidstrom had to say to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Lidstrom said from Las Vegas, site of the NHL Awards Show. Lidstrom is the oldest player to win the award (he was the previous oldest at age 38 three years ago). “It does feel great, I have a lot of pride to be able to play at this level and I’m very proud to win this award. But, no, it doesn’t get any easier.”
Lidstrom tied Montreal’s Doug Harvey with the seven Norris victories. The only defenseman who has won more is Bobby Orr with eight.
“An incredible feeling,” Lidstrom said of matching Harvey’s total. “It (tying Orr) won’t be a goal of mine and it’s not something I will dwell on when the season starts. I’ll just prepare for the season the way I normally do. I know how difficult it is now, as you get older, to get ready for the season.”
After the Wings’, and in Lidstrom’s mind his own subpar season in 2009-10, Lidstrom was determined to rebound this past season.
“I felt I could have played better and it was motivation,” Lidstrom said. “I just wanted to come back stronger. We were around that eighth and ninth spot (in ‘09-10) and I just felt I could have played better.”
Lidstrom had one of his best seasons, with 62 points (16 goals, 46 assists) while playing in all 82 games. That type of season gave Lidstrom incentive to return next season, his 20th, which he announced Monday he was doing.
“I’m excited,” Lidstrom said.
As a Lidstrom fan as much as anything else, I love the fact that Lidstrom readily admits that he takes pride in his work and is proud of his accomplishments. He’s not an egotistically-inclined man at all, but it takes supreme confidence to play as he does, and when he’s on the ice or talking about his game, you can tell that he knows that he’s one of the best defensemen to ever play the game, and that he’s driven to maintain that level of play.
Lidstrom does in fact have a sense of humor, too, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted after speaking to him about the Awards Show host’s…unique sense of humor (and as the Free Press notes, Lidstrom has been a finalist for the Norris eleven times):
Comedian Jay Mohr joked he wouldn’t mind being Lidstrom’s prison bunkmate immediately after Lidstrom received his seventh Norris on Wednesday at the NHL Awards Show at the Palms Casino Resort.
“I missed it because I was backstage,” Lidstrom said, laughing, “but someone told me about it. I was flattered, in a weird kind of way.”
The better distinction was taking home another Norris, at 41, no less. Lidstrom also was named a first-team All-Star for the 10th time. Lidstrom led one of the tightest Norris races in years, garnering 35 first-place votes and 736 voting points. Weber got 32 and 727, respectively, while Chara had 33 and 688. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association submitted ballots at the end of the regular season.
“I thought both the other guys had real strong seasons, so I thought it was going to be a close race,” Lidstrom said. “It felt like it could have been anyone’s trophy, really.”
Going forward, for Lidstrom, it’s all about grinding it out in preparing for next season as he heads home to Vasteras, Sweden…
“This gives me some motivation to get ready for next season, now, having won another Norris. It helps going through the off-season workouts when you have that in the bag.”
It’s not out of the question that Lidstrom could get an eighth Norris, because he’s a supremely gifted player. There’s also the matter of his Lady Byng bane, as he’s been the runner-up five times now. Asked about his bad luck with the Lady, Lidstrom ended with night with a little humor of his own, suggesting the only reason he was a finalist over Datsyuk—who won the Lady Byng in ‘07, ‘08 and ‘09—was because Datsyuk began this past season by fighting Anaheim’s Corey Perry. Datsyuk finished ninth in voting.
“Pavel taking that fighting major probably helped me get nominated,” Lidstrom said, smiling. “So maybe I should thank him that I was even one of the guys nominated. But I’m very happy to have won the Norris. That was my main focus coming here.”
But Lidstrom, who didn’t win the Mark Messier Leadership Award (which went to Zdeno Chara), either, did clam up when MLive’s Ansar Khan asked him about his future—as in continuing to play after the 2011-2012 season:
“I’m not going to think about that next year,” Lidstrom said in a phone interview from the awards. “If you have a solid season you have a chance, but it’s not my goal to win eight. I look at it as more of a bonus.”
Orr, whose career was cut short because of a series of knee injuries, won the last of his eight consecutive Norris Trophies in 1975 at age 27. Lidstrom, 41, was presented with his first Norris Trophy in 2001 at age 31. He already was the oldest player to have won the Norris (at age 38 in 2008). He previously won it in three consecutive seasons, on a pair of occasions (2000-01 to ’02-03 and 2005-06 to ’07-08).
“It never gets old,” Lidstrom said. “It’s something I’ll always appreciate. Winning the first one was special. Being the first European to win it was special. This one is special because of my age. Still being able to play at a high level at my age is something I take a lot of pride in. The game is faster, players seem to be younger and younger. That makes it harder.”
Lidstrom would, however, talk about his decision to continue playing for this upcoming season, as noted by the Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson:
He discarded the idea of retirement after getting back into his off-season workouts following the Wings’ loss in the second round of the playoffs. The somewhat surprising retirement of Wings defenceman Brian Rafalski led Wings general manager Ken Holland to put a little bit of pressure on Lidstrom to make up his mind about playing, since his future could affect the Wings’ plans for free agency July 1.
“Once I started talking with Kenny, everything went pretty quick and pretty smooth,” said Lidstrom. “I wanted to get over the loss in the playoffs and start working out and making sure I had the drive within me to go through the taxing offseason and go through all the hard work you have to go through to be ready for a long season. That’s when I had the feeling I wanted to play again.”
IIHF.com’s Andrew Podnieks led off his NHL Awards wrap-up with Lidstrom’s Norris win, and Lidstrom did speak to the Swedish press which attended the awards, of course.
Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom says that Lidstrom told him on Sunday that he hoped Datsyuk wasn’t angry at him for usurping the Red Wings’ usual Lady Byng Trophy finalist’s spot, and while he didn’t add too many comments to the mix in Swedish, he offered a few gems to Nordstrom...
So the question is whether this award carries more weight than any of his past Norris wins?
“Well, the first one I won was special because I was the first European player to win the Norris. This one is special in another way: now I’m one of the oldest players in the league, so I think this award is very special for that reason,” says Lidas.
How can you keep your place at the top when you’ve turned 41?
“I’ve adapted my game to the new style of hockey in the NHL. The game is faster now, and it took some time for me to change my game so that I could keep up with its pace. And my ice time’s been reduced by four to five minutes per game.”
And Bobby Orr has won 8 Norris Trophies?
“Yes, I know, but I’m not thinking about that right now. Now I’m going to go home to Sweden with my family for our summer holiday, and it will be nice to just relax for a while. Then I’ll begin to focus on my next season.”
Lidstrom spoke to Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman as well, pointing out that he shared the dais with a pair of Swedes in Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Daniel won the Ted Lindsay Trophy as the NHLPA-voted MVP:
He was selected for the NHL’s first All-Star Team—along with the Sedin brothers.
“That’s also a great honor, and it feels great to be able to share that with Daniel and Henrik. I voted for Daniel to win the Ted Lindsay Trophy, by the way, and I think he had a fantastic season.”
It wasn’t a huge celebration for Nicklas last night, although he found himself in Sin City.
“Well, I’ve got my family here, and we’ll fly back to Detroit on Thursday morning. Then we’ll go off to Sweden on Midsummer’s Eve [on June 25th]. So we’re content enough to have a quiet dinner together,” said the Norris Trophy king, smiling.
And here’s what Lidstrom said to Hockeysverige.se’s Uffe Bodin:
Ranking his various awards is difficult, but Nicklas Lidstrom has a few favorites, and 2011 is one of them.
“The first (in 2001) was obviously special because I was the first European to win the Norris Trophy. When we won the Stanley Cup in 2002, that was also a special year because I won both the Conn Smythe and Norris Trophies with the Cup. Those are the years that stand out the most, but this also means quite a bit because I’m older and and am now one of the oldest players in the league.”
Before this season, few people probably believed that Nicklas Lidstrom would even be nominated for the trophy which more or less belonged to him over the past decade. The 2009-2010 season was somewhat disappointing for the veteran defenseman, and it seemed as if even the “perfect human,” as he’s been called, was slowing down as a hockey player. But apparently he had another gear.
“It was about my approach. I wasn’t happy with how I played that year, and I decided to come out and have a stronger season; I wanted to prove to myself that I could still play at a high level, to be a player that my team could rely upon and play lots of minutes against opponents’ top lines,” he says.
That Nicklas Lidstrom has a chance to tie Bobby Orr as the best-ever defenseman in terms of Norris Trophies does give him extra motivation, at least in the long run.
“Right now, I’m not thinking about it. I’m focused on going home to Sweden, taking it easy [for a bit] and then getting started with my off-season training. Once August comes around, then you start thinking about the next season, and then I’ll focus upon it.”
On Wednesday night, Nicklas Lidstrom was also nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player, and the Mark Messier Leadership award, which goes to the league’s top leader. He had no problem with seeing Martin St. Louis win the first trophy, which didn’t come as a surprise.
“I thought that St. Louis would win the Lady Byng. He had an incredible season, finished second in the league in points, and only had five or six penalties,” said Lidas, who also praised Zdeno Chara, the winner of the Messier award. “He led Boston all the way [to the Stanley Cup Final] and managed to win it. It was very impressive.”
As is Lidstrom.
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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.