The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/31/12 at 10:03 AM ET
Updated with an interview with Kris Draper at 10:13 AM: From Adrain Dater’s conversation with Scotty Bowman about one Nicklas Lidstrom to news about the Toledo Walleye’s 2012-2013 schedule, newly-signed Red Wings prospect Calle Jarnkrok’s agent, Christian Sjogren, telling Expressen’s Peter Ohrling that his client will probably live at Henrik Zetterberg’s house when he finally joins the Wings two seasons form now—Update: Sjogren also told Arbertarbladet’s Magnus Hager Born that Jarnkrok’s contract is worth $900K at the NHL level and came with a $900K signing bonus—a rough translation of what Elizabeth Datsyuk said about her dad from Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov (edit/update: check out Dmitry Chesnokov’s translation thereof)...
To more, “Suter to Detroit will never happen!” talk from Nashville (I fully expect the Wings to acquire one or more top-pair defensemen via free agency and/or trades this summer) and even a mention from the Free Press’s Carlos Monarrez that Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Justin Abdelkader will be promoting the U.S. Senior Open this summer, there is Red Wings-related news that does not pertain to Nicklas Lidstrom this morning…
But the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson, who believes that Lidstrom was one of the three best defensemen in NHL history, offers a unique perspective on Lidstrom’s legacy from both Scotty Bowman and the teammate who skated alongside Lidstrom as he blossomed into a superstar in Paul Coffey, and Coffey’s take is intriguing given that he’s barely talked about his time with Detroit since his departure:
“Nicky didn’t do any one thing awesome, but he did everything great,” said Coffey. “Like shooting the puck. I used to say to Nicky, ‘How do you get the puck up so fast?’ All these guys block shots, but he didn’t care. He got the puck through. When he wanted to get it 100 miles an hour he could, but he was the exact opposite of what you learn. Usually, you want the puck in the sweet spot of your stick, but Nick would get it at the tip because the puck would go up quicker, and he never shot a flutterball.”
Coffey marvelled at how Lidstrom thought the game.
“I can’t speak for Nicky, but I knew he knew who he was playing against. He’d go against certain wingers and knew their tendencies. He was kind of like (Hall of Fame Russian centre Igor) Larionov, a student of the game. He was smart, that’s why he never got hit,” said Coffey. “The kids I coach now (midget in Toronto), I tell them to finish their check, but you don’t have to put guys through the boards. I’d tell them, ‘Look at Lidstrom. Never gets beat wide, guys think they’re around him, but they never are.’ Near the end, no matter the era, they don’t care how old you are and guys got him a few times. Maybe that wore him down, but he was an incredible player. You talk about Europeans this, Europeans that ... they can’t play in the big games. He put that all to rest.”
“In the old days, old days being 10 years ago, you could get away with stuff. The guys with their can-openers (stick between the legs) and the little hooks couldn’t. He had a good stick and he adapted,” said Coffey. “His consistency was the thing that made him who he was. There were never any 100 point seasons, but there were no crappy seasons. He was a coach’s dream. You knew what you were going to get every shift. Every game. He never got too excited. I can remember him laughing, but there weren’t too many highs and lows. He was a rare breed. I was about six feet, same with Chelly, same with Bourque, but Nick was a bigger guy who could play and move.”
Retirement comes to everybody, but Coffey didn’t think it would be now. Lidstrom still has game. He’s not hanging on. But Coffey, one of the greatest offensive blue-liners and a three-time Norris winner himself, knows what goes through the mind of the superstars.
“I knew (quitting) was coming, but unless you play, you have no idea of the demands, not just physically but mentally, because you are one shift away from getting seriously hurt,” he said.
What will Coffey remember most about Lidstrom?
“Talented, talented guy. And even at 22, when I first saw him, he had dignity and class,” said Coffey.
Update #2: If you find yourself in Gavle, Sweden on June 14th, Arbetarbladet’s Magnus Hager Born reports that Henrik Zetterberg will be taking part in a charity golf tournament there, along with a slate of NHL’ers and Swedish stars, to help Nicklas Backstrom’s charitable foundation…
And IIHF.com’s Andrew Podnieks posted a Lidstrom tribute as well.
Update #3: The Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo, via RWF, offers three reasons why he believes Lidstrom was the best Wing ever:
1. Like Howe, Lidstrom played on four Stanley Cup championship teams in Detroit. But Howe played on several Red Wings teams that didn’t even make the playoffs. The Red Wings made the playoffs all 20 seasons Lidstrom was on the team. Yzerman was on several Red Wings teams that didn’t do well early in his career.
2. Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman seven times (only Bobby Orr won it more) and was a first-team NHL All-Star 10 times and a second-team All-Star twice. He scored the gold medal-winning goal for Sweden in the 2006 Olympics.
3. Lidstrom was on all four of the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup-winning teams since 1997, and was the most effective defenseman of his generation against great forwards from Wayne Gretzky to Sidney Crosby.
Update #4: CBS Detroit’s Ryan Wooley posted a superb compilation of Lidstrom videos as well.
Update #5: Here’s Kris Draper speaking to The Fan 590’s Joey Vendetta:
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