The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/04/11 at 05:24 PM ET
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom has delivered nothing less than a sterling performance over the course of the regular season, registering 16 goals, 46 assists and 62 points while remaining the Wings’ biggest stabilizing force, both on and off the ice, as the Wings endured yet another injury-plagued season, and his accomplishments are no less surprising given that Lidstrom will turn 41 on April 28th.
As the NHL’s writers (the Rangers’ Professional Hockey Writers’ Association members excluded) submit their awards ballots this week, however, I’m starting to get a little worried about whether Lidstrom will win his seventh Norris Trophy. A slate of NHL execs who spoke to the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby picked Zdeno Chara over Lidstrom as their Norris pick, Fox Sports’ Lyle “Spector” Richardson’s picked Kris Letang as his Norris winner, and the Globe and Mail’s Roy MacGregor, Matthew Sekeres, Eric Duhatschek and David Shoalts all feel that Lidstrom should not win the Norris, with Sekeres suggesting that Lidstrom’s -1 might be a deal-breaker...
After six wins in the last decade, the Norris has indeed become the Nik Lidstrom Trophy. He may merit consideration again this season, but how does one explain Lidstrom being minus-1 on a good team? It’s an imperfect stat, but if teammate Brian Rafalski can be plus-10, what does that say about Lidstrom’s even-strength play this season? Last year’s winner, Chicago’s Duncan Keith, also has warts. He leads the NHL in ice-time (26:56 per game), but is 25 points off last year’s pace and is also a minus player (-2).
And Duhatschek (and Shoalts) suggesting that Shea Weber should win the award:
On the grounds that the Norris Trophy - as worded - goes to the defenceman “who demonstrates throughout the season, the greatest all-around ability in the position,” the 2011 winner should go the Nashville Predators’ Shea Weber, in a close vote over six-time champ Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings.
What Lidstrom has done at the age of 40 - he’ll turn 41 later this month - is phenomenal. He is the model for the positionally sound, post-lockout defender. He plays with what coaches like to call a “good stick” in almost every situation; he is rattling off the points (60 in 76 games); and is the leader of a team that has made the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons, a significant achievement. Coach Mike Babcock has gradually reduced Lidstrom’s minutes over the years, as a nod to his advancing years. Coming out of the lockout, he was playing 28 per night. It’s dropped by about a minute per game per year, to the point that he’s in the mid-23s this year, the lowest since the NHL started tracking the stat in 1998-99.
It’s a prudent measure and doesn’t take away from what he’s accomplished. Weber has done a lot of the same things in Nashville - he’s scoring goals, picking up points, defending well. The only thing that he adds is a physical component that Lidstrom lacks. On a Nashville team that may not boast a single player with 50 or more points, the Preds rely on Pekka Rinne’s goaltending and the defensive work of the No. 1 pair - Weber and Ryan Suter - to stay competitive with far more talented teams. Nashville rarely registers a blip on the national hockey conscience and apart from Weber’s turn in the spotlight during last year’s Olympics, he generally stays far out of the limelight. But this has been a coming out year for the 25-year-old, in the same way that Duncan Keith emerged from the shadows for Chicago last year.
I’m biased, so I still don’t understand the concept that Lidstrom’s uber-steady performance as the captain of a remarkably steady team somehow detracts from his Norris-worthiness, but between the “Lidstrom is boring” factor, the writers’ tendencies to gush about Zdeno Chara, Weber and Keith Yandle, and the fact that Dustin Byfuglien might enter the competition as a spoiler….
I get the feeling that Nick won’t end up going home from Las Vegas with a Norris Trophy this year, and that’s a shame, because he’s earned it not based upon his reputation or past accomplishments, but for an absolutely fantastic season as the Red Wings’ most consistent performer, point producer and leader this season.
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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.