The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/31/12 at 11:12 PM ET
Updated w/ Lidstrom’s pal/coach talking to Aftonbladet at 11:35 PM: As I look at the first couple of sites in my bookmarks and their level of Nicklas Lidstrom retirement coverage…All I can say is this: the local angle was hard enough to cover, and Lidstrom’s statement was much harder to read than the Chairman’s...
But by Nicklas Lidstrom’s slap shot, there is no way in hell that any one—or three—people could both cover and summarize all the tributes that are pouring in regarding the Red Wings’ captain. It’d take until Saturday (and no, I have no idea what I’m gonna do about the Swedish stuff…Please let me know what you need coverage-wise as it’s going to be equally “silly”).
So it is with great regret and apologies to all the fantastic authors who’ve paid tribute to Lidstrom in elegant, and from a Wings fan’s perspective, sometimes heartbreaking form, because this one-man band is going to truncate your work and go site-by-site based not on the ranking of your wonderful work, but instead, by a random ordering of bookmarks some random Nicklas Lidstrom fan’s been cobbling together since there were only 10 or 15 hockey sites, not hundreds.
Many of these links also come with the help of RedWingsFeed, whose operators, Mike Serven and “Lola by the Bay,” I can’t thank enough for being TMR’s right-hand pals.
ESPN (still my homepage since 1995): ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun describes Lidstrom as the “class of his generation,” speaking to Rob Blake, Scott Niedermayer, Brendan Shanahan and Chrs Chelios, among others, about Lidstrom;
• I knew it was bad when Lidstrom showed up at the Joe last Tuesday, as the Red Wings captured on Twitter. Per ESPN’s Craig Custance:
The first text came on Tuesday last week. Red Wings GM Ken Holland received word from his captain, Nicklas Lidstrom, that he wanted to sit down face-to-face Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET.
That’s when the initial pang of concern hit Holland. It was too early in the offseason for a meeting that would contain any good news about Lidstrom staying. Two days later, they met.
“We visited for a few minutes, and he told me he made a decision to retire,” Holland said Thursday.
• In his Insider blog, Custance believes that the Wings will definitely go after Suter, and I would argue that they’re going to go after more than just Suter at this point.
• And ESPN’s Rumor Central’s Chris Sprow weighs in as well;
TSN: TSN posted the AP’s Larry Lage’s must-read article about Lidstrom’s retirement, offering reaction from around the league to Lidstrom’s retirement, and this:
As he said goodbye, Lidstrom thanked the owners, front office staff, coaches and teammates—as all retiring players do—and then added his own touch by praising behind-the-scenes contributors such as Leslie Baker, who serves meals to players and their families.
“It’s one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history with Nick retiring and all you people showing your respect for such a high-quality individual,” Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said at the packed news conference that included team employees wearing Lidstrom’s No. 5 red jersey with a winged wheel.
When Ilitch’s wife, Marian, spoke about Lidstrom after the news conference, tears rolled down both of her cheeks.
“I’m happy for him and his family—as sad as I am to lose him,” she said. “It’s a bittersweet day.”
Steve Yzerman’s No. 19 jersey became the sixth retired by the storied franchise and was hoisted to the rafters in 2007 alongside Gordie Howe’s No. 9, Ted Lindsay’s No. 7, Terry Sawchuck’s No. 1, Alex Delvecchio’s No. 10 and Sid Abel’s No. 12. Lidstrom’s No. 5 will likely be next.
“I think he’s been the most valuable player of his era and will go down as one of the greatest Red Wings of all time,” Holland said.
TSN is also asking fans to weigh in as to where Lidstrom ranks in the pantheon of legends, and you must read TSN’s Scott Cullen’s off-season game plan for the Wings, which I am going to refer to again and again over the next couple of weeks:
Without Lidstrom, there will be a massive hole to fill on the blueline, but the Red Wings have more than $20-million in cap space, so they are expected to be active in the free agent market as they pursue top-end talent to help offset the loss of one of the greatest defencemen the game has ever seen.
Whether that means signing Nashville’s Ryan Suter or University of Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz—both of whom are expected to reach unrestricted free agency—there is a need for the Red Wings to invest in the long-term future on the blueline because they’ve been spoiled by having Lidstrom as their no-maintenance All-Star year-in and year-out.
In the larger picture, the Red Wings still have a veteran core—Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall—that will lead the next generation and, to their credit, the Red Wings have a promising group of prospects on the way. They are exceedingly patient in their development of those prospects, but that’s been the tried-and-true method for some time now.
Until the young players rise up and prove that they can handle prominent roles, however, the Wings are somewhat a team stuck in between: still good enough to make the playoffs and compete, but maybe not ready to challenge the league’s best. We’ll see who they can add before that’s ultimately determined.
With a couple of marquee additions this summer and perhaps a few prospects making the jump to full-time roles, the Red Wings won’t fall off dramatically and it’s a testament to the franchise that they even have a chance to keep pushing forward despite the retirement of one of their all-time greats.
Wings GM Ken Holland also spoke to TSN Radio, and you can listen to the interview here:
Sportsnet: Sportsnet took note of the remarkable number of Twitter comments made about Lidstrom;
• Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt believes that Lidstrom was the best “decision-maker” since perhaps Wayne Gretzky, and he’s right;
• Mark Spector argues that the Wings have lost a once-in-a-generation player, and Ken Holland knows it:
“For me it’s about class,” Holland continued. “Everything that he did was first class. He treated the game with respect, his teammates with respect… He was the best player in practice. Nick is no maintenance. The only time he was in the coach’s or manager’s office was when we called him in.”
If you don’t get behind Nick Lidstrom, or above, you’ll never see the thinning crown that belies the fact he is a 20-year veteran, with 1,827 regular season and playoff games - and four Stanley Cups - under his Hall of Fame belt.
Watching him play the game, effortlessly quarterbacking the best team of our generation to the playoffs every single season for two decades, it seems insane that Lidstrom would walk away now. But that is what sets him apart from those players who, as their careers twilight, wind their way through a series of teams until one day there are no more teams willing to take them on.
“Some people feel my skills have only diminished some, and that I can still help the Wings win games,” Lidstrom said. “It’s not that the tank is completely empty. It just doesn’t have enough to carry me through every day at the level I want. Retiring today lets me walk away from the game with pride, rather than having the game walk away from me.”
• Sportsnet also posted a photo gallery recalling what the league was like when Lidstrom broke in during the 1991-92 season.
• And The Fan 590 posted audio clips of Lidstrom’s press conference…
Kris Draper speaking to The Fan prior to Lidstrom’s presser…
And Ken Holland speaking to Jeff Blair and John Shannon:
NHL.com: It’s painful to short-shrift Brian Hedger’s coverage this way.
• Igor Larionov told NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale this about Lidstrom, while attending the NHL’s draft combine:
“He set the example for the young guys and everyone in the League on how to behave on and off the ice and how to play the game,” Larionov told NHL.com. “It’s not just muscle and toughness, but smarts, and that’s what he brought each and every night.”
Larionov was in town for the NHL Scouting Combine as the player agent for two of the top draft-eligible prospects this year in Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk. He understands what Lidstrom might be going through and what the future undoubtedly has in store—Larionov announced his retirement in 2004 at the age of 42.
Lidstrom turned 42 on April 28.
“You play the game for so long,” Larionov said. “In the next year or two, he’ll begin to feel it. His body and mind are used to going to work in September, and then all of sudden, after 20 years, camp starts and you’re sitting home, taking kids to school. It’s strange because training camp opens and exhibition games are taking place and you’re not there or a part of it. That will be an interesting transition for him, but at the same time, he’ll look back and see how much fun, success, experience and knowledge about the game he gained from so many coaches and a few generations’ worth of players. I think it’s remarkable.”
• New Jersey Devils defenseman Adam Larsson told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen that he was stunned to hear Lidstrom was retiring;
• Dear Gordie Howe, Twitter loves Lidstrom, and so do Lidstrom’s peers;
• NHL.com’s John Kreiser’s Lidstrom “numbers” are staggering:
53—Pick used by the Red Wings to select Lidstrom in the 1989 NHL Draft. The Wings took center Mike Sillinger in the first round and defenseman Bob Boughner in the second before tabbing Lidstrom with their third-round choice. He became one of six Wings taken that year to play more than 400 NHL games, and one of four to reach 1,000.
80—Points by Lidstrom in 2005-06, the most productive offensive season of his career. It’s also the most points by any defensemen in a single season in the 21st century. He had three other seasons of 70 or more points.
263—Playoff games in which Lidstrom took part, second on the all-time list behind Chris Chelios, a one-time teammate of Lidstrom in Detroit, with 266.
1,142—Lidstrom’s final regular-season points total, fourth on the Red Wings’ all-time list behind Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and Alex Delvecchio. He’s sixth all-time in points among defensemen in NHL history and is 50th on the all-time scoring list.
• And NHL.com’s Brian Hedger covered the presser...
“[I’m] going to leave that up to other people to decide,” he said of the legacy he leaves behind. “I didn’t set out to play 20 years, first of all. I had no other ambitions about how long I was going to be doing this, but once you experience this you want more. Once you reach that goal, you want to get back there again. That’s been one of the things that’s been driving me all these years. I never set goals of winning the Norris Trophy. The goal has been to play my best, but to win at the end and hoist that Cup one more time.”
• The incredibly high likelihood that Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall or Pavel Datsyuk will succeed Lidstrom;
• And yes, Ken Holland will be incredibly aggressive going forward:
“You look around the National Hockey League and there’s different ways to win,” Holland said. “Obviously, we’re not going to have that star power on the back end with Nick walking away, but we’ve got some cap space and I feel real comfortable with our scouts, pro and amateur—and our coaching staff. And we’ll find a way to make some moves here over the next four, five or six weeks to put together a team that we think can be competitive.”
Holland could have upwards of $20 million in salary-cap space freed up with the departure of Lidstrom and the likely departures of Tomas Holmstrom, Brad Stuart and possibly Jiri Hudler. That could allow him to go after the two biggest names that could become unrestricted free agents on July 1—Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter and New Jersey forward Zach Parise. Holland said the Wings will definitely be players in free agency again—just as they were last season, when signing Ian White and Mike Commodore helped to offset the loss of defenseman Brian Rafalski, who retired unexpectedly. Holland said he sees free agency as one piece to the “staying competitive” puzzle instead of the entire puzzle by itself.
“We’re going to get somebody,” Holland said. “I mean, we’re going to sign somebody. Everybody always looks on July 1 and they think about the big name, but a lot of times it’s not the big, sexy name. It’s the right pieces. It’s a team sport. It’s about a team. We have lots of pieces in place. In my opinion, we’ve got a goalie in his prime. We’ve got a lot of defensemen in their 20s.”
“We’ve built our team a certain way for a long time, and we’ve had a lot of success with it,” Holland said. “What’s the certain way? It’s been skill. The skill has been Nick Lidstrom and Zetterberg and Datsyuk and [Steve Yzerman] and you think back to the 2002 team. We don’t pick in the top five. We’re hoping we’re going to get lucky with one of these kids on our board, but to think you’re going to churn out those types [every year]. In a cap world it’s got to be about a plan.”
“You have to embrace change, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Babcock said. “It’s important to embrace change—[but] we have to add more to the room. There’s no question about that.”
The faces may change, Holland said, but the organization’s goals won’t.
“I’ve been here long enough to understand the passion of a whole lot of people,” Holland said. “The passion of our ownership, the passion of our fan base, the passion of the people in this organization, the passion of the players—we all want the same thing. We all want to be a Cup-contending team. Beyond that, there are no guarantees.”
• You can also read/watch what Lidstrom had to say on the NHL Hour with Gary Bettman;
NHLPA: The NHLPA’s posted a placeholder to an inevitable tribute to Lidstrom.
USA Today: As USA Today’s Mike Brehm notes, the level of respect Lidstrom’s peers have for him is…Incredibly high;
• As far as Kevin Allen is concerned, in a wonderful column, Lidstrom’s only fault, aside from criminally never having won the Lady Byng Trophy, is that he had to retire;
His NHL career really started to take off, as it turns out, following the career-ending injury that teammate Vladimir Konstantinov suffered in a limo accident shortly after winning the 1997 Stanley Cup. Lidstrom knew he had to raise his game to an even higher level to become the heart and soul of the Wings’ defense. Eventually, he became the face of the franchise, too.
Forty-one days ago, Lidstrom played what turned out to be his final game in a 2-1 loss at Nashville as the Red Wings were eliminated in five games in the opening round of the playoffs. It was the end of a career that should be remembered and appreciated for decades to come. Nobody did it with more class and professionalism than Nicklas Lidstrom.
“My family and I are completely comfortable with this decision,” he said. “Retiring today allows me to walk away from the game with pride, rather than having the game walk away from me. Thank you very much.”
Thank you, Nick.
Sports Illustrated: SI posted a shorter version of Larry Lage’s story;
• Michael Rosenberg weighted in prior to Lidstrom’s presser;
• And Stu Hackel spoke to none other than Scotty Bowman about Lidstrom:
“You know he played with different partners over the years,” Bowman continued. ”And, just like whoever played with Harvey, whoever Lidstrom’s partner was got a lot better. I put him with Konstantinov, then we made the deal at the deadline for Larry Murphy, because Toronto didn’t want him anymore. And after that it was Brian Ralfaski. They were all good players, but they looked really good with Lidstrom. Now Ian White last year, the leading plus-minus in the league. It’s everybody who plays with him. One year — and we only had him for one year (in 2001-02) and we won the Cup — it was Freddie Olausson. And he went to Anaheim the next year and really couldn’t play at the NHL level any more.”
Bowman marvels at Listrom’s ability to read the play at the point. “That was also outstanding. The guys I remember like that were Ray Bourque, who was tremendous for knowing when to keep the puck in, Denis Potvin – these guys, they have a special sense of how to do it. I think that’s one of the hardest things for young defensemen to master, to be able to handle the puck at the point. Drew Doughty is getting pretty good at it, the guy in Ottawa, Karlsson is really good at the offensive point. They make very few mistakes – and they make good plays, they’re not just robots.
“The other thing about him that you always notice was, when he got the puck, usually the next play, Detroit still had it. That’s the way Doug Harvey was. I know it’s a different era. They were similar players in that way. Harvey was much more physical, but they would both go when they had to go, and their passing was always on target.”
Lidstrom’s defensive positioning has always drawn some of the biggest raves of all. “He was smart,” Scotty said. “He could stretch his stick out. He was tall – Mario Lemieux did the same thing – you can’t get close to him because he could get his stick way out. What he used to do before they changed the rules, the trick he did the best, was when he was backing up and the guy would come down on him, and the guy would put the puck by the boards, Nick would put his stick out, and it was long. He’d just slow you up a little bit and his partner would come over and the play would die. And everyone said, ‘Wait until they get the new rules, he’s not going to be able to do that.’ Well, he adapted. He never got penalties for interference.”
• And Jesse Spector believes that Los Angeles Kings defenseman drew Doughty, who he’s covering as Spector is at the Stanley Cup Finals, may be the next Lidstrom.
The Hockey News: Adam Proteau calls Lidstrom the second-best defenseman ever, but does say this:
We won’t have Lidstrom to not worry about anymore – and the hockey world is far poorer for it. He is a first-ballot, no-brainer lock for the Hall of Fame, the best European player who ever set foot in the NHL and a living billboard for the greatness that Sweden and Swedish hockey has added to the sport.
Lidstrom was a legend before he retired. Now, it’s up to the rest of us to accurately grow that legend and ensure future generations understand just how astonishing he was in the craft he chose.
There is no such thing as a perfect hockey player. But nobody ever came closer to being one than Nicklas Lidstrom. We’ll miss him terribly, but the game will miss him most of all.
IIHF: Why yes, the IIHFdid praise Lidstrom, in an article by Andrew Podnieks.
And James O’Brien took note of Gary Bettman’s presser about Nick.
National Post/Postmedia News: The National Post’s Cam Cole wrote an elegant article walked out on his own terms;
• Somewhat predictably, Michael Traikos believes that Ryan Suter and nothing less will be required to keep the Wings in contending status.
• If you missed it, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal spoke to Paul Coffey about Lidstrom;
Globe and Mail: The Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts attended the presser, and noted the following from one Mike Ilitch:
“Nick’s been a Rock of Gibraltar,” Ilitch said. “The word perfect came up and I said, ‘Hey, let’s not get carried away. Nobody is perfect.’
“But the more time you spend with him and with the team as a group, you see how things go and witness his leadership. He’s always right there, no variations, get out there, get the job done and be a professional, be a human being, be a good citizen and don’t do anything that will hurt your team.”
• Shoalts also spoke to Scotty Bowman prior to Lidstrom’s presser;
• And James Mirtle noted that Lidstrom didn’t deviate from his plan to go home to Sweden.
CBC: The CBC did something remarkable in listing each and every one of Nicklas Lidstrom’s defensive partners;
• And Tim Wharnsby spoke to Johan Hedberg, Adam Larsson and Henrik Tallinder about Lidstrom;
New York Times: The New York Times’ Lynn Zinser penned a Lidstrom tribute, and it’s heavy on Devils quotes.
Yahoo Sports: Harrison Mooney covered the presser...
• As did Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski, who very kindly quoted me in his “Puck Headlines,” and he referenced a lovely statistical analysis of Lidstrom’s effect upon the Wings from the Edmonton Journal’s Bruce McMurdy;
• And Nicholas J. Cotsonika earns co-MVP awards with Custance, Allen and Hedger as honorary Wings correspondents, with perhaps the most elegant take on Lidstrom’s legacy:
His positioning was impeccable. “I don’t think there’s anybody that’s ever been as technically strong as him – and that includes everybody,” said San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson, a Norris winner himself. “He’s brilliant in his simplicity. Brilliant.”
Though Lidstrom never crushed anyone into the boards, he didn’t need to. He diffused plays before they started. He rarely took penalties, and he didn’t take them for violent acts like slashing or cross-checking, let alone roughing or fighting. It’s a crime that he never won the Lady Byng Trophy, which is supposed to go to the player who has “exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” For the last time: It should be renamed for him.
“If you watched him play, he had a knack of extending his arms,” Bowman said. “I don’t know if it’s the way he held his stick different than other guys. He could always stretch his arms out. It looked like he had arms that were six feet long. He could take the puck on his stick and push it way ahead of him, and people couldn’t get near it. You couldn’t go check him in close, because he didn’t have it in close. I think that’s how he avoided getting hit a lot.”
Lidstrom played with a wide range of partners – from Larry Murphy to Fredrik Olausson, from Andreas Lilja to Brian Rafalski, among others – and made all of them better. Ian White bounced from Calgary to Carolina to San Jose to Detroit in a matter of months. He paired with Lidstrom. He was plus-23 this season, by far the best of his career.
Day to day, year to year, decade to decade, Lidstrom never changed. Not in games. Not even in practices. “He practiced the same way he played,” said NHL executive Brendan Shanahan, a former teammate. “He didn’t make mistakes. We used to howl and cheer and bang our sticks on the ice if someone beat him in practice.”
He amazed his teammates most of all, even though they saw what he could do every day – make that because they saw what he could do every day. “We said it all along,” said Yzerman, now GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. “You have to watch him closely to appreciate how good he is, what a great athlete he is, because he makes the position look so easy.”
In the 2000 All-Star Game in Toronto, Shanahan and Yzerman skated for North America, Lidstrom for the World. There was an all-Detroit 2-on-1. Yzerman tried to saucer a pass across for Shanahan. Lidstrom knocked the puck out of the air.
“And he smirked at us on the ice, like, ‘That was stupid,’ like, ‘Do you guys not know me?’ ” Shanahan said. “I remember both of us going back to the bench and saying, ‘We’re really going to hear it from all our teammates when we go back home, like, “What were you thinking?” ’ “
And in the “stuff that popped up while I was compiling this” category...
• Hockey’s Future’s Ian Altenbaugh named the Wings the tenth-best developmental model in the NHL:
10. Detroit Red Wings
Strengths: Forwards Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Joakim Andersson, as well as defenseman Brendan Smith are the latest in a long line of Wings prospects who paid their dues at the minor-league level and are now ready to take a regular shift in the NHL. The Wings also have many extremely promising long-term projects in Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, Calle Jarnkrok, and Riley Sheahan.
Weaknesses: Many of the Wings top prospects such as Jarnkrok or Pulkkinen are long-term projects. Prospects such as Andrej Nestrasil, Landon Ferraro, and William Coetzee have developed much slower than expected and will likely never reach their potential. The Wings lack goaltending depth, a problem that was exposed this season when starter Jimmy Howard went down with injury and the team struggled to find an adequate replacement.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Brendan Smith, D, 2. Gustav Nyquist, LW, 3. Tomas Tatar, LW, 4. Tomas Jurco, RW, 5. Calle Jarnkrok, C.
Lost to Graduation: Cory Emmerton.
• WBBL’s Huge Show hosted both Ken Kal…
And Red Wings GM Ken Holland:
• It’s not embeddable, but Lidstrom gave a fantastic interview to WDIV’s Bernie Smilovitz;
• The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell offered his take on the presser:
“I’ve always dreaded this day coming since I became GM in 1997,” Holland said. “He’s been the MVP of his era, one of the great Red Wings of all time and one of the best defenceman to ever play the game. The game is losing a great ambassador today.”
Only once was there a quiver in his voice during his announcement, and it came when he spoke of his family’s sacrifices during his career. After quickly glancing at his wife Annika and three of his four sons in attendance, the stoic Swede returned.
“It’s been a great ride for me,” Lidstrom said. “I never envisioned playing 20 years in Detroit. I thought I’d just come over and play in the NHL for a few years and see what happened. But once you taste success, you want to do it again. That’s been the thing that has driven me.”
Lidstrom singled out the Wings’ 1997 Stanley Cup championship, the first in 42 years, his 2006 Olympic gold medal for Sweden and his first Norris Trophy as among his fondest memories. He’s also quietly proud of blazing a trail for Europeans in being the first to win the Conn Smythe Trophy (2002) and the first non-North American captain of a Stanley Cup champion. As for his legacy and place in the game, Lidstrom passed on that question as smoothly as he moved the puck. Former Wings coach Dave Lewis was happy to step up and offer his perspective.
“Who’s better? That’s my question,” said Lewis. “I guess somebody smarter than me can answer that question, but what I saw for all those years, he’s my best. If I had to guess, and I played against Bobby Orr, the two of them would be side by side. They would be on the same blue line together and good luck to whoever’s attacking.”
Lidstrom said he’ll move his family back to Sweden this summer, but plans to be a frequent visitor to Detroit.
“I told Ken I’d love to stay in the organization,” Lidstrom said. “I don’t know what job they might have for me, but Kenny said we’ll talk in a few weeks. I’ll be coming back and watching some games. I want to watch the guys play. I think I’ll miss the camaraderie of being with the team the most. We’re a very tight team. When you think about it, we probably spend more time with each other during the season than our wives.”
Holland will also miss Lidstrom’s counsel during the season. The Wings’ GM would periodically have one of his ‘fireside chats’ with Lidstrom to get the temperature of the team or bounce ideas off him.
“Nick was so low maintenance, that if I didn’t ask him to come to my office for a chat, we’d never talk,” Holland said. “I’m thrilled for Nick, but this day is a real downer for me. To me, Nick has always been about class.”
• The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness offered more from Holland and Wings coach Mike Babcock:
“I was a little concerned the decision was a lot quicker than it was last year which set off some alarms for me,” Holland said. “We visited for a few minutes and then he told me he had made a decision to retire. I talked to him about the timing of a press conference, but I told him to take the weekend and get back with me on Tuesday because I told him I was hoping he would change his mind. I texted him Tuesday morning, telling him he was on my mind all weekend and I thought he had one more really good year left in him and we had a lot of pieces in place with him in the lineup and with some moves we could continue to be a contender. About an hour later he texted back and said he was very comfortable in his decision.”
Then he enlisted the help of Chris Chelios, who went paddle boarding with Lidstrom on Tuesday.
“He called me at the GM meetings and told me that the paddle boarding didn’t change his mind either,” Holland said. “For me I just wanted to make sure when Nick was on the podium he was comfortable with his decision. He’s very comfortable in his decision. He gave us 20 incredible years and you have to feel good for Nick that he gets to walk away from the game on his own terms,” Holland added.
“Seven Norris Trophies, that’s not by accident, he’s just that good,” Babcock said. “We’re going miss having him. He’s been so good and that’s how he wanted to play. It was very fitting he said, ‘I didn’t want to cheat myself. I wasn’t motivated enough to do the work.’ What a message to every athlete.
“For Nick it was always about the team,” Babcock added. “You never had any trouble with Nick as the coach because he was always prepared and motivated. Nick brings it every single day, sets an example for all of us in professionalism and perfection and work ethic and being a good human being and doing it without ego.”
• MLive’s Ansar Khan took note of Chelios’s attempts to keep Lidstrom going…
“He talked about the grind of training, preparation,” Chelios said. “I told him, ‘Don’t lift weights, go mountain biking, go paddleboarding, spend all the time with your kids and then see.’ But his mind was made up, there was no changing that. I don’t doubt that Nick is mentally and physically drained right now.”
“We talked about what (Chelios) went through when he decided (to retire) and where I’m at,” Lidstrom said. “He felt he was done, he was more of a role player at the end. He felt (I’m) one of the top defensemen in the league, can still play. He wanted to get a feeling if I was 100 percent committed to (retiring).”
What better place to find out than on a relaxing day on the water? The pair often go paddleboarding, whether it’s in metro Detroit or near Chelios’ summer home in Malibu, Calif.
“Even paddle-boarding on the ocean the first time (seven years ago), I wanted to see him fall out of control, but even when he fell, it was in total control,” Chelios said. “Other guys were throwing their paddle, Nick put his down nice and slow and started all over again. I wanted to see Nick fail at something, and he still wouldn’t.”
Chelios called him “Cool Hand Luke.”
“If there’s any such thing as a perfect person, Nick was perfect, he was a rock, you couldn’t rattle him,” Chelios said.
When they returned to shore, someone had stolen Chelios’ flip-flops, while Lidstrom’s were untouched. Chelios believes it’s further proof of the respect Lidstrom commands.
“And his were way better than mine,” Chelios said. “That just shows you the difference between me and Nick.”
So does this quote from Lidstrom: “We went out to lunch afterward and he didn’t have any shoes on.”
• Tomas Holmstrom told Brendan Savage that he knows he may be next:
“It’s probably coming soon,” Holmstrom said Thursday after Lidstrom announced his retirement. “I have to figure it out and I really don’t know right now. I go back and forth and try to figure out my body.”
Even if Holmstrom decides he wants to return, the Red Wings have to want him back since his contract expired and he’s an unrestricted free agent. The Red Wings haven’t said whether Holmstrom is in their plans but they might decide he’s expendable based on his production last season. Holmstrom’s 11 goals were the fewest he’s scored since bagging eight in 2001-02. By the end of the season, he was relegated to playing on the fourth forward line and the power-play unit. He saw an average of slightly less than 12 minute of ice time a game, his lowest total in 10 seasons. He also went 28 games – more than two months – without scoring a goal in the second half of the season and had one goal in five playoff games.
“I have to address his situation in the next 2-3 weeks,” Holland said.
There was speculation that if Lidstrom returned Holmstrom would also be brought back given their close relationship. Both are from Sweden, Lidstrom regularly needled Holmstrom in the dressing room according to teammates and they frequently shared a ride to practice. But now that Lidstrom is gone, Holmstrom is on his own. Will Lidstrom’s decision to retire have any bearing on what Holmstrom does?
“Sure I’m going to miss him,” Holmstrom said, “but it’s going to come down to if I really want to play and if I’ve still got it. Those are the main issues.”
One thing is certain: If the Red Wings don’t want to bring him back, Holmstrom’s career will be over.
“I’ll never go anywhere else,” he said. “I’d rather retire before that.”
• Khan canvassed several Wings about Lidstrom’s departure...
“It’s a sad day, but he’s had a great career,” Tomas Holmstrom, Lidstrom’s best friend for many years, said. “Detroit has been fortunate to have him here, and everyone is fortunate that he put on the Red Wings jersey for 20 years.”
Niklas Kronwall, one of many Red Wings who refer to Lidstrom as “The Perfect Human,” said the team has been spoiled to have him around on a daily basis.
“I don’t think you can put into words how much he means to this team, not only as a leader but as a person, just what he brings to the table on and off the ice,” Kronwall said.
Todd Bertuzzi lauded Lidstrom’s passion for the game, his professionalism and how he carried himself, calling him a larger than life figure.
“I think that’s why everybody looks up to him,” Bertuzzi said. “I think everyone in that room is a little sad today knowing that his stall isn’t going to be occupied.”
Former Red Wing Chris Chelios said Lidstrom is the best defenseman to ever play the game.
“I played with Larry Robinson. I played against (Raymond) Bourque. You go even further with Doug Harvey,” Chelios said. “But in my opinion there couldn’t have been anyone better than Nicklas Lidstrom.”
“The word (Bowman) used was ‘perfect,’ that’s how I feel about him, too,” Babcock said. “What he meant to the organization, just the way he spoke today, he just does things right. He’s been a great great player, an even better person. Scotty told me this morning the two guys he coached that affected the game the most were Nick Lidstrom and Doug Harvey; they always made the right decision and made no mistakes.”
And the Detroit Free Press? Friday’s editorial is all about the example Lidstrom has set for everyone in our community. That says it all.
Update: Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski posted a fantatsic slate of Lidstrom “numbers”...
And I found a few videos online:
The Windsor Star posted two videos of Lidstrom talking about why he chose to retire…
And Tomas Holmstrom spoke to Dave Waddell for five minutes:
• Expressen posted an exclusive photo gallery from the presser, and Axel Pileby and Adam Eriksson report that Peter Forsberg called Lidstrom the best defenseman ever, or at least one of them, and Forsberg was somewhat stunned when Aftonbladet’s Kristoffer Bergstrom informed him that Lidstrom retired;
• Aftonbladet embedded a 22-image gallery in their articles…
• Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman received similar comments from Adam Larsson to those he gave to the English-speaking media;
“There will be a certain emptiness in the autumn. My body and mind are used to flying over and preparing for a new season. I think there will be a changeover. Moving back to Sweden will be an adjustment when you’ve lived in the U.S. for 21 years,” says Lidstrom to SVT Sport.
Lidas put an end to speculation that he could jump into the next season if the team would have him.
“You can’t fool yourself. I have no motivation anymore, that’s plain,” said Lidstrom, who’s arrived at his 20-year NHL journey’s end. “I couldn’t believe that it would be this way, and that I could win so much. But once you’ve tasted success your hunger grows. It’s determination that’s driven me. It’s not completely empty, but now I can quit with dignity.”
• And perhaps finally for the evening, the most interesting story I found came from Aftonbladet’s Jonathan Ekeliw, who noted that Lidstrom thanked 49 people, including Sweden’s coach of the 1994 Lillehammer team:
All 49—as “Lidas” thanks in his farewell speech
“Curre” Lundmark: Nicklas was not quite sure when I talked to him the day before yesterday.
Nicklas Lidstrom put his skates on the shelf. In his farewell speech, he thanked 49 people—including “Curre” Lundmark.
“I talked to Nicklas the day before yesterday, and he still wasn’t quite sure,” he says.
A large press contingent on Thursday received Nicklas Lidstrom, who said that he’s finished with hockey—after 20 seasons in the NHL.
The 42-year-old legendary defenseman explained that his drive and motivation to do dryland training is missing, and that he’s leaving Detroit behind to move back to Sweden.
In total, 49 people were mentioned when the Swede thanked all the people who meant the most in his career, and one of them is Curt Lindmark, 67.
“Curre” was the junior team’s coach in the early 90’s—where Lidstrom was an obvious pick—and stood behind the bench when the Tre Kronor salvaged Olympic gold in Lillehammer in 1994.
Since then, Lundmark and “Lidas” have been in contact continually.
“We’re good friends, and it’s really nice speaking to Nicklas. He’s immaculate, as both a hockey player and a person,” says Lundmark to Sportbladet.
How does it feel to be mentioned in his retirement speech?
“It’s obviously very flattering, even if I didn’t know it, I didn’t see the press conference. We talked to each other as early as yesterday. When I called to talk about our boats, that are tied up next to each other, and it was in connection with that that he mentioned he would probably quit. I say probably, because he wasn’t quite at 100% then.”
“No, it sounded like he wasn’t quite sure, but he wanted to talk to Ken Holland (Detroit’s general manager) before he made his final decision. He hadn’t had time to talk to Holland then.”
“I’ve had it by feel”
“I’ve had a hunch for years. He wants to move closer to his relatives in Sweden, and Annika (Lidstrom’s wife) has probably been on him a bit there. Then his boys have begun to get older, and they want them to go into Swedish schools.
Lundmark describes Lidstrom as one of the greatest hockey players—and Swedish hockey’s very best.
“It’s a shame that he never really got the credit that he deserved at home. Over there, in North America, he’s the size you’d want—bigger than many Swedes understand. He was enormously respected by his fellow players. And I mean, how many have had a street named after him (that Lidstrom’s been named after in Detroit) during his career? Such accolades don’t usually occur until the coffin’s nailed shut,” said “Curre.”
“Amazing track record”
Lidstrom registered over 1,100 points in the NHL, and was named the league’s best defenseman no less than seven (!) times.
“His track record will take a while to read to his grandchildren. It was the simplicity of Nicklas’ game that made him so great. Many people only look at dekes and dashes, but we who really understand hockey know Nicklas’ greatness. There was no one who read the game like him,” says Lundmark.
Even Par Marts and Bengt-Ake Gustafsson were thanked in Nicklas Lidstrom’s farewell address.
“Did he mention me? Yes, he is of course remarkably honorable. I’m extremely privileged and was honored to work with him,” says Gustafsson to Sportbladet.
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