Earlier this month on Thursday March 6th, the Wings celebrated the career of perhaps one of the greatest players to ever play the game, Nick Lidstrom. The organization lifted his jersey to the rafters and held a ceremony, leading him to forever be remembered for his incredible career. It is my honour to bring to you today, the top 10 career moments of this “Perfect Human.” What a privilege it was to watch this guy on the ice. From his smooth skating to his incredible stick work, everything Nick did was so easy and effortless, it almost seemed robotic. This guy played the game with nothing but class, and there is perhaps no better stat that sums up what kind of a defenseman Nick was than his roughing minor totals throughout his career. Lidstrom picked up 1 roughing minor in 20 years, wow.
Red Wings coach, Mike Babcock summed up Nick Lidstrom perfectly. Besides his incredible skills on the ice, “as good of a player as he was, he was an even better man and teammate, humble and led by example,” something that the Wings still preach to this very day with their current leaders Zetterberg and Datsyuk, being prime examples of these characteristics. Typical Lidstrom, in his speech during the ceremony said, “this is not about me or an individual honour, it’s about being a Detroit Red Wing.” This article will look at 10 career moments that defined this statement. Enjoy!
10. And so it Begins: 3rd Round, 53rd Pick Overall
And so the journey begins, in the 1989 NHL entry draft, the wings made perhaps one of the greatest picks in Red Wings history by selecting a kid from Krylbo Sweden, Nicklas Lidstrom. The Wings’ management crew was told to be much more aggressive in their scouting system overseas in Europe, this decision led to possibly one of the biggest steals in history of the draft, with Detroit selecting Nick in the third round. Another Swede, Mats Sundin, went out first in the same year, with Bill Guerin, Bobby Holik, Mike Sillinger, Olaf Kolzig and Adam Foote being the only real notable players to be selected before Nick in this draft, none really having a comparable impact than the one Lidstrom has had throughout his 20-year career. Nick would go on to have a tremendous rookie season in 1991-1992, cashing in with 60 points in 80 games, not bad for a player no one really knew anything about. Lidstrom would end up being the runner-up for the Calder that year for rookie of the year falling to Pavel Bure.
9. Winning his First Stanley Cup
Winning the first of his four cups was certainly not only special to Nick, but for the entire city of Detroit. In 1996-97 the Red Wings captured their first Stanley Cup championship since 1955, ending a 42-year drought. The Wings handled the Flyers easily, sweeping them in 4 games; Nick Lidstrom provided terrific reliability at such a young age being paired with veteran partner, Larry Murphy. The two showed great poise and calmness at the back, aiding the Red Wings in their Stanley Cup run, the first of four for the great number five.
8. First Career Hat-Trick
Decemeber 15th, 2010 was a special night for Nick, he did something he had never done before in his illustrious career, score a hat-trick. The Wings were up 4-2 against the Blues, late in the game St.Louis pulled their goalie and Nick sealed the deal taking a pass from Danny Cleary and firing it from the point, in typical Lidstrom fashion, into the gaping empty net. This was a historical accomplishment for Nick, picking up his first career hat-trick and as well setting a record, becoming the oldest player in the NHL to score a hat-trick at the age of 40. What an accomplishment so late in his great career.
7. First of 3 Straight Norris Trophies
What is so remarkable about Nick’s 7 Norris trophy victories is the fact that he won his first trophy for best defensemen at the age of 31. Nick would go on to win this award 6 times in the following 7 seasons. Truly amazing. Nick would end up with 3 in a row during the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons, along with another three in a row during the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons. It’s a shame Nick won these honours so late in his career, coming 1 short of Bobby Orr’s record of 8 Norris Trophies. None the less, this feat is still something so special that we may never see again.
6. Final Norris Trophy in 2011
In his second last season, at the age of 41, Nick Lidstrom became the oldest player in NHL history to win the Norris Trophy. This would be the final time the great defenseman would receive this prestigious honour in his great career. Nick would lead the team’s defense in points with 62, while putting up 16 goals, just 4 off his career high of 20 goals recorded in the 1999-2000 season. Oddly enough, even though it ultimately didn’t matter, this was Nick’s only season as a minus player at a minus-2 rating. His previous career low believe it or not, was a plus-7 and was in his second season as a Red Wing.
5. Taking Over the “C” from Yzerman
October 5th 2006 was a massive night, not only for Nick, but for the entire Red Wings organization as well, it was finally time to appoint a new leader to the team, and this new leader was Nick Lidstrom. Getting to wear the “C” was kind of a big deal; former captain Steve Yzerman wore the C for 20 years, from 1986 all the way to 2006. This was an NHL record for the longest serving captain on a single team, a record that still stands today. Nick would quickly embrace his role as the captain, leading his team that year with a plus-40 rating, just short of a career high. The following year, in 2007-2008, Nick would captain his team to their first cup in 6 years. He was regarded as a humble leader who let his play speak for itself on the ice throughout his time with the “C” on his jersey.
4. Winning the Conn Smythe Trophy
The 2001-2002 season was a historic year for Nick, on route to his 3rd cup in 6 years, the Swedish defensemen was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player of the post-season. This honour was extra significant for Nick because it was the first time a European-born player took home this honour. Nick finished the post-season with 16 points in 23 games, being played in every single crucial situation, logging more than 25 minutes every night and leading the team in ice time every game as well. After Nick, to this day, only 2 European born players have followed suit winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, those two players being Evgeni Malkin and former teammate Henrik Zetterberg.
3. Winning Olympic Gold
The 2006 winter Olympics in Torino were very special for Nick and for his entire native country of Sweden, winning the gold medal against Finland in the finals. This was Sweden’s first gold medal since 1994, making it their second Olympic gold since 1920. Lidstrom served a massive role on this team logging the most ice time and eventually scoring the game winner in the finals against the rival Finns. Nick as well became a part of the Triple Gold Club, having won an Olympic gold, a Stanley Cup and a World Championship in 1991, yet another tremendous accomplishment for this future Hall of Fame player.
2. Captaining the Wings to his Final Cup
In the 2007-2008 campaign, Lidstrom enjoyed a fine season yet again with the Wings, picking up 60 assists and 70 points in the regular season. The Wings would go on and blow through the Stanley Cup playoffs defeating the Preds and Stars in six, and sweeping the Avalanche in four, all their victories coming in dominant fashion. Lidstrom and the Wings would end up clashing with Crosby’s Pens in the finals, defeating them in 6 games. Lidstrom would set yet another record becoming the first European player in NHL history to captain his team to a Stanley Cup. Recently in 2011, Zdeno Chara became the second European captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup.
1. Announcing his Retirement
On May 31st, 2012 after 20 seasons in the league, the “Perfect Human” decided to hang up his skates, and put to rest his astonishing career with what the Wings’ General Manager called the end to “the most valuable player of his era.” Nick will be Hall of Fame eligible in 2015, surely another great event to celebrate his tremendous career.
Here now is a list of some of the great accomplishments Nick Lidstrom put together throughout his illustrious career:
Awards: World Championship (1991), 4 Stanley Cups, 12 All-Star appearances, 7 Norris Trophies, one Conn Smythe Trophy, Olympic gold medal, *Jersey raised to the rafters of Joe Louis Arena.
Records: First European player ever to win a Conn Smythe trophy and captain a Stanley Cup Team. First European defenseman to reach 1,000 points. Most games played by European player of all time ( 1,564 games played). Most post-season points by a defenseman on a single team. Highest post-season plus-minus rating. Oldest player to ever record a hat-trick and oldest player to ever win a Norris Trophy. Most points and assists by a Red Wings defenseman in a single season. Most games played by a Red Wings defenseman.
Lidstrom finished his career with 1,142 points along with a plus-450 rating in 1,564 games.