“The Hockey News” magazine recently gave Nick Lidstrom a 7 page cover story called “Freak of Nature”. Simply put, they were spot on. That cover story concluded that Lidstrom is the best 40 year old player the NHL has ever seen. That is a pretty loaded statement, but after looking at what he has accomplished this year, is it really that debatable?
Last year he had a down year by his standards, scoring “only” 49 points, and many said he was starting to show his age on the defensive side of the puck as well. Many even speculated that he would retire (he is 40 years old after all). It wasn’t that he was playing poorly, in fact he playd quite well, but he just didn’t look like his usual self. Red Wings fans everywhere let out a huge sigh of relief over the summer when he announced he would be returning for at least one more year, and he has come back with a vengeance.
Right from game 1 this season, Lidstrom has looked like the dominant presence we all know him to be. His scoring has picked up to its usual pace, his defensive prowess is as good as ever, and he is making a case for his 7th Norris Trophy. It’s safe to say he is a lock for at least a nomination, but there are some who will say that the younger guys like Keith Yandle and Kris Letang will overtake him this year. Yandle and Letang have both had great breakout seasons, and their play cannot be ignored, but Lidstrom is simply on another level.
Bottom line is, Lidstrom sits just 2 points back from the defense scoring lead (currently in 3rd), and he is just better defensively than both of them. That is not a knock on either of his peers, because there have only been 1 or 2 defenseman in the history of the game who are considered better than Lidstrom. Nick’s critics will point to his oddly low plus/minus rating this year, but personally I have always viewed it as a somewhat overrated statistic. If a teammate makes a mistake that leads to a goal while Lidstrom is on the ice, Lidstrom would still get a minus-1, even though he had nothing to do with it. This is why plus/minus is more of a team statistic, rather than an individual one. In fact, anyone who has followed the Wings this year will tell you that Lidstrom has been the team’s most consistent player (alongside Datsyuk).
He RARELY makes mistakes, he takes very little penalties, and has been an elite defenseman all year, and the fact the he is doing it at 40 years old just cements his case. This year, Nick Lidstrom has been a rock, and he deserves to win his 7th Norris Trophy to tie Doug Harvey for second most all time. Admittedly, the young guns are giving him a run for his money, but this year, Nick takes the cake.