The 2011 NHL awards took place on Wednesday, and Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom made a bit of history while he was there. Lidstrom was nominated for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman for the 11th time in 13 seasons, and despite some tough competition from Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber, he walked away with a win after a brief two year hiatus.
Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy for the 7th time in his career on Wednesday, tying him with Doug Harvey for second most all time. He now trails Bobby Orr‘s record (8) by only one. Seeing as he recently agreed to come back for at least one more season, there is a very distinct possibility that Lidstrom could tie Orr’s record (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here).
Lidstrom finished second in defense scoring this past season with 16 goals and 46 assists for 62 points in 82 games. This was a bounce-back season for Lidstrom who had arguably taken a step backwards last year, but he has since silenced any of his doubters, and remains one of the league’s elite blue liners.
Unlike previous years however, Lidstrom was not the clear cut favorite to win the award. Shea Weber of Nashville, and Zdeno Chara of the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins proved to be stiff competition. Chara, last year’s Norris Trophy winner, was thought by many to have the edge because of his plus/minus rating of +33. In comparison, Lidstrom finished as a minus player for the first time in his 19 year career, with a -2 rating.
A lot of debate has taken place about the validity of the plus/minus statistic, but there is no doubt Nick Lidstrom deserved this award. His -2 rating was more a reflection of his teammates mistakes than his own.
Simply put, Lidstrom just doesn’t make mistakes. In fact, you could probably count the amount of mistakes he makes in any given year on your hands, and still have fingers left over. When he does make that rare mistake, you don’t notice it because it’s so small.
Even at the age of 41, Lidstom routinely faced opposing team’s top line forwards on a nightly basis, and remained the most consistent defenseman in Detroit’s lineup. The fact that he can still play at the highest level against guys who are 10-15 younger than him is a testament to his knowledge of the game, and should remind hockey fans everywhere that he is a once in a generation type of player.
Just when you thought he was done setting records, Lidstrom went out and set two more with his win on Wednesday. Lidstrom became the first defenseman to win the Norris with a minus rating since Rob Blake accomplished the feat in 1998 (-3). Lidstrom also became the oldest player to win the Norris, at 41 years, 2 months.
Lidstrom’s dominance has been well documented by just about every news and media outlet that’s even remotely related to hockey, and this Norris win serves as a sort of vindication.
It’s become common knowledge that Lidstrom was Norris worthy long before he actually won the award for the first time in 2001, but that he was overlooked due to his European style of play. While he is clearly worthy of his most recent win, it can also couple as a reward for all the other years he probably should’ve/could’ve won, but didn’t for those aforementioned reasons.
There are some writers out there who have questioned Lidstrom’s win this year, but to any naysayers, this is what I say: In a year when the trio of possible Norris Trophy finalists changed every couple of months, Lidstrom was the only one who consistently ranked in the top 3 on just about every writer’s list.
While a good faction of writers were talking about the sexy picks early on like Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Letang, or the later “favorites” like Keith Yandle or Zdeno Chara, Nick Lidstrom was the only constant.
He was the rock of the group, and deserves every inch of this Norris Trophy. He continues to outplay his peers at his advanced age, and despite the changing nature of the game. At the end of the day, a controversial and subjective -2 rating was not nearly enough to derail one of the game’s all time greats.
Congrats to Nick Lidstrom!