Detroit Red Wings

Nicklas Lidstrom: Will the NHL Ever See Another Force as Dominant as Lidstrom?

PITTSBURGH - JUNE 04:  Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings takes a press conference with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game six of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Mellon Arena on June 4, 2008 in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania. The Red Wings defeated the Penguins 3-2 to win the Stanley Cup Finals 4 games to 2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Nicholas GossCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2012

To a generation of NHL fans, Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lidstrom is the best defenseman of all-time.

For hockey fans who have had the privilege of watching Lidstrom's entire 20-year career, they will never forget the amazing performances he gave at both ends of the ice. He is the most dominant defenseman since Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr retired in 1979.

Will the NHL ever see another force as dominant as Lidstrom? Let's look at the evidence and answer the question.

 

Consistency/Durability

Lidstrom is one of the few NHL players that performed at an elite level for nearly his entire career, and this is what separates him from many of talented players he's often compared against.

In 20 seasons, Lidstrom played in 75-plus games 19 times, and the only season in which he didn't reach that mark was his final year, when he played in 70 during the 2011-12 season. Lidstrom is one of the most reliable players of all-time, and not only was he durable throughout his career, he also scored 40-plus points 17 times.

It's quite remarkable that a player could be so consistent offensively and play nearly every game each season, despite making many deep playoff runs during his career.

We often talk about how some players are a great "asset" to their team. Lidstrom's ability to play almost every game each season and finish among the leaders in points for defensemen, in addition to his fantastic defensive play, made him the most valuable player to the Red Wings for most of his career. You could also make a case for him as the most valuable player of the 2000s.

When you look at the Red Wings in the decade or so before Lidstrom got there, they were a good team that made a few playoff appearances, but weren't championship caliber until the Swedish blueliner arrived.

In his 20 seasons with the Red Wings, N Lidstrom never missed the playoffs. In the 20 seasons before he got there, Detroit missed 13 times.

— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) May 31, 2012

Hockey is one of the most physically demanding sports you can play, and being able to just get on the ice consistently for 20 years is an incredibly difficult challenge. With that said, it's unlikely that we ever see someone be so good for so long like Lidstrom was in Detroit.

 

Playoff Success

One reason why we will likely never see someone as dominant as Lidstrom again is the fact that it's so tough for teams in the current state of the NHL to be playoff contenders for 20 years in a row.

Lidstrom and former Montreal Canadiens legend Larry Robinson are the only NHL players to ever compete in 20 straight postseasons. While it certainly helped that the Red Wings had incredible talent everywhere on the ice during Lidstrom's tenure, they might not have reached the playoffs 20 straight times without No. 5 on the blue line.

Not only did Lidstrom lead his team to the playoffs ever year, he was a key part in the Red Wings' success once they got there.

Take a look at some notable playoff stats for Lidstrom.

  GP G A PTS
Career Total 263 54 129 183
All-Time NHL Rank*
2nd 3rd 3rd 2nd

*Among Defensemen

Since it's so hard for teams to be competitive for two decades, it's very unlikely that we see another player dominate this much for just one team. Even though loyalty isn't a big part of sports anymore, playing at a high level in the playoffs for 20 years in a row might never be seen again, regardless if a player spends his entire career with one team or not.

Lidstrom's playoff success is one of the most impressive parts of his Hall of Fame resume. He was a consistently strong performer at both ends of the ice when it mattered most, which is why the Red Wings won four Stanley Cups during his career.

 

Norris Trophies

Lidstrom won his seventh and final Norris Trophy as the league's best all-around defenseman after the 2010-11 season. His seven Norris' are tied for second most all-time with Doug Harvey, while Bobby Orr is the leader with eight.

Lidstrom didn't have an easy time winning these trophies. He had to compete against elite players such as Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Rob Blake and Scott Niedermayer for the award throughout his career.

What made Lidstrom such an easy choice as a finalist for the Norris Trophy for so many years was his incredible two-way ability. Not many players dominate at both ends of the ice right now in the NHL like Lidstrom did for most of his career.

He was a force in the attacking zone and a shut-down defenseman in front of his own goal. The only defensemen that can compare to Lidstrom's two-way dominance who are currently playing are Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators and Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins. Weber and Chara are great players, but neither has the hockey smarts that Lidstrom displayed on the ice each night.

It's very unlikely that anyone will ever win seven Norris Trophies again, and it's also hard to imagine anyone winning five. That makes Lidstrom's six Norris Trophies in one decade (2000s) look even more impressive.

 

An All-Time Great

We will never see another defenseman dominate like Nicklas Lidstrom ever again. It's too hard for players to be the best at their craft for about two decades in the NHL, and that's what makes the Red Wings legend special and unique.

Lidstrom is one of those players you tell your kids about when teaching them about the greatest to ever play the game.

Lidstrom was a guy every player caught themselves watching in awe mid game. Game's not supposed to be that easy. Was an honor playing vs him

— Ryan Whitney (@ryanwhitney6) May 31, 2012

I'm sure many players would agree with Whitney. Not many guys are so good that players lose focus and start watching them during play, but Lidstrom was one of those rare talents.

Is he the best defensemen ever? It's difficult to say because Orr changed the position in such a profound way and put up amazing stats despite having his career ended early because of injuries. 

What cannot be debated, however, is that Lidstrom's ability to dominate for two decades will never be seen again.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead blogger at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.

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