The reports of Nicklas Lidstrom’s hockey death are completely false.
Look, it’s natural to wonder. After all, the Red Wings are no longer soul crushingly better than everyone else and, yes, he is almost 40 years old now. And, sure, his 43 points this season indicate that his days of scoring at a near-elite forward level may be ending.
So I guess Lidstrom will just have to settle for being the league’s best shutdown defenseman and, according to the elite number crunchers at On the Forecheck, the league’s second most valuable player.* Here’s what Dirk Hoag had to say about a season that has been dominant, even if that dominance is a little more subtle.
Given all the issues Detroit has had to struggle through this season, the Red Wings have had to rely on Lidstrom perhaps more than they ever have. His penalty killing work is particularly telling. When he’s on the ice, the Red Wings give up 3.45 goals per 60 minutes, a rate that is better than the top overall PK teams in the league. When he’s on the bench, the Wings give up 8.36 goals per 60 minutes, which would rank among the worst.
With Zdeno Chara stock falling like a, well, Chara-sized tree (John Buccigross referred to Chara as “Hal Gill slow” … ouch), I can’t help but ask if Lidstrom is deserving of yet another Norris trophy.
He’ll have plenty of competition this year. For voters with an eye for points, Mike Green is still putting up ludicrous numbers (70 points already). Duncan Keith has nearly as many (63), a generally better defensive reputation than Green and the Chicago goodwill to boot. Drew Doughty is a dark horse candidate, while Chris Pronger has quietly put together another great season of grit and offense. All of these players have more points than Lidstrom (again, often an unfairly huge factor for some of the less … prudent voters).
So the unparalleled hockey genius probably won’t win the Norris this year. The question is, though: should he?
* – A few other quick notes from Dirk’s list: you can put away your “Chris Pronger has morphed into a pylon” jokes, as he’s still one of the league’s most dominant players. It’s far more surprising, though, to see once-reviled players like Nik Antropov and Dustin Penner getting such high stat-based praise.)