Top 2012: Saying good-bye to one of the greatest

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After 20 incredible seasons in the NHL, Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom called it a career in May. Citing a lack of “drive and motivation” for wanting to retire, there’s no doubting he goes down as one of the best defensemen of all time.

Consider: Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy seven times. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2002 when a Red Wings team loaded with future Hall of Famers rolled the Carolina Hurricanes in five games for the Stanley Cup. Only five defensemen finished with more career points than his 1,216. Along the way he won Olympic gold and a world championship for Sweden.

In all, Lidstrom celebrated four Cups with Detroit, going from an under-appreciated second-pair defenseman during the team’s first title in 1997, to the captain of the team when it defeated Pittsburgh in 2008. The list of what he’s done throughout his career proves to be pretty lengthy.

Lidstrom’s departure, of course, left fans in Detroit feeling forlorn and wondering just what the team would do next without him. After all, not only did it leave a huge hole along the blue line but also a vacant captaincy.

For now (after failing to land Ryan Suter in free agency), the Red Wings have opted to fill Lidstrom’s absence by re-signing Kyle Quincey and adding Carlo Colaiacovo while hoping Niklas Kronwall can play a steadier game. Reality is, there’s no way to replace one of the greatest defensemen hockey’s seen.