Nicklas Lidstrom is in an unfamiliar position, on two fronts.
For one, the 42-year-old Swede saw his hockey season come to an end in April, an oddity because his season usually doesn’t end until at least May — and often June.
And two, Lidstrom skated off the ice April 20 following his team’s elimination by the Nashville Predators not knowing for certain whether he’d ever wear the Detroit Red Wings uniform again.
So will Lidstrom call it quits after a spectacular 20-year career during which he won seven Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best defenceman and led the Wings — his only big-league club — to four Stanley Cups? He was also in Lady Byng contention most years, averaging one minor penalty every six games during his storied career. He was the Conn Smythe winner in 2002.
When it comes to NHL defencemen, one starts with Bobby Orr and then doesn’t fall too far back to Lidstrom at No. 2. Sorry, Doug Harvey. Sorry Brad Park, Denis Potvin and Ray Bourque. You’ve been edged out.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock told reporters in the playoffs that Lidstrom was “too good to quit,” hoping the flattery and another $6 million contract would persuade him to return for one more season.
Lidstrom played only 70 games this year — a career low thanks to a couple of minor injuries — and he was held without a point in the Wings’ five playoff games. The playoffs is when Lidstrom’s ‘A’ game usually elevated to ‘A-plus’ as he quarterbacked the Wings’ potent Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Franzen powerplay unit to goal after goal, playoff win after playoff win.
An 11-time all-star, Lidstrom still has more game than most NHL defencemen, using his brain, guile and smooth skating to offset some of the speed he has lost. He often played like he had his own puck.
Lidstrom never once missed the playoffs in his long career, pacing the Wings to 32 series’ victories against 15 losses. He holds 11 Detroit records and has an astounding career plus-minus mark of +450. He’ll never be revered by Red Wing hockey fans at Gordie Howe’s stature, but he’s probably tied for second with Steve Yzerman.
Lidstrom said he’ll make a decision on retirement (or one more year) early this summer. One decision that won’t be tough will be the one for Hall of Fame voters putting Lidstrom into the hallowed hall as soon as he’s eligible.
• Snipped from Dwight Perry’s Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times: “We conquered polio, defeated the Nazis, put a man on the moon,” noted Joseph Tout, a New York Post reader. “My question is this: Why can’t we stop the ‘Get in the hole!!!’ guy at golf tournaments?”
• Perry again: “NFL Magazine is folding after producing just four issues. Four-and-out? How fitting.”
• Comedy writer Jim Barach: “A Colorado man tried out to make the Denver Broncos cheerleading team. Team officials told him he would have a much better chance at beating out the competition in Cleveland..”
• R.J. Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke vowed to make tweaks for next season. You know, like updating the apology letter.”
• Scott Miller, CBSSports.com: “Ozzie Guillen’s mouth always has arrived a few steps ahead of the rest of him. But this Fidel Castro storm landed him in hot water in record time. I can’t wait to hear what Ozzie thinks about North Korea. And Iran.”
• Alabama fan, spotted on social media, after the Tide’s $30,000 crystal BCS trophy was accidentally shattered: “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get another one next season.”
• Comedian Argus Hamilton, after Frank McCourt bankrupted the Dodgers, then sold them for a huge profit: “Even O.J. can’t believe he got away with it.”
• Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal, on the popularity of athletes’ designer colognes: “What man doesn’t want to go into a department store and come out smelling like Dirk Nowitzki midway through Game 6?”
• Ian Hamilton of the Regina Leader-Post, after Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he hoped his players grew playoff beards all the way down to their rear ends: “OK, so anatomy isn’t his strong suit.”
• Headline at SportsPickle.com: “NHL playoff game shockingly ends in regulation.”
• Perry again: “The talent-challenged Charlotte Bobcats are 7-48 and lottery-bound again. Or as Bobcats fans describe their fate on NBA draft day: Err Jordan.”
• Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “Speaking of great golf names: Big win by Bubba (Watson) at the Masters, and Duffy (Waldorf) was in the hunt at another event. This might be a good time to put money on Boo (Weekley) and Fuzzy (Zoeller).”
• Another one from Ostler: (Tiger Woods) can rationalize kicking his clubs. Hey, they started it.”
• Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Miami Marlins opened up their new ballpark this season and fans were so excited they sold out one straight game.”
• Janice Hough, leftcoastsportsbabe.com: “An Alabama football player has been hospitalized following a fight where shots were fired. What was the kid doing, trying to get on the draft radar for the Cincinnati Bengals?”