So, I guess it’s time for me take some medicine and eat my words. You might recall my article a couple weeks ago, where I proclaimed that there is no way Nicklas Lidstrom would retire this year? Well … I was wrong.
The 20-year veteran is calling it a and will retire as the best defenseman of all time. Ouch! It’s really hurting me to even type the words “retire” and “Lidstrom,” and it’s going to be even more difficult to deal with the odd site of a Red Wings team minus No. 5.
I am having a hard time recalling a memory of the Wings sans Lidstrom. What was that like? Oh, yes, the Petr Klima era – like I said, it’s going to be strange.
The thought of the Wings without Lidstrom brings up a lot of feelings and even more cliches. Right now, the word “weirdness” comes to mind. It’s a word I’ve used a lot in my life and when I think of a season without Lidstrom on the ice, it’s the best description I’ve got.
Who will we feel good about holding down the defense? Kronwall? Sure, he’s good, but he just doesn’t have the mind of Lidstrom. Let’s face it, nobody does. I recall the first time I saw Lidstrom play at JLA. I remember him making this little stick fake before he even got to the puck — and now every time a game I watch an NHL game on television, I see the top defensemen all doing the same little fake just before they get to a puck in the corner. It’s not only that; it’s also the way he can so eloquently miss the net on purpose to play a ricochet, and his gentlemanly demeanor on the ice, his finesse unlike any other. And there is nobody better than captain Nick on the powerplay. Those things will all be sorely missed.
It’s those little things that we’re all going to miss, not to mention the other work that most fans never even saw, like that he was just about always riding a bike and staying in impeccable shape even at age 42.
Some people might make comparisons to the retirement of Stevie Y. This is not at all like when Yzerman retired. In that case, the end was near, the writing was on the wall and Stevie was ready to go. The situation here is much different, as things could have gone either way for Lidstrom. He was still the Red Wings’ top defenseman, and if he had been healthy all year, he would have been a Norris Trophy candidate.
Plus, I hate to harp on it because it is still just one game, but I seriously thought the Winter Classic was going to be a major factor in Lidstrom’s decision. Clearly, I was wrong.
In his career, Lidstrom has missed just 47 games. That’s 47 games in 20 seasons. There hasn’t been any time really for the fans to see how the team is without him. The closest glimpse we’ve had was this past season when he missed the most of his career -- a whole 12 games. To me, this is an amazing statistic. To play two decades in a professional sport with 82-game seasons (84 for his first three seasons and a 48-game ‘94-’95 season), and to have only missed more than 10 games one time is really just unbelievable. So, the fact that he will not be putting on the winged wheel ever again is difficult to imagine.
It’s definitely going to be an odd offseason for the Wings, and surely an odd beginning of the year without No. 5. I have to hope these feelings will soon fade as the Wings have a boatload of money to spend in free agency. I guess now they can go get their next big time defenseman to complement Kronwall and Ian White.
The Red Wings have not missed the playoffs since before Lidstrom’s first season, and I have all the confidence in the world that Ken Holland will reload this lineup, mix things up and continue this incredible postseason run, even without the best defensemen ever. After all, they did survive the retirement of the greatest captain ever in Yzerman, and if any franchise can recover from another formidable loss, it’s the Detroit Red Wings.
The love for Lidstrom will live on forever, and I hope to be attendance when that No. 5 reaches its final resting place in the rafters of the JLA.