Hockey World: Red Wings will miss Lidstrom in many ways
Former Detroit captain, future Hall of Famer tough to replace
If Saturday’s absolute butt-kicking by the St Louis Blues is a barometer, life might not be very kind to the Red Wings post Nick Lidstrom, who’ll have his No. 5 jersey go to the rafters at Joe Louis next season, with a statue outside the rink and a Hall of Fame club key likely to follow.
The Red Wings managed to fill for Steve Yzerman with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg when that captain retired after Stevie Y had gutted it out for years on one knee, but can they survive without arguably the second-best defenceman of all-time after Bobby Orr, with Doug Harvey maybe 2B?
Can they ever replace him?
“No,” said his old coach, Scotty Bowman.
“For sure, our game won’t be the same without him,” said Teemu Selanne, the ageless Anaheim Ducks winger who started playing against Lidstrom in Swedish-Finnish games when Selanne was 16 years old.
“He didn’t play physical ... he was never a threat that way but he was impossible to beat one-on-one and was so strong in the battles along the boards. I don’t know if there was a smarter player.”
When Bowman put Lidstrom on the ice — half the game most nights when he coached the Winged Wheelers — he could have pulled up a rocking chair behind the bench. There were never any worries that he’d leave Bowman apoplectic over a mistake. When Lidstrom had the puck, Bowman could always relax. Killing a penalty, five-on-five, especially on the power play.
Has there ever been a defenceman with greater lateral movement at the blue-line? I don’t think so.
“We had a statistician who used to keep track of what players did with the puck after they got it. I’d say 95 per cent of the time, Nick made a nice play, he’d complete the pass. One of the best ever at passing the puck,” said Bowman.
“Mistakes? He didn’t make many. I can’t ever remember him getting caught. He would never leave his partner alone.
“I don’t recall anybody who played the score like Nick. He revived Larry Murphy’s career (Murphy, now a Wings broadcaster, was so good in Detroit he wound up in the Hall of Fame), Freddie Olausson’s career, at least for a year when they were together.”
Holmstrom ‘as tough a guy’ as anyone
Tomas Holmstrom’s going-away party in Detroit didn’t have quite the same fanfare of Steve Yzerman’s retirement, but Bowman loved the Swede. “When he was drafted (257th overall in 1994), our scout Hakan Anderson said he had this guy who could do what (the just-traded) Dino Ciccarelli did (providing net presence for tips and screening goalies),” said Bowman. “Nobody took Hakan real seriously.”
“I love telling this story: when Tomas came to Detroit, he said he wanted No. 19. Obviously, that was Yzerman’s. Then Tomas said, ‘What about No. 96?’ He said he liked that number. I remember telling him, ‘Why don’t you take No. 98, because that’s the year you’ll be going home.’ He always kidded me about that.”
Holmstrom, who turns 40 on Tuesday, played 1,026 games and had 1,026 bruises all over his body from hacks and whacks.
“He didn’t have a medial collateral ligament (in one of his knees). People didn’t realize that. He was as tough a guy as I’ve ever met. Played with injuries, never missed practices. I don’t know of anybody better on the power play at taking pucks and tipping them in and blocking the goalie. Maybe the guy in Edmonton, too (Ryan Smyth). My God, he bothered the goalies. He liked to antagonize the other teams because he wouldn’t fight.”
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal