As the season winds down the Nicklas Lidstrom watch increases. The past several offseasons have seen Detroit waiting, hoping that he would decide to return for one more season.
The recent foot injury he suffered caused him to miss 11 games. That is the most he has ever missed in one stretch in his career. Coming back from the injury may weigh heavily on him in the offseason. While the on-ice action is fine, getting over the bumps and bruises that happen may push him towards retirement.
Many will question why Lidstrom should return. That is the wrong way to look at it. Why wouldn’t he return? He is still one of the best defenders in the league. His injury will likely cost him a shot at his record-tying eighth Norris Trophy. Returning for another season would allow him a chance to catch Bobby Orr in Norris wins.
He is still one of the best in the league. Despite missing 11 games he is tied for second among defensemen in plus-minus rating. He is also eighth in goals among defenders. While his assist total will be off of his norm, he should finish near his career average in goals. He is already ahead on his average plus-minus numbers.
These statistics show that he is still a very useful part of the Red Wings. Lidstrom is not a player that would come back to fill a roster spot or chase another paycheck. In order to play he needs to know that he can still excel and lead the team. Although stats do not tell the entire story, it is obvious Lidstrom is still playing at a high level.
The Winter Classic comes to Michigan Stadium next season. Why it may seem silly to think that one game would persuade Lidstrom to play one more season, why not? He has trophies, Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal and World Championships on his resume. His Hall of Fame status is guaranteed. While he has already played in one outdoor game, this one means so much more.
To be able to play it in front of the home fans, and perhaps more importantly, to play it in front of a record crowd would be appealing. While it is doubtful that this game would be the only reason he would come back, it will be a contributing factor. As he weighs the pros and cons regarding if he should return, the allure of the record-setting outdoor game could help tip the scales.
Perhaps the biggest draw is that this team is still very good. They are contenders to win the Stanley Cup this season and likely will be next season as well.
Let’s be honest, you can never win enough championships. To win is why we play any sport. Four Stanley Cups is great but five or even six if Detroit is successful this year would be even better.
There is no doubt that Lidstrom is very much capable of playing another season. His recent absence resulted in the teams worst 11-game stretch of the season. They are not ready to play without him and the fans are not ready to see him go either. Hopefully he will decide to return next season.
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