Nicklas Lidstrom Retirement Will Forever Change the Detroit Red Wings
I won't refer to any dates.
I won't reference any times.
I won't even draw your attention to any number of sources that have cited the day, time and place that Nicklas Lidstrom is expected to announce his retirement.
The reason is simple: it just doesn't matter.
Whether or not Lidstrom retired last summer or next year, what I have to say about him leaving the only NHL team he has ever known is timeless.
The Detroit Red Wings will never have a player like Nicklas Lidstrom again.
This isn't to say they will never have a Norris Trophy-winning blue liner again, and I'm not suggesting they'll never have another homegrown defensive superstar on the roster.
As great defenders go, there are certainly many options a team can pursue to secure one.
Nicklas Lidstrom was not merely a great defender, he was excellence personified.
In every aspect of the game, both on and off the ice, there is no player that will ever so completely embody perfection as did Nicklas Lidstrom.
Living with that kind of excellence for 20 years, as the Detroit Red Wings have, is a rare and wonderful fate—until it's gone.
Make no mistake about it, Lidstrom's brilliance and talent landing in Detroit in 1991 has more to do with dumb luck than it does with shrewd drafting.
This isn't to say Jim Devellano, the Wings' GM in 1989, wasn't aware that his 53rd pick in that year's draft was a smart one.
However, no team or GM, no matter how well informed, knows they're selecting what will turn out to be one of the biggest hockey-jackpots of all time.
The Red Wings simply had the good sense to step up to the roulette wheel, bet on red, and ended up hitting No. 5.
It is safe to say the Wings' knew they were selecting a very good player with a lot of promise, but they had no clue they were getting a player whose name will still be hallowed and sacred in Detroit 100 years from now.
Lidstrom leaving Detroit will not only mark the end of an era, it will mark the last time a player of his particular stripe will ever suit up for the Red Wings again.
How can I be so sure?
Well, even if we could assume that hockey genius such as Lidstrom's is common enough to be acquired twice by the same team, the incubator in which that genius grew and developed is surely gone for good.
Lidstrom came to a team captained by Steve Yzerman and began his third NHL season under head coach Scotty Bowman.
To the extent that those two men had an influence on Lidstrom's development, the molds of that particular player and that particular coach are long-since shattered.
Whenever the day, whatever the time, when Nicklas Lidstrom leaves the Detroit Red Wings the history made at that moment will not be fully grasped until long after the last tears are shed and the last goodbyes are bid.
The Red Wings have done right by Lidstrom for 20 years. He has done more than right by them over the same stretch.
What the team and fans alike have become accustomed to over the past two decades is nothing short of plain, ordinary, reliable perfection from the man wearing jersey No. 5.
That jersey will never be worn again once Lidstrom leaves Detroit, and neither will the combination of skill, ability and leadership Lidstrom wore so comfortably as a Detroit Red Wing.
When Lidstrom retires, the team will surely get quickly to work in finding a player to occupy the vacated roster spot.
But as for a replacement, there will never be one for Nicklas Lidstrom. When it comes to having one player that is the best of everything, every time he takes the ice, the Red Wings will forever be down a man.
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