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Nicklas Lidstrom: Making a Case for Why He is the Best NHL Defenseman Ever

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 2: Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings during their NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on December 2, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Jeff LangridgeCorrespondent IIIDecember 7, 2011

A lot of people say that Bobby Orr is still the best defenseman of all time.

Maybe, but Nicklas Lidstrom has had a great career and might just be remembered as the best. He certainly does have the accolades to support that claim.

Nicklas Lidstrom was born in Vasteras, Vastmanland, Sweden. His hockey career began in 1988, playing for VIK Vasteras HK of the Swedish Elite League.

In 20 games that season, he totaled only two assists. In the next two seasons, then playing for Vasteras IK, he totaled 12 goals and 27 assists for 39 games.

Lidstrom was drafted in the third round, 53rd overall in the 1989 NHL entry draft by the Detroit Red Wings. In his rookie season, he scored 11 goals and added 49 assists for a total of 60 points. He ended up finishing second place in voting for the Calder Trophy, behind Pavel Bure. He was also named to the NHL's All-Rookie team.

He has been selected to play in the All-Star game 12 times, his first being in 1996 and his most recent being last season, and he is sure to be selected for a 13th time this season. He is a 10-time All-Star first team selection as well as a two-time All-Star second team selection.

Internationally, Lidstrom has represented Sweden 11 times. He was part of the Gold Medal-winning Swedish team at the 2006 Olympics in Italy. He also won another Gold, a Silver and a Bronze Medal in separate World Championships. He is also a member of the Triple Gold Club, meaning he has won an Olympic Gold Medal, a World Championship and a Stanley Cup.

Speaking of Lord Stanley's Cup, Lidstrom has raised it above his head four times, in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008. He was the first European-born and trained player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, achieved in 2002. He was also the first European-born and trained player to captain a Stanley Cup-winning team (2008), defenseman to reach 1,000 points and player to play more than 1,500 games.

Lidstrom is a seven-time Norris Trophy winner, his most recent being the one that was awarded to him last season. That places him tied for second with Doug Harvey, one behind Bobby Orr.

While it's unlikely that Lidstrom will win the Norris again in order to tie Orr, he definitely has placed himself in the conversation of the best ever.

If you were to compare Orr, Harvey and Lidstrom on statistics alone, this is what it looks like (leader in bold).

 

Regular Season

Games Played: Bobby Orr- 657 Doug Harvey- 1,113 Nicklas Lidstrom- 1,519

Goals: Bobby Orr- 270 Doug Harvey- 88 Nicklas Lidstrom- 259

Assists: Bobby Orr- 645 Doug Harvey- 452 Nicklas Lidstrom- 868

Points: Bobby Orr- 915 Doug Harvey- 540 Nicklas Lidstrom- 1,127

Penalty Minutes: Bobby Orr- 953 Doug Harvey- 1,216 Nicklas Lidstrom- 496

 

Playoffs

Games Played: Bobby Orr- 74 Doug Harvey- 137 Nicklas Lidstrom- 258

Goals: Bobby Orr- 26 Doug Harvey- 8 Nicklas Lidstrom- 54

Assists: Bobby Orr- 66 Doug Harvey- 64 Nicklas Lidstrom- 129

Points: Bobby Orr- 92 Doug Harvey- 72 Nicklas Lidstrom- 183

Penalty Minutes: Bobby Orr- 107 Doug Harvey- 152 Nicklas Lidstrom- 76

 

As you can see, Lidstrom leads in all but one of the offensive categories, and he'll overtake Orr in regular season goals by the end of the season. Clearly, Lidstrom is the best when it comes to offense.

That's not all when it comes to Lidstrom's game. Lidstrom's career plus/minus rating is plus-437, proving that he's just as good on defense as he is on offense.

Bobby Orr will always be remembered as one of the best ever, and some people will say he's still the best, but the evidence suggests that Nicklas Lidstrom is clearly the best ever.

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