Mark Humphrey, AP Photo
Prior to last evening’s defeat of the Avalanche, our fine captain was leading the team in goals. A Twitter poll offered up the question of whether or not this was a good thing. I answered it by saying: “irrelevant…too early in the season.”
Reflecting on this for a moment, I realized I was incorrect in giving this as my answer. It is relevant, and it is a good thing that Legendary Lidstrom (a bit of a lazy coinage, but no other word is quite as fitting) was leading the team in goals.
Now that Nick has been our captain since 2006, and some would argue his captaincy goes back even longer, I think it’s fair to now compare the value and leadership of numbers 5 and 19.
Where to begin such a comparison? It’s tough to say. Both are men of few words, leading by example instead of tiresome Hollywood speeches. That’s where the similarities both begin and end, I believe.
First of all, Yzerman was the sole shining light on the “dead things” of the early 80′s. He was a forward, and immediately rose to stardom upon his arrival into the NHL. He also became an adopted son of Detroit as a city, and Michigan as a state, and deservedly so.
He was an inspiration on the ice, and among his hundreds of tallies, scored the greatest in modern Red Wings history. If you sense that there is a big “but” coming, then I applaud your intuition. BUT, I believe his importance may have been slightly exaggerated, especially during the mid-to late 90′s and early 2000′s.
As the number of players with world class ability grew in the locker room, cold logic demanded we accept that his value diminished. And did Sergei Fedorov have a legitimate gripe that the inequality in adoration was unfair? Yes, he did.
Is it possible our captain of over two decades was envious of the enigmatic Russian? Not only is it possible. I believe it is likely.
You may now be screaming about the intangibles. Fair enough. I’ll turn to Lidstrom to address that concern.
I’ll assert, that Lidstrom possesses all the intangibles that Yzerman did. ”But Yzerman played through injuries”, you may be saying. He did, indeed. Lidstrom would as well, I’m certain of it.
Lidstrom has constantly been mentioned when not only discussions about the best player in the world arise, but also when discussions about the greatest defenseman EVER arise. No such luck in either category with Stevie Y.
Bobby Orr changed the role of the defenseman forever. Also, his career was unforgivably cut short due to injuries. For these two reasons, we must agree that Orr is the greatest to ever patrol the blue line. But, “The Perfect Human” has displayed a dominance and a steadiness since 1990 that has been unprecedented.
Since 2001, the man has won the Norris Trophy 7 times, not to mention capturing a playoff MVP accolade (as did Yzerman) to go along with his four Stanley Cup rings. He has managed to do all of this as perhaps one of the most non-physical of all defenseman. Just extraordinary.
It is probably unfair to compare forwards and defenseman, even though I just spent many words doing that very thing. A forward and a dman are very different in the way they function on the ice. I believe the world to be a very complex place, along with most things in it. But at bottom, it is a forward’s job to generate offense. A defenseman’s, to prevent it.
So, I will say that Lidstrom is every bit the remarkable leader that Yzerman was, and perhaps more valuable as a player.
Dissenting opinions are welcome. Go Wings