62868235 con-stant [kon-stuhnt] – adjective 1. not changing or varying; uniform; regular; invariable 2. continuing without pause or letup; unceasing 3. regularly recurrent; continual; persistent 4. faithful; unswerving in love, devotion, etc. 5. steadfast; firm in mind or purpose; resolute (courtesy dictionary.reference.com).

Among other things, Nicklas Lidstrom is constant.  His play does not deteriorate; over 18-1/2 seasons in the NHL, Lidstrom’s topped the 40-point mark 17 times and has never finished a season as a minus player.  He does not get hurt; over those 18-1/2 seasons, six missed games in 2007-08 mark the most time he has missed in a single year.

It would be extraordinary if Lidstrom’s career displayed this kind of constancy at the age of 35, but the fact that he’s 40 and is poised for the second-best offensive performance of his already illustrious career is something else entirely.

Lidstrom has also managed something else this season: he’s passed Raymond Bourque for the most points ever posted by an NHL defenceman over the age of 35.  27 defencemen in NHL history have managed to record 100 points after turning 35.  Seven have topped 200 points, and Lidstrom and Bourque alone have bettered 300; Bourque with 348, Lidstrom with 361.  Given his play so far this season, Lidstrom could top 400 even if he doesn’t play another year.

Even when we include forwards on the list, Lidstrom’s doing fairly well for himself.  He just passed Wayne Gretzky to move into 10th spot all-time, sits three points back of Ron Francis in ninth, and should pass Mark Recchi in eighth by the end of the season.

Setting aside age and looking at all defencemen in the post-lockout era, Lidstrom still stands apart: he’s the only defenceman in the post-lockout NHL to have recorded more than 300 points – his 361 are 71 ahead of second-ranked Brian Rafalski.  Another fun stat: Lidstrom’s plus-154 rating is also first among post-lockout defenceman, once again 71 ahead of second-ranked Brian Rafalski.

And despite a modest decrease in ice-time, Lidstrom’s doing what he’s always done.  He’s playing over 4:00 minutes a night on the power play, over 3:00 minutes a night short-handed, facing the toughest competition, all while his pairing takes more defensive zone draws than any other on the team.

I’ve often taken Lidstrom’s play for granted, simply because he has been so good for so long.  It’s a bad habit, because he’s doing truly remarkable things at an age when most defencemen are watching the game pass them by.

With any luck, he’ll also finally add a Lady Byng trophy to his awards collection.  It’s much harder for a defenceman to keep his penalty totals down than for a forward, especially when that defenceman is sent out against the top forwards in the league night after night in his won end.  Lidstrom’s long overdue for that particular award.

Comments (7)

  1. 2nd best D ever? He was never as dominant as Orr (see his 70-71 season – 78 GP, 37 G, 102 A, +124). But he played 10 extra years, is that worth anything to you in comparison?

  2. @ Sean:

    I’ve been debating for the last few days where Lidstrom belongs in the pantheon of NHL defencemen. I’d put him behind Orr, simply because Orr was as dominant at his peak as any player in the history of the game.

  3. I recently pronounced Lidstrom as a top-pairing defenceman in my personal “All-Time team” meaning guys I’ve personally seen (since 1963) meaning no Eddie Shore, no realistic sense of Doug Harvey, but ahead of Bourque, Potvin, Robinson, and behind (or should I say “beside”) Bobby Orr. Same reason as Sean and JW, Orr’s peak from 1969-75 was not so much Everest as Olympus Mons (the highest mountain in the solar system, on Mars – appropriate given Orr played like he was from another planet).

    Among humans, Lidstrom has won my admiration with his incredible consistency at an extraordinarily high level for an extraordinarily long period of time. Detroit has been a dominant team in the NHL since exactly the year he arrived.

  4. @ Bruce:

    Shore’s the one guy I wonder about the most. A string of four Hart Trophies in six years is hard to ignore, as is his impact (from what I’ve read, obviously not from personal viewing) on the position he played. Hard to compare across eras, with him or Doug Harvey.

  5. @Bruce

    “Detroit has been a dominant team in the NHL since exactly the year he arrived”

    This exact idea gets me pro-Larson every time. But even a guy like Scott Neidermayer never really played on a losing team. I don’t believe in drafting by position but I do think a pillar on D can set a franchise up for a decade.

  6. [...] are making their first All-Star game appearance. Incredibly, at the age of 40 Lidstrom is still the same consistent point producer he’s always been.Currently leading all defenceman with 42 points over 45 [...]

  7. [...] Nicklas Lidstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, and Kris Letang – with the majority of writers favouring the incomparable Lidstrom.All three of those defencemen were named to the all-star game, along with nine others: Dan Boyle, [...]

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