ED: I wrote this back in April on my previous blog, but this was the post that inspired my un-retirement because of the fun I had writing it, and I wanted MORE FUN!
I was watching the Red Wings game last night, and Lidstrom wound up and fired a 'weak' 90 mph slapshot (I'm guesstimating, of course). For whatever reason, I started thinking about how I'm gonna miss Ken Daniels casually saying Lidstrom's name. Daniels began pleading for Lidstrom to come back next year, and the inevitable "What happens when he's gone" thoughts creep through your mind. We've already seen what happens when he's out with an injury:
The suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked
Obviously, when Lidstrom decides to retire, hopefully in 25 years, the Wings will do something severe to replace him. It won't just be "Recall (Insert unprepared, way too young guy) from the Griffins." They will take Lidstrom's 6 million salary and get themselves a bossy defenseman.
Speaking of which, I was doing some thinking, and even if Lidstrom plays another year at around 6 million, the Wings could afford Ryan Suter AND Zach Parise. They already have cap space to play with, and with Stuart likely heading back to the west coast, that frees up more space. After Suter becomes a Wing, Holland will look at his roster and say, "Would I rather have Jiri Hudler and unused cap space, or Zach Parise with little cap room?" The choice is obvious.
Am I digressing? You betcha. The reason I bring all of this up, is I started to wonder where Nick Lidstrom ranks on the list of all-time Detroit greats. There are many throughout time. Ty Cobb, Alan Trammell, Joe Schmidt, Bobby Layne, Gordie Howe, etc. However, I have never seen them play, and sports have changed throughout the years. So I give you...
Kevbo's top 5 Detroit athletes of the last 25 years:
The Honorable Mentions:
This part of the list was the most difficult. The top 4 are pretty obvious. However, that 5th spot was tough. Henrik Zetterberg has an argument, being one of the best two-way players in hockey, also earning a Conn Smythe for MVP of the playoffs. Miguel Cabrera also has a claim, being the best hitter in baseball right now. It came down to three guys though.
HM1: Justin Verlander. Pitcher. Boss. Rookie of the year in 2006. MVP, Cy Young, 1st place in the Pinewood Derby, probably. Every time I watch him pitch, I get the feeling I got when I first saw Goodfellas. If he keeps this up, he will be the best pitcher in Tigers history. Plenty of time to do that. (ED: I have mentally updated Verlander to 5a. after Datsyuk)
HM2: Chauncey B-B-B-Billups. This was a tough one. Mr. Big Shot. The point guard and court general of the 2004 NBA Champions. He lead the team to what, 6 straight conference finals? He was the leader of the "Going to Work" Pistons, and I don't think he was truly appreciated until he was traded for Allen Iverson, a move in which everyone, myself included, thought was necessary and excellent. When he left, the team fell apart, and now they are rebuilding.
Now to the list.
5. Pavel Datsyuk
I can already hear a couple of you attempting to call out my Red Wing bias. Those are probably voices in my head, but regardless, of course Datsyuk gets the nod here. When you have the most successful franchise in the city, and one of the best in the country, the list is gonna be dominated by players from that franchise. Also, DID YOU SEE THOSE HIGHLIGHTS OH MY WORD. He's the best player in the league. Am I biased? Sure. Take away my bias, is he still the best player in the world? Yes yes.
Also, he likes James Brown.
4. Isiah Thomas.
Watch this video if you love early 90's VHS recordings.
I was just a wee lad when Isiah was taking over the NBA with his massive inferiority complex. Like Billups, he was the court general for this back-to-back NBA championship team. If it wasn't for a wrist injury to Thomas, that darn Jordan guy, or old age, these guys probably would have won a couple more. He's one of those players I wish I could've seen more of.
Top 3 after the jump
Top 3 after the jump
3. Barry. No need for a last name.
If I had to sum up Barry's career in one word, it would be: Unfair. It was unfair what he did to opposing defense. It was unfair that the front office could never put together a good offensive line for Barry. It was unfair how he never won a Super Bowl, or even been to one. It was unfair how he left Detroit, starting the Curse of Barry Sanders. It's unfair he isn't on this Lions squad, the best we've seen in years. It's unfair that idiots try to claim Emmitt Smith as better than Barry. It's unfair that Sports Science wasn't around to analyze Barry. And it's unfair I have to put him 3 on this list. I have no choice. I MISS YOU BARRY.
Man, I swear his center of gravity was 6 inches off the ground. How do you tackle him? There's a run against the Cowboys where he's a good 5 yards ahead of his pulling lineman. That's how to hit the hole hard.
2. The Captain.
Is there a tougher athlete in the history of the 25 year window in which I decided to make this list? Huh? The point is, Stevie Y breathes toughness. Every single time the Wings lose in the playoffs, it was a guarantee that two weeks later, we would learn about the broken foot/shoulder/whatever that Yzerman was playing on. One of his lasting images in my mind is him using his stick to get back up. You can see it in the above video (while listening to more Bush!).
I could go on and on about his toughness, leadership, courage, attitude, humility, scoring prowess, defensive mindset, and sexy missing tooth, but I got shiznit to do, kinda. An absolute stud on the offensive side of the ice, he sacrificed that scoring touch to focus more on playing better defensively, thanks to the tremendous coaching of Scotty Bowman. He wasn't able to score 50 goals a year like he was capable of. Instead, he won 3 Cup rings, a Selke Trophy, a Conn Smythe trophy, a Lester Pearson trophy, a Bill Masterson trophy, the hearts of everyone in the city of Detroit for decades to come, and the honor of being one of the best athletes in NHL and Detroit history.
Kids, want to know how to act like a superstar? Check out these videos: Retirement ceremony 1 (start at 4:30), retirement ceremony speech 1, retirement speech 2.
If this list was of the players that have meant the most to Detroit, he would be the entire list. No one else is even close.
1. Nick Lidstrom
I'm sorry this highlight video doesn't feature any music by Bush, but rather an orchestrated version of the Final Countdown!
Super Nintendo was the bomb. It changed my life. Whenever my brother comes into town, we decline the Xbox and Playstations, and we choose to play Super Nintendo. Legendary gaming console. A personal favorite growing up was NHL 94. I remember getting mad at how slow this "Lidstrom guy" was. He was clearly inferior to Paul Coffey and Steve Chiasson (r.i.p.).
Derp. Derp de Derp. Of course, who could've predicted that the slow, scrawny little Swede could become one of the best NHL players of all time.
Wanna know why he's so good? He's a robot. He runs on high-efficiency laundry detergent. He has never used a muscle that he didn't need to. That is why he turns 42 this month, but he could play another 10 years if he wanted. He has 37 Norris trophies, 4 cup wins (1 as captain), a Conn Smythe trophy, an Olympic gold medal, and a bevy of fans who call him Lindstrom. Seriously, those people need to go away.
The most impressive thing? He has never missed the playoffs. Yea, really.
Like I mentioned in my foreshadowing prologue, this team isn't the same without him. They go from having the longest home winning streak to barely able to beat the Grand Rapids Griffins. He hardly misses games, he has a career plus/minus of 450(!), and when he speaks, he sounds American.
Favorite Lidstrom memory? Down 2 games to none against the Canucks in 2002, Lidstrom changed the Wings fortune with a half-ice goal to break a 1-1 tie in Vancouver. The Wings went on to win the series 4-2, and eventually win the cup. Lidstrom was named playoffs MVP, and then he won 18 more Norris trophies and took a nap.
It took every ounce of energy not to put Yzerman at the top of this list. But at the end of the day, Lidstrom is still proving day after day that he is the best defenseman of all time, and one of the best athletes in Detroit history.
Never retire, please. (ED: How dare you, Nick?)