Amazing grace, how Swede the sound; that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found; was blind, but now, I see
As a Red Wings fan, there are no better words with which to say goodbye to a great player like Nick Lidstrom. Those of us old enough to remember the dark days before Lidstrom joined the Wings can better appreciate his impact to this franchise than those young fans born into the dynasty. I was 12 years old when he played his first game in 1991, and needless to say my life as a Red Wings fan to that point could only be described as miserable. From 1970 to 1986 the Wings missed the playoffs 13 times (the "Dead Wings" era). As the 1980's came to an end, Steve Yzerman had already begun to lift the franchise out of darkness. In 1989 the Red Wings drafted Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Vlad Konstantinov, and a dynasty was born. My life as a fan would never be the same.
We watched Lidstrom hoist the Stanley Cup 4 times after a 42 year drought from 1955 to 1997. During a career that spanned 20 years, Nick never once missed the Stanley Cup playoffs, a feat not easily accomplished. He never missed more than 6 games in a season until 2012. He won the Norris Trophy 7 times, including 4 of the last 6. The Swedish D-man also set some firsts for European born and raised players; the 1st European to win the Norris, the 1st to win the Conn Smythe, and the first to be the captain of a Stanley Cup champion. He also won an Olympic gold medal for Sweden. He made our lives better as fans, and there will be an emptiness next season when the Wings return without Lidstrom in the line-up.
He retires as one of the greatest defensemen ever to play the game, and leaves the franchise with an uncertain future. General Manager Ken Holland now finds himself under immense pressure to fill a gaping hole on the blue line while Datsyuk and Zetterberg are still playing at an elite level. Hopefully Mr Ilitch still has some money left after dumping all that cash on the Tigers. Red Wing fans everywhere should unite and eat as much Little Caesars pizza as you can stuff in your mouth. Think of it as buying a new all-star defenseman, one pizza at a time.
Some fans and pundits will say that it was time for Lidstrom to retire. We'll have to agree to disagree. Even though his skills had begun to diminish, he was still an effective player who could make a positive contribution to any team. I'm not one of those fans who wants to see the great players "retire on top", I'd much rather squeeze every last drop of greatness they have left. Then again, I have still not completely recovered from my mild case of post traumatic stress disorder after the abrupt early retirement of Barry Sanders. Nick, if you change your mind and want to come back for one more year, we'd love to have you back...at a discount of course...