The Big Three
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Last season, Hatcher had 30 points (eight goals and 22 assists) and was a finalist for the Norris Trophy given to the NHL's best defenseman. Lidstrom won the Norris for the third-straight season, while Chelios also is a former winner of the Norris.
''I remember how teams feared facing us in 1997 when we had Vladimir Konstantinov (on Detroit's first Cup team, whose career ended in a limousine crash less than a week after the Red Wings won their first Cup since 1955) on defense,'' Lidstrom said. ''Derian has that same presence on defense. He competes at the same high level every game and is so hard to play against.''
Hatcher is big and tall. He's got curly locks. Off the ice, he's one of the nicer guys you'd want to meet. But, on the ice, when riled, he can be a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood. If you enter his zone and try to take liberties, you will clearly make his day.
''My wife says she thinks I'm more menacing wearing red,'' Hatcher laughed recently, after 12 years of wearing the Stars' green and black. ''I'm ecstatic to be here.
''You know something, I've always dreamed of coming back home and winning a Stanley Cup.''
Hatcher was supposed to be too slow to play for the U.S. Olympic team in 2002 at Salt Lake City and his foot speed/or lack thereof was also supposed to be a detriment last season when the NHL set out to crack down on neutral zone obstruction. Instead he set a career high with a plus-37 plus/minus record.
For years, Hatcher and fellow Dallas defenseman Richard Matvichuk were like the defensive version of hit men/neutralizers when it came to facing the opposition's best forwards, blocking shots and rubbing out potential scoring threats by simply putting their wide bodies on those potential scorers. Over the years, Hatcher has clearly proven to be a tower of strength in front of his goal.
''Derian is not a player you measure with stats,'' Dallas coach Dave Tippett told me last season. ''All you do is run him out there against the opposition's best forwards and watch them be run over -- or just plain melt -- at the prospect of having to go around him or through him.''
When the game gets serious, opponents have told me you can see the fire in his eyes -- and you know when you get close to him, he is going to whack you with his stick and you will feel it for a week.
''He's just plain mean -- and dirty,'' says Philadelphia Flyers center Jeremy Roenick, whose jaw was broken by Hatcher in the first round of the playoffs a couple of years ago when Roenick played in Phoenix. ''He's so big and strong, if he gets mad at you, he could break you in half.''
Hatcher always has walked into a tough situation with a strut, however.
''Usually when I come into Detroit I'm a bit of a villain,'' he said, smiling. ''And I kind of enjoy that role. When I saw Brendan Shanahan earlier this summer, I remembered all of the physical battles we've had in front of the net through the years.
''At first I worried about how the Red Wings fans might respond to me, but then Brendan reminded me of how much they hated him and Brett Hull when they were in St. Louis and how much they despised Chris Chelios when he played in Chicago.''
''I've seen a lot of players -- on our team -- on the ice looking up at him from the ice,'' said Wings coach Dave Lewis. ''Guys like Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper will be happy to see him on our side now.''
Handling teams down low physically will be no problem for this year's Red Wings. Not with Chelios and Hatcher and Fischer around.
Harder to play against? You bet the Red Wings are.