NEW YORK -- Minutes before the end of a meeting of the NHL's general managers, the Detroit Red Wings announced a press conference for Thursday afternoon about the future of captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
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"He's going to announce his decision for next ... I'll let Nick -- he's played 20 years, he can make his own announcement," Detroit GM Ken Holland said as he left the meeting at the Westin Times Square
As the GMs filed out of the ballroom at the midtown Manhattan hotel, several were asked about the impact of Lidstrom, who according to NHL Network will announce his retirement after 20 years in the NHL.
"I think he's going to go down as one of the all-time best defensemen ever to play," said Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman, who was the captain in Detroit before Lidstrom. "Having played with him and watched him closely from his first game, people know about it now but we've said it all along -- you have to watch him closely to appreciate how good he is, what a great athlete he is because he makes the position look so easy. He is a special athlete."
Lidstrom has won the Stanley Cup four times, and the Norris Trophy seven times, which is tied for the second-most in League history. He also became the first European-trained player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, and the first European-trained captain to lead his team to the Cup. He also helped Sweden win the world championships in 1991 and the gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics, becoming a member of the elite "Triple Gold" club.
During the course of Lidstrom's career, the Red Wings have been one of the model franchise in professional sports and a consistent power in the NHL. If Lidstrom does retire Thursday, he will be a lock to gain entrance to the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year eligible.
"I hope he does [retire], and I love him," Sharks GM Doug Wilson said jokingly. "I can't talk about other teams' players, but I admire him and I think he is one of the greatest. He is brilliant in how he plays.
"I said the first part jokingly. I hope he doesn't retire. I think he is the standard of how we want people to play the game -- the ultimate professional. I think he is one of the, when we're teaching young defensemen how to play the game, I don't think there's ever been anyone as technically strong as him, and that includes everybody."
Lidstrom has been the backbone of the Detroit dynasty. The organization was able to transition from the days of Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov to the current core group that made back-to-back trips to the Final and won in 2008.
"I think he's going to go down as one of the all-time best defensemen ever to play." -- Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman on Nicklas Lidstrom
His absence could have a dramatic effect on not only the future of the Red Wings, but also the other top franchises in the Western Conference.
"Yeah, it is not easy [to replace him]. It has been a unique run," Yzerman said. "I guess sitting from outside looking in ... their depth -- they have some excellent young players not in the NHL coming forward. They're going to be a strong organization. It is going to be take time to rebuild your defense when you lose a player of that caliber if you do lose him."
Added Wilson: "How it impacts the balance -- you don't replace players like that. You don't. When we teach young defensemen, you don't even have to say anything -- you just show them how he handles a situation. He's brilliant in his simplicity in how he plays. Brilliant.
"There's never enough centermen and defensemen in this business. If you lose one, you're looking to replace one."