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Going for Seven

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT -- The NHL announced this morning that Nicklas Lidstrom was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, given to the league’s top defenseman. After the Wings’ Monday  morning skate, teammate Henrik Zetterberg said that he didn’t know who the other two nominees were, but that it doesn’t really matter anyway.

“It’s awesome,” Zetterberg said of Lidstrom’s 11th nomination for the prestigious award. “He had a great season this year, again. It’s fun to be a part of it. I don’t know if they announced anyone else yet, and I don’t know if they have to. To me, he’s the Norris Trophy, and for us, he meant so much this year, playing the way he has been and keeps doing it in the playoffs.”

Despite Zetterberg’s opinion, Lidstrom will have competition for the award. Boston’s Zdeno Chara, and Nashville’s Shea Weber are the other two finalists for this year’s Norris Trophy, awarded “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position”.

The Wings’ captain, at age 40, has been nominated 11 of the last 13 seasons. Lidstrom has captured the award six times, which puts him in third place all-time, behind only Bobby Orr (8) and Doug Harvey (7).

It is the third nomination for Chara – the Bruins’ captain won in 2009 - and the first for Weber.

The Wings’ captain said that a Norris Trophy nomination is never a personal goal at the start of the season, but that it comes as a result of achieving other things.

“I never set up a goal for being nominated or trying to win the Norris,” Lidstrom said. “I’ve always looked at it as a bonus. If you have a solid year, you have a chance of doing it. Looking at last season, I thought I could have played better, I thought I could have contributed more offensively for the team, so that’s one of the goals I set out, just to do that, not to be nominated, but to have a stronger season than I did last year.”

Last season was one of the rare times Lidstrom was not nominated for the top-defenseman award. The Wings’ leader dressed in all 82 games, but only recorded nine goals and 40 assists. This year, Lidstrom’s numbers jumped to 16 goals and 46 assists – a 13-point increase.

The Wings’ captain was second in scoring from the blue line during the regular season, behind only Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky (68 points). Weber finished 10th in defensive scoring (48 points), and Chara ended in 19th (44 points).

It is the second award nomination in the last four days for Lidstrom’s impressive 2010-11 campaign. Last Thursday, he was named one of the finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the player who is “adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”.

Lidstrom said that every year, being honored as one of the top three defenseman in the league increases in value.

“Yeah, it means a little more as you get older,” Lidstrom said. “I think you appreciate it a lot more. You know how hard it is to put in all the effort in the offseason to get ready for a long year, so I’m very proud to be nominated.”

Kris Draper, who has played 17 seasons with Lidstrom, said that Lidstrom is one of the best the game has ever seen not only for his own ability on the ice, but for how he helps his teammates at the same time.

“I think the one thing you just can’t say enough of is how game in, game out, he just plays at such a high level,” Draper said. “You realize at times how if you have a bad game, you want to shake it off, and you look at him, and he’s just this calming influence - always. Just the way he handles himself, the way he carries himself, the confidence he has. I’ve been lucky to play with him my whole career in Detroit, and just watch arguably the greatest defenseman of all time play, and he just continues to do it.”

Mike Babcock said that he doesn’t have to do much coaching for Lidstrom; in fact, Lidstrom might do more coaching in his interactions with the coaching staff. And while the Wings’ coach isn’t old enough to have watched some of the players Lidstrom is compared to, Babcock says there isn’t anyone better.

“To me, he’s in the top d-men of all time, and the top players of all time. When you’re voted ‘Player of the Decade’, that speaks for itself. … There’s no player who has been as good as long in my opinion, that I’ve been around or seen, like Nick.”

Forward Mike Modano spent 18 years playing against Lidstrom before coming to Detroit, and he said that while he was always impressed with the Wings’ defenseman’s ability on the ice, he is now impressed with what he does off of the ice.

“Just his routine,” Modano said. “His consistency, he’s pretty disciplined in what he does day in and day out. Obviously he knows what works and what doesn’t. He’s not a very vocal guy; he comes here and professionally does his job, leads by example with what he does and how he works. That’s all you can really ask for from a captain and one of your best players.”
If Lidstrom does capture his seventh Norris Trophy on June 22 in Las Vegas, the new piece of hardware would probably join the others displayed in Lidstrom’s office. The Wings’ captain said one of the six trophies is in Sweden, while the rest are at his home in Novi, Mich.

“It’s always something special when you’re nominated and you have a chance to win that award,” Lidstrom said. “I’ve won it a few times, and I think I appreciate even more as I get older, knowing how hard it is to go through everything in the offseason to prepare for a long year. So, I appreciate that a lot to be nominated.”

Follow Michael Caples on Twitter: @michaelcaples

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