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Who is the Best Player in the NHL?

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Hockey commentators and analysts across the league have, during the course of the 2006-2007 NHL season, presented their respective cases as to who the best player in the NHL is.

Some believe it is Pittsburgh Penguins phenom Sidney Crosby who, in just is second season as a teenager, will win his first Art Ross trophy. Others legitimately argue in favor of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier who is having a career year and is likely to win the Maurice Rocket Richard trophy for the leagues top goal scorer. As I write this he has 52 goals – three better than Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators.

Hey, speaking of skills: Whatever happened to all those critics who thought that Canadians don’t produce top scorers anymore? Oh yeah, they now think global warming will kill Canadian talent because young kids won’t be able to practice their skills outside. I know. Al Gore is messing with our minds.

Where was I? I get off track easily. Ah yes, the best players in the NHL. Let’s see Crosby and Lecavalier are fine choices. So is the reigning MVP Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks as some have suggested.

Notice that all these players are forwards. In my mind, there’s only one player in the entire league that does not play defense or forward that can lay claim to such a title and that’s goaltender of the New Jersey Devils Martin Brodeur. Brodeur recently won his 48th game thus allowing him to eclipse the mark set by Philadelphia Flyers netminder Bernie Parents who won 47 in 1973-74. For the record, that’s his 6th season of 40 wins or more. I didn’t check, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that’s definitely a record. By the time he is said and done, Brodeur may very well end up being the greatest goalie of all time. He’s 35 this year.

But to my mind there is one other player who goes about his business without much of hoopla. That would be defenseman and captain of the Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom. What’s with Detroit and quiet and classy captains?

Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer – who plays for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks – are easily the league’s top two defenders. However, Lidstrom gets a slight edge. Between 1998 and 2006, he won the James Norris Memorial trophy four times for best defenseman (including runner-up three times). He has been a seven-time first all-star during that same stretch. He was won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings winning a Conn Smythe trophy in 2002 along the way. The 6’1’’ Swede has no discernable weaknesses in his game playing both ends of the ice with superb effectiveness. Observers wondered what kind of an effect the losses of legendary captain Steve Yzerman and leader Brendan Shanahan was going to have on the club.

All concerns have summarily been dealt with. Nicklas Lindstrom has taken the Red Wings on his shoulder and has them fighting for the Presidents Trophy with 110 points. With him in the line up the Wings can fly high and aim for a fourth Stanley Cup since 1997.

That’s why any discussion about the NHL’s top player must include Nicklas Lidstrom.

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About Alessandro Nicolo

  • josh

    the pens rock they have sick players like crosby malkin fleury staal geurin depuis and kennedy

  • josh

    go pens

  • josh

    i think crosby and ovechkin rock they both have awsome moves and skills but crosby is better

  • CMG

    Ovechkin obviously yes im a caps fan.. but im positive ive seen more blogs saying ovechkin then crosby besides crosby is such a baby!

  • josh

    crosby is the best player in the nhl

  • A to the K

    Josh, I think you’re the worst commenter on the blog.

  • josh

    i think maxim afinogenov is the best hockey player

  • Jojo

    I think that Kopitar RUUULLEEESSS!!!!!

  • Anaheim didn’t really need goaltending as it turns out.

    Lidstrom won his fifth Norris trophy and was named First All-Star (along with Scott Niedermayer). Now we have to start talking about him being among the greatest defensemen (if not for all positions) ever.

    Crosby: Enjoy the ride of dominance.

  • RJ

    The Ducks have a supernatural goaltender, so I have to say Anaheim in 7… :-/

  • Yeah, I get that distinct feeling that the Ducks have that “luck” factor too. Not to sugges they are lucky; they are very good and I am happy to say that I picked them at the beginning of the season – as if I haven’t mentioned this enough. As well as Ottawa has been playing one would have to say Ottawa. But, Anaheim weathered all sorts of Detroit onslaughts and were often outplayed in the series yet they got the timely goals and the superb goaltending.

    Are we going to see the same thing where Ottawa will push but Anaheim be more opportunistic? And I agree, any “d” with Pronger and Niedermayer has to be lethal.

  • On Saturday (the day before Game 5) a vendor who is trying to do business with my wife’s company was schmoozing us and asked if we wanted to go to Game 6 or throw the dice and shoot for a Stanley Cup game. I have been to playoff games before, the last one was Tornto v Ottawa a few years back, so we went for it.

    He asked if we wanted to go for one of the first two or gamble on a later, potentially series ending game. Didn’t want to push it so we are going Monday. The party starts at 230, so I’ll see what condition I am in to file a report.

    Since I don’t remember anyone being injured on Ottawa, I have to imagine this lengthy layoff will cause some rust in Game 1. They match up well, but I am giving the edge to the Ducks. I know them better, I think Ducks defenders will cause more damage, and they have Game 7 at home.

  • My condolensenseses.

    Care to handicap the final?

  • RJ

    I watched as the Red Wings lose Game Six. I expected as much, after the horrible way they lost Game Five. Morale is a crucial intangible…

    Anyway, I was glued to the TV for the second half of the Third Period. What a gutsy comeback attempt! I was an emotional wreck.

    Great game, great finish. That’s what hockey is all about (even if the wrong team won)…

  • You’re bang on with your assessment about the series.

    Good stuff. How did you socre the tickets?

  • “Lidstrom was a monster.”

    That puck off his stick to send game 5 into OT was brutal.

    I was impressed Detroit kept coming back in the 3rd because they looked bad the first two periods. The Ducks seemed to outhustle them every play. They seemed to be in the Wings end the entire 2nd period. Hasek kept it from being a bigger deficit.

    Don’t get too jealous, but I am supposed to be attending Game 1 or 2, which might get me to file my first BC Sports article. My first Stanley Cup and my wife’s second. She went to Vancouver in ’94. I am torn because I’m pissed that Ottawa destroyed the Sabres, but I know how much it would mean to the country. I’ll take a good game without too much OT.

  • Cleveland has a better chance than Utah. Neither have much of a shot. The question is who will win between the Pistons and Spurs?

    It’s the end of the line for the Red Wings. I had Anaheim pegged (along with Buffalo) for the finals since the beginning of the season. What I don’t get is how some experts were never convinced about them.

    Lidstrom was a monster.

    Now it’s Ottawa versus Anaheim. Another tough, tight call. Ottawa has that one big line of Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza that is hard to contain. They are deeper at defense as a group but the Ducks have the trio of Pronger, Niedermayer and Beachemin who are probably the best threesome in the league. Anaheim’s scoring has been spread out better with the likes of Selanne and Mcdonald.

    Both teams have solid checking lines and Anaheim has that outstanding kid line with Getzlaf (who I have in my keeper pool), Penner and wunderkid Perry – people forget Perry is the forgotten player behind Crosby. At the Memorial Cup (a prestigious cup in which the Canadian Hockey League – itself made up of three leagues from Western Canada, Ontario and Quebec- battle for hockey supremacy) Perry’s sick and unbeatable London Knights routed Crosby’s Rimouski Oceanique a couple of year’s back.

    In any event, like usual, it will come down to goaltending – just like how baseball comes down to pitching. Giguere and Emery will have to play vital roles for their respective teams.

    This series has to go seven.

  • RJ

    Doesn’t matter anymore. Spurs advance. So do the Cavs.

    Pistons-Cavs and Spurs-Jazz…

    RJ predicts:

    Pistons in 6

    Spurs in 6

    And then a Spurs-Pistons rematch (from two years ago) in the Finals!

    (BTW, Wings lose 5-3, series tied 2-2…)

  • Pronger deserved the suspension.

    Tell you what, can you explain to me how the Suns are paying a higher price than the Spurs after what happened there?

  • RJ

    Wings up 2-1 after an impressive 5-0 win on the road…and Pronger is suspended for a game!

    Sabres win 3-2 to stay alive in the series 1-3…

  • It’s the way the Bills, um, the Sabres are going down that is perplexing. They simply lost their edge. Gulp, I dare say again Ottawa can really win the Cup.

  • RJ

    Damn. The Bills Sabres are down 0-3. I wouldn’t have suspected this development… :-/

  • I’ve been watching so it’s no secret. Ottawa looks very good on both sides of the puck and has been the better team so far. I haven’t given up hope because as long as there’s five seconds left they are in the game, but the hole they’ve dug for themselves is huge. Coming back just to lose in OT could be deflating, so we’ll have to see how they play Mon night.

  • Lidstrom leads ALL players in total ice time.

    Things don’t look too well for the Sabres, Man, are the Senators playing amazing hockey. They can win this thing. Don’t tell El Bicho!

  • RJ

    Wings up 1-0… ;-P

  • In terms of points yes but quality they were equal. I don’t think anyone was surpised by any of those wins. They were all pick ’ems. I was looking more at no cinderella team – not one – showed up.

    Except for your Sabres. :<)

  • nicolas

    buffalo. most wins = president’s trophy = home ice ALL the way through

  • There were a few upsets although no team was more than 3 points apart. 6 Rangers over 3 Thrashers, 4 Sens over 2 Devils, and 5 Sharks over 4 Preds.

    Since Buff and Det have same number of points, who gets home ice if they meet?

  • I can’t remember the last time when the four expected Conference finalists made it. This is the first I’ve seen where there we no upsets in the playoffs. You expect more predictability in basketball but not in hockey. It’s been rather easy picking the series this year. I missed one thus far: this series. I thought San Jose were fast and relentless enough to wear down the old Wings. But man, the Wings are one smooth, experienced and powerful Red machine.

    I’ll stick to my prediction I made in January: Buffalo/Anaheim in the finals. Though I would not be surprised if either Ottawa or Detroit (or both) make it.

  • RJ

    Wings win! 4-2! 🙂

  • The Wings are resilient alright.

    Yes, Buffalo fans: that was a goal. But so was the Rangers one.

  • RJ

    Wings tie the series 2-2 in overtime!

  • The Sharks look like they will beat the Wings.

  • RJ

    Wings (barely) win Game Two to tie the series…

    Boy, if I was an impartial fan, I’d have to say the Sharks win in six… :-/

  • RJ, gotta ask: are you a Wings fan?

    JCM, yes they looked good but they struggled against Calgary. San Jose will pose an even greater challenge.

    Ginger, the Pens have something special going. Never thought of that: Ducks/’Nucks. Good one. Good point on the subplots in that series. Scott Niedermayer is an absolute gem of a player. Probably the best skater in the league. Pay close attention to Ryan Getzlaf. What a player.

  • It takes a lot for me to cheer on the Wings but Lidstrom pulled me in! Seems all these teams this year know the meaning of playoff hockey. The Pens got ousted in the first round but they were up against the Sens. The fact that they got a playoff slot in the first place surprised a lot of people.

    In the end, the Sens forced them to make mistakes that had they had more experience, they wouldn’t have made. They will take those lessons into next season though.
    The one I’m watching with interest now is the Ducks/’Nucks series. It’s so fine. Two sets of brothers on opposing teams going against one another and of course, there’s Selanne. Playmaker, scorer, on-ice mentor. This could be a long comment so I’ll leave it at that.

  • Hard to not make the case for Lidstrom. We’ll see if the Wings can go all the way, or if the irrepressible Martin Brodeur really wants another ring ’cause they’re so darn pretty.

    But the Wings sure do look good early on.

  • RJ

    Wings win the series, 4-2. Lidstrom had 4 assists in Game Five, and 1 assist in Game Six. That is 8 total points in 6 games. And he’s played 25+ minutes in every game, including over 36 minutes in Game Six.

  • RJ

    Red Wings win again, lead the series 2-0.

    Lidstrom had another power play goal in the 3-1 victory, and was on the ice for literally half the game (29+ minutes). But the truly scary thing is, the Red Wings defense held the Flames to just 15 shots on goal the entire game. The Red Wings, meanwhile, had 51 shots of goal.


  • I guess he is a fitting replacement to Yzerman after all. Top d’s tend to get a lot of ice time – look at Niedermayer and Pronger. Lecavalier played 27 minutes in game 1. Crazy stuff.

  • RJ

    The Red Wings won Game One of their First Round series against the Flames. And check out Lidstrom’s stats:

    1 Goal (Power Play)

    1 Assist

    2 Points


    0 Penalty Minutes

    28 Minutes Played (most of any player on either team)

  • Joe Sakic is one of my all-time favorites. He deserved the Conn Smythe not Patrick Roy in 2001. He carried the Avs scoring big goal after big goal. He doesn’t dominate right now so I couldn’t go with him. 100 points this year.

  • Joe Sakic. Leadership+skills+clutch. End of story.

  • RJ, thanks for the stats. He’s a monster. Will he become the first European captain to win the Stanley Cup? It all depends on the destiny of the Wings.

  • Ginger, well said. All are potentially great young players. Don’t forget Backstrom who is coming. However, right now at this point there are only a handful that get the nod. To me, Brodeur, Thornton, Iginla, Levcavalier, Jagr, Niedermayer, Lidstrom and I should have mentioned my personal favorite Joe Sakic, are among the leagues best players. They have proven it over time. Selanne has been rejuvenated indeed but while he’s been a great goal scorer he hasn’t done it on a consistent basis and I don’t think he ranks about the best.

  • I’m a Penguins fan; I moderate two of their hockey boards and have one of my own. Sidney is arguably a legend in the making.
    But it’s tough to say he’s the best in spite of numbers. This season in particular because of the missing draft in the lockout year, we got a plethora of talent all at once. Alexander Ovechkin kicked that off and then we have Sidney.

    But there’s also Alexander Semin & Evgeni Malkin. What about Jordan Staal? You can’t ignore Paul Stastny either for the Avs.
    And these guys are all rookies. Holy! Joe is impressive but what about Teemu Selanne? Coming back from all that reconstructive surgeries on both knees and putting up the numbers he has? There is something to be said for staying power too.
    Ask us again next year about this time who’s the best in the league?

  • RJ

    Great post. And I agree that N. Lidstrom is one of the best.

    Some stats:

    Games 80
    Goals 16
    Assists 64
    Points 80
    +/- 21

    NO SEASON!!! 🙁

    Games 81
    Goals 10
    Assists 28
    Points 38
    +/- 19

    Games 82
    Goals 18
    Assists 44
    Points 62
    +/- 40

    And here’s the current season:

    Games 80
    Goals 13 (including 10 power-play goals)
    Assists 49 (including 3 short-handed assists)
    Points 62
    +/- 40

    This guy plays almost every game, he plays great defense, he sets up a ton of goals, and even scores a few himself as a defenseman and team captain of the the best team in the Western Conference. He definitely deserves mention.

  • Rory Fitzpatrick

  • Belle

    My vote’s for Sidney Crosby. Go Pens!!

  • Good to see some hockey coverage. Go Sabres.