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.