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Poll: Where does Lidstrom rank among the best defensemen ever?

May 31, 2012, 11:47 AM EDT

Nicklas Lidstrom AP

After an illustrious 20-year career, Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom has called it a day.

As such, conversations are underway to gauge where Lidstrom fits in various “best of” categories. The Hockey News selected him as the NHL’s best-ever European trained player; both The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated called him the best player of the last decade.

Soooo…where does Lidstrom rank among the best defensemen of all time? For argument’s sake, we’ve narrowed the field down to five candidates:

Lidstrom

Resume: Seven Norris Trophies, four Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe Trophy. Tenth all-time in games played, eighth all-time in plus-minus — and those are among all NHLers, not just defensemen.

Bobby Orr

Resume: Eight consecutive Norris Trophies, three consecutive Hart Trophies, two Stanley Cups, two-time Conn Smythe winner. Recorded nine hat-tricks, still an NHL record by for a defenseman.

Doug Harvey

Resume: 11 straight All-Star games, seven Norris Trophies, six Stanley Cups, played for 23 seasons.

Ray Bourque

Resume: Five Norris Trophies, one Stanley Cup, 13 NHL First Team All-Star nods (most in history), 19 All-Star games (most in history) and record-holder for most goals, assists and points by a defenseman.

Denis Potvin

Resume: Three Norris Trophies, four consecutive Stanley Cups, first defenseman to score 1,000 points, seven NHL All-Star teams.

Okay, go vote in the poll. There’s no option for write-in votes, so if you want to wax poetic about Larry Robinson or Rod Langway or Paul Coffey Borje Salming or Bullet Joe Simpson, you’ll have to do it in the comments section.

  1. quonce - May 31, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    Missed Larry Robinson. otherwise good list .

    • nothanksimdriving123 - May 31, 2012 at 1:27 PM

      Indeed, and Red Kelly and Bill Gadsby and Eddie Shore and Earl Seibert and King Clancy… The position wasn’t invented in the mid-1950s.

      • wicky888 - Jun 1, 2012 at 8:45 AM

        Piss on Eddie Shore!

    • cerealrapist - May 31, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      This list is apparently based strictly on points and goal scoring by a defensemen.
      If we assume the defensemen’s job is to… ya know… play defense, then you’d have to say there has never been one better than Scott Stevens in the modern era.
      Hands down.
      No one made more of an impact on opposing teams offensive gameplans than Stevens.

  2. emperorzero - May 31, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Coming from an Avalanche fan, Lidstrom is the best defenseman since Bobby Orr. Growing up the arguement was always guys like Bourque, Coffey, Chelios….but Lidstrom has surpassed them all. Seven Norris Trophies says it all.

    • marcusnaz14 - May 31, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Bourque, Coffey, Chelios, Leetch, Murphy and Stevens all battled over Norris trophies for a good decade or so and are all sure fire H.o.Fers. I dont know that we can say the same for Lidstrom’s competition year in and year out. Not taking away from Lidstrom’s accomplishment whatsoever, but I think you must take a players contemporaries into consideration.

      • bchaz19 - May 31, 2012 at 12:48 PM

        Not taking away from his accomplishments? Considering he played with 3 of the people on your list and against the others, I’m not sure how you aren’t taking away from his accomplishments.

        Murph, Coffey, and Cheli all said Lidstrom is the best defensemen they ever shared the ice with. He will be a 1st ballot HOFer and his jersey will be retired next year – guaranteed.

        Nobody on your list can say the same – not even Bourque (although he did have his number retired by 2 teams).

      • marcusnaz14 - May 31, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        I guess I shouldve added Larry Robinson, Rod Langway and Denis Potvin in my argument as well since Bourque played against both.

        Nobody on my list can say the same for what? H.o.F? Bourque, Murphy, Coffey, Leetch and Stevens (Langway and MacInnis as well) all are in the H.oF with most of their numbers retired. Sorry, I just dont think Lidstrom will have as many of his contemporaries make the hall.

      • cmutimmah - May 31, 2012 at 2:03 PM

        So he didn’t have contemporaries?!? Leetch, Cheli, Murphy, Stevens, Bourque, Coffey… TEHY WERE his contemporaries. He didn’t get the minutes back then but he still played with them.

        You also mentioned guys known more for their offense than defense save Stevens, Cheli and Bourque.

        Bobby Orr was the best skating defenseman ever, but he wasn’t the defender he has been lored to have been.

        Lidstrom’s name deserves to be in the mix. And if you want to play the era card, maybe there’s not a ton of monster names because the best defenseman actually play defense now…

  3. daerian - May 31, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    All of the above are great, Lidstrom deserves to be mentioned in the same conversation. But any list of the greatest dmen of all time that fails to include Larry Murphy isn’t worth my vote.

  4. chibimike - May 31, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    The problem with calling Orr the greatest of all time is he only played 657 games in his career. Lidstrom played 1564 plus 263 playoff games, nearly 2.5 times as many games at a top level.

    • mehetmet - May 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      I think that makes Orr more remarkable, what if his knees weren’t shot. I mean across 657 games, winning Norris 8 times in a row, Hart 3 times in a row, and 2 Conn Smythe’s thats just ridiculous.

      Basically what I’m syaing is in a shorter amount of time, he did more.

    • marcusnaz14 - May 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      Yet, he (and not Lidstrom) is consistently in the argument for top PLAYER (not DMan) of all time. Cant fault Orr for knee troubles shortening the most brilliant career of all Dmen.

    • danphipps01 - May 31, 2012 at 12:38 PM

      Yeah, but can you imagine how massively Orr’s figures would dwarf Lidstrom’s with that kind of play time? Assuming they both played out their careers at comparable levels of health and Orr had the chance to decline with grace, he’d have at least another four Norris wins, another Cup or two, as many more Conn Smythes as Stanleys, and he’d probably be in the top ten in points. Amongst all skaters. Including forwards.

      This is a guy who people sometimes say was the greatest player ever. As in, better than Gretzky. Orr simply has no comparables. Lidstrom got as close as anyone could ever come, and he emerged as one of the game’s greatest-ever stars, but Bobby Orr was still the best defenseman, and some will say the best player ever.

      • bchaz19 - May 31, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        You’re making a TON of assumptions. Like it or not, health problems are part of the game so to say Orr’s numbers would have or could have dwarfed Lidstrom’s means you’re assuming an awful lot about the guys he played with and the success of other teams in the league. You can’t make those assumptions.

        That’s like saying “Well, if Lemieux had stayed healthy he’d have been greater than Gretzky.” No, he wouldn’t…. and neither is Orr.

      • chibimike - May 31, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        I don’t want to argue this point as I really feel talent wise they were equivalents playing in very different eras. But, you can’t credit or even really attempt to project what a player would have done with games he never played.

    • bchaz19 - May 31, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      You can say what-if all day long, but that doesn’t change the fact. What’s more remarkable is that Lidstrom played 1564 games without any major injury – this past season being the most consecutive games he’s ever missed in a 20 year career.

      Also consider that during Orr’s days, they played fewer games & didn’t have the travel schedule or the number of teams to play against Lidstrom did – Lidstrom is the most heavily traveled NHL player in history.

      Orr was great, no question, but Lidstrom is the best.

      • mehetmet - May 31, 2012 at 1:00 PM

        Well then also consider in Orr’s day guys didnt wear body armor, nor have close to the amount of training/physical therapy they have today.

      • bchaz19 - May 31, 2012 at 1:04 PM

        And they weren’t as big or fast, didn’t hit as hard, and didn’t really play defense – certainly not like they do now. Goalies were smaller with crappier pads. It’s a lot easier to score when you aren’t getting hit, don’t really have opposition, and the goalie is a sieve…. so it was EASIER to score when Orr played..

        So, by your argument Orr is a less impressive player? I wouldn’t go that far, but the game is much, much different than it was in the 70’s. Comparing 2 players from different eras is difficult if not impossible, but it’s fun to try.

  5. hiltonandastoria - May 31, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Lidstrom is the only Defenseman that you could make an arguement for being as good as Orr.

    • marcusnaz14 - May 31, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      Bourque is in that argument.

      • hiltonandastoria - May 31, 2012 at 12:36 PM

        No he isn’t, notice the poll results? Nobody outside of Boston puts Ray anywhere close.

        Ray isn’t even the 3rd best ever, he is somewhere between 4 and 6

      • ThatGuy - May 31, 2012 at 12:48 PM

        Poll results mean squat because of the what have you done for me lately nature of the interwebs. If the Roles were reversed and Lidstrom retired 01′ with the same stats he retired with now and Bourque retired right now with the same stats he retired with in 2001, we would have the same argument and same poll results with Bourque coming in second.

        Fact of the matter is that Orr sits atop of the heap, with about 3 guys vying for the Second spot including Harvey, Bourque and Lidstrom.

      • bchaz19 - May 31, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        Sorry Guy, Harvey and Bourque don’t make the grade against Nick. They’re vying for 3rd.

      • hiltonandastoria - May 31, 2012 at 12:56 PM

        Give me a break,
        Ok
        How’s this
        Im 40, Ive seen All of Bourque and Lidstrom.

        Its not close
        Bourque isn’t CLOSE to Lidstrom, and no where near Orr.

        Only a completely bias homer would ever try to put Bourque on Orr’s level.
        You types don’t even try to bring up an examples or arguments for Bourque
        You just throw out a dumb statement and hope it sticks.

        There is no argument supporting your ignorance.
        Nobody in hockey agrees with you

        Cam Neely doesn’t agree with you
        Don Cherry doesn’t
        RAY FREAKING BOURQUE doesn’t agree with you

      • hiltonandastoria - May 31, 2012 at 1:09 PM

        Shutting me down again Holford?

        I thought Id help and join yas last night for the game and join your chat, this is my daily reward, get blocked for no good reason

        Pathetic as the Boston fans here

      • ThatGuy - May 31, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        hiltonandastoria- I’m from Minnesota, no ties to Colorado, Boston or Detroit, so the home argument doesn’t stand. I’m 35, so i’ve seen slightly less of Bourque(that I can remember) but all of Lidstrom.

        Wants some examples? Bourque has more goals, more assists, (therfore more points) Better career plus minus. The list goes on, feel free to check out there hockey-reference pages in check out their career stats. Bourque leads most of them. Granted the era’s are slightly different, but a full half of their career’s overlap.

        http://www.hockey-reference.com/players/b/bourqra01.html

        http://www.hockey-reference.com/players/l/lidstni01.html

        The only thing different between them is Stanley Cup wins, but Lidstrom spent his career on a far better team. One player can’t win a cup.

        It is classic case of what have you done for me lately. Any poll or subjective measure like this will be influenced by recent events. In this case its extremely skewed on the day Lidstrom retires from hockey.

        All that is not to say Lidstrom is not the 2nd best defensemen ever, he may be. But the older generation of players is being skewed in this poll simply because they’ve been out of the game. With Bourque and Lidstrom, its flip a coin and you got your 2nd best.

      • chibimike - May 31, 2012 at 5:36 PM

        “Wants some examples? Bourque has more goals, more assists, (therfore more points) Better career plus minus. The list goes on, feel free to check out there hockey-reference pages in check out their career stats. Bourque leads most of them. Granted the era’s are slightly different, but a full half of their career’s overlap.”

        The majority if his points come in the early 80’s-early 90’s high scoring era, when the leading scorers were getting 60-90 goals/130-215points a season. Very different era than the mid 90’s – 2012. The highest points in a season from 97 on is 125, ranking 62nd on the all time list.

      • ThatGuy - May 31, 2012 at 11:31 PM

        “The majority if his points come in the early 80′s-early 90′s high scoring era, when the leading scorers were getting 60-90 goals/130-215points a season. Very different era than the mid 90′s – 2012. The highest points in a season from 97 on is 125, ranking 62nd on the all time list.”

        That’s good a good explanation in theory, Bourque in 21 seasons never failed to score less than 40 points. His final season, 2001 when he was 41 years old he put up 59 points. Hell when he was 38 and Lidstrom was 28 (1998) the both played 80 games, and both scored 57 points. Lidstroms prime athletic years , Bourque on the way out.

        Lidstrom had one 80 point season( 80 exactly), and it was the year after the lockout which is one of the highest scoring seasons in the last 15 years due to the emphasis on obstruction. Bourque had 10 above 80(4 above 90) half of which where when Lidstrom was in the league.

        Like I said before, what have you done for me lately syndrome. Bourque was just as good, if not better.

  6. marcusnaz14 - May 31, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    “Ray isn’t even the 3rd best ever, he is somewhere between 4 and 6″

    Did you read the resume?
    Resume: Five Norris Trophies, one Stanley Cup, 13 NHL First Team All-Star nods (most in history), 19 All-Star games (most in history) and record-holder for most goals, assists and points by a defenseman.
    Bourque also is 3rd all time with +528, Lidstrom is 10th +450. So he has more Points, Goals, Assists, +/-, All Stars, and All Star First Teams.
    I’d say he is easily 2 OR 3.

    • bchaz19 - May 31, 2012 at 12:56 PM

      Definitely NOT 2. 3, maybe, but the list didn’t include Larry Robinson. Larry Murphy had a pretty outstanding career too.

  7. mrpigs - May 31, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    Potvin sucks! Go Rangers

    • bcisleman - May 31, 2012 at 2:59 PM

      The amazing thing to me is that your fanbase has never figured out that the Potvin chant is the biggest tribute to him you could make.

  8. bcisleman - May 31, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    The main case for Lidstrom, apart from his Cups, is his longevity. Orr was probably the best pure athlete of the bunch, Potvin the best all around defenseman, Coffey (not on the list) the best offensive defenseman. Not familiar with Harvey’s body of work. The truth is that its hard to compare defensemen across the eras. To be a defenseman in the free scoring 80s was very different from the 90s and early 2000s and both are very different from the post lockout era. The Original Six era was another kettle of fish as well.

    I voted for Denis not only because I am an Islander fan but also because he was the only one of the group who was a devastating force at both ends of the ice. Goalies feared him in the offensive zone and forwards feared crossing his blueline. Anyone foolish enough to cross his blueline with their head down didn’t make the same mistake twice. Also, Orr Bs were just as big a rival for the Rangers as the Potvin Isles and Ranger fans do not have a chant about Bobby. Finally, even Bobby admitted that Denis would’ve had a much higher production rate if he hadn’t had to play within Al Arbour’s defense-first system. Of course, that system is part of the reason Denis has 4 rings and Bobby has 2 so….

    • otistaylor89 - May 31, 2012 at 3:46 PM

      From Boston and saw Orr play every game from 1972 until he retired. He had bad knees when he came into the league as a 18 year old ,but still played unbelievable hockey.

      Robert Gordon Orr was the best hockey player I’ve ever seen – period.

  9. rainyday56 - May 31, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    No mention of Bobby Orr’s Art Ross trophy. Let me use find on page just to make sure … Nope no mention of Art Ross in this article. Mighty disappointing Mike.

    • Mike Halford - May 31, 2012 at 3:20 PM

      My bad.

      EVERYONE: Bobby Orr is the only defenseman to win an Art Ross. And he won TWO of them.

  10. philliesblow - May 31, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    I’ll still take a healthy Vladdie Konstantinov over Lidstrom……..damn limo driver!

  11. pone27 - May 31, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    This topic is literally the toughest for me to make a decision on when it come s to hockey talk.

    I literally cannot put Lidstrom or Orr ahead of each other.

    Both were hands down the most dominant Dmen in their respective era

  12. fido1949 - May 31, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    I started watching hockey when Bill Gadsby, Doug Harvey, Moose Vasko and Tim Horton were ruling the D end of the ice. Bobby Orr was the most accomplished offensive Dman of all, but Nick was the most talented on both ends of the ice that ever played. He was exceptional defensively without being a physically punishing hitter like Potvin, which makes the respect he earned from every hockey player he ever competed against, with the exception of sid the kid, that much more remarkable. Vladdie was great too; I can only speculate on how many Cups the Wings would have won if the Vladinator hadn’t been taken from us by tragedy. It probaqbly would have equaled or surpassed the the Canadians run during the 50’s.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - May 31, 2012 at 5:39 PM

      fido, it seems we are of similar age. I agree with some of what you said, and glad you tossed Horton into the mix (and I’ll add Pierre Pilote and Guy Lapointe just for the heck of it), but I must remind you that part of the reason for Orr’s knee woes was how frequently he dove to block shots. And watch the videos and see how often he led a rush up ice, had it not result in a goal but an opponents’ two-on-one going the other way, but he was the one man back!!! Quite simply, IMHO, the question is who is second behind Orr.

  13. cerealrapist - May 31, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    This list is apparently based on points and goal scoring by a defensemen.

    If we assume the defensemen’s job is to… ya know… play defense, then you’d have to say there has never been one better than Scott Stevens in the modern era.

    Hands down.

    No one made more of an impact on opposing teams offensive gameplans than Stevens.

  14. tlndma - May 31, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    5 Bobby Orrs vs 5 of anybody else, no contest. The argument starts and stops with Orr. Oh and Gretzky gets shut out and embarrassed. Liemieux, not so much.

  15. wingsrule12 - May 31, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Only one stat needed to prove Nick’s greatness. 20 seasons 20 trips to the playoffs. Enough said.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - May 31, 2012 at 7:15 PM

      Indeed, 20 in 20, matches Larry Robinson I do believe. So one more stat: Lidstrom’s +/- was +450 in 1,564 regular season games. Orr’s was +597 in just 657 games.

  16. scapistron - May 31, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    20 playoff appearances in 20 seasons is a testament to the team building of the Detroit redwings and not any individual player on that team.

    I’m too young to speak to any other of the awards any player has won, but Lidstrom’s Norris trophy from last season was a farewell gift. Of the finalists he was by far the worst. With that in mind how many of these great defensemen are considered great at defense because they scored goals? Think of it like Jeter winning a gold glove. Everyone knows he sucks at fielding but they give it to him because he can hit like no other shortstop in the league. What I’m getting at is using something like a trophy count that is based on subjective voting to determine who is good is a terrible methodology.

  17. mikeinindy - Jun 1, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you NOT only the GREATEST DEFENSEMAN, but the GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME, Bobby Orr!!!

    I would put Ray Bourque #2, Potvin, Leech, and then Lidstrom. How did Leech not make the list??

  18. redwingsfan999 - Jun 1, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    Nick lidstrom is the best defenseman of all time. Even better than Orr, Orr probably could have been better but he retired early @ age 27. But there is no player like lidstrom, he is almost impossible 2 get by when he’s on defense and has a wicked shot from the blue line. He also reads the game so well and rarely ever makes a mistake. He’s called the perfect human for a reason. There is no other player like him and there never will be, that’s y the wings r gonna take a big hit on defense. But if they can sign the right guys they’ll be fine. As sad as it is to see lidstrom retire u can’t help but feel happy 4 him on his amazing career, even though I thought he had one more year left in him. Congrats nick

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