Monday, June 20, 2011

Did Rafalski Retirement Force Lidstrom's Hand On Return To Red Wings?

Nicklas Lidstrom ranks amongst the greatest defensemen to ever play the game and if wants to continue doing it, then the Detroit Red Wings and the entire National Hockey League are honored to have it happen.  That is exactly what Lidstrom announced today in signing on to a one-year $6.2 million deal that bring him back to the Detroit Red Wings for his 20th NHL season.  

Lidstrom, 41, is coming off another outstanding season in which he had 16 goals and 46 assists in 82 games.  The season has him in Las Vegas for the NHL Awards this week as a nominee for his seventh Norris Trophy.  

At issue here is not that Lidstrom is coming back or even his ability to compete at the highest level for his position in the NHL.  The question in Lidstrom’s mind was about the ability to find the fire to play for another season.
"I wanted to make sure I found the motivation and I was ready to go through the workouts to get ready for next season," said Lidstrom.
With the announcement that he is coming back, apparently he found that fire was still there or at least enough to go again.  However, one has to wonder how much the retirement of fellow defensive stalwart Brian Rafalski had to do with Lidstrom deciding to give it another year.  Being the proud captain of the Red Wings leaves Lidstrom with the knowledge of just how much losing Rafalski and himself would damage the organization for next season.  It would impossible to replace one of the greatest defensemen ever, and a potential hall of fame defender in the same offseason.  To think that the retirement of Rafalski struck at the honor and loyalty of Lidstrom to his organization in coming back for another year is not a stretch.

Whatever the reason that Lidstrom is returning for his 20th NHL season, the fans around the NHL should understand just what a gift they are getting in watching one of the greats play another year.