The question, at age 41, is legitimate: Was that the last game of Nicklas Lidstrom's career? A lot like Steve Yzerman did towards the end of his run, Lidstrom is currently riding one-year deals, making the "Will he retire?" question a hot topic every summer in Hockeytown, usually right around the time the Tigers start to hit their mid-season swoon.
However, unlike Yzerman, who basically grinded his knees into magic playoff dust, Lidstrom's decision on his future is completely mental. While most Wings fans will admit that he has lost a step or two in recent years, his Norris Trophy nomination this season proves that he is still among the NHL's elite, and probably would continue to be for another year or two.
Listing his accomplishments, at this point, is fairly pointless. The vast majority of people that read this already know the important ones: 4 Stanley Cups, 6 Norris trophies (and hopefully counting) and one seamless transition from the pre-salary cap era to the Wings' most recent run of success. For the rest of his accolades, here's a link to Wikipedia.
To me, Nicklas Lidstrom represents what Red Wing hockey is all about, perhaps just as much as #19 does. Lidstrom was never the tallest, fastest or most physical player on the ice. He relied on his brain much more often than his body, which is why he's aged so gracefully over the past 5+ seasons. Seeing Lidstrom bat a puck out of mid-air or poke check an oncoming attack at the last second are things that never show up on ESPN highlight reels (though, to be fair, not much hockey does), but are amazing just the same. And then, of course, there are plays like this.
We can't answer the first question yet, but we can already look forward to the next one: Is Lidstrom the best defenseman of all-time? I can't rightfully say. I'm only in my 20s. I never saw Bobby Orr, the consensus #1 to most hockey fans, play live. Hell, I don't even remember a lot of Lidstrom's career: I was 3 years old during his first season with the Wings. I do know this though: Lidstrom is the best D-man the NHL has seen in the past 20+ years, and probably will be for another 20+ in the future.
Thanks for the memories, Nick, and best of luck if you decide to retire. But seriously, come back.
@LJZIK What makes me sick is thinking of how we would replace him. Kronwall looks ready to step into that top role next to Stuart and/or Rafalski, but who fills that void? I think Kindl and Brendan Smith are a year or two away (Smith is probably closer to 3) and there aren't too many great names on the unrestricted free agent list.
@D4LRob You can never really replace a living legend like Stevie Y or Nick Lidstrom. You just evolve and move on. Thankfully the Wings have the deepest team in the league. We've got great staff behind the scenes. They are the best at develping new young talent. And they have a knack for spotting the diamonds-in-the-rough that others overlook like Datsyuk and Zetterberg. When Yzerman retired, did we (the fans) already know what we had in Lidstrom - or did he develop into the Superstar he is today? Yes, it will be the end of an era. Hopefully, as when Yzerman retired and Lidstrom stepped up, it will be the beginning of another great era. Lots of reasons to remain optimistic.
Still, it does make the girly-girl in me want to cry.