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Value Of Lidstrom’s Presence To Red Wings Can’t Be Understated

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Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings VP of hockey operations Nicklas Lidstrom is an icon of Swedish hockey players.

When Nicklas Lidstrom was a young child in Vasteras, Sweden, the future Detroit Red Wings superstar idolized Swedish NHL star Borje Salming.

“Borje Salming was my big hero growing up,” Ldistrom said and with good reason. Salming was the NHL’s initial European star. He was named to NHL All-Star Teams, twice finished as runner-up in Norris Trophy voting and was the first European-trained NHLer to play 1,000 games in the league.

Lidstrom wore No. 5 with the Red Wings because that was Salming’s uniform number with Tre Kronor, the Swedish national team.

Fast forward to today and another generation of Swedish hockey players were raised on wide-eyed hero worship of Lidstrom, again with good reason. He won seven Norris Trophies, and was the first European Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP and the first European captain to lift the Stanley Cup.

This is a significant factor as Lidstrom is stepping into his role as vice-president of operations for the Red Wings. He is iconic in his homeland and just as Lidstrom is filling this new postion, it so happens that the Wings’ prospect pool is overflowing with Swedish talent. That includes a trio of defensemen that the club envisions someday playing for Detroit in the NHL – Simon Edvinsson, William Wallinder and Albert Johansson.

I’ll be part of overseeing the defense, looking at things that can help them improve, help them get small tips for them to become better players,” Lidstrom said. “I’ll be part of watching them play and try to get to know them away from the rink as well, kind of know their personality just to help them become better hockey players.”

Lidstrom Talks Edvinsson

Already, Lidstrom was given a birds-eye view of Edvinsson, Detroit’s top pick (sixth overall) in the 2021 NHL entry draft.

“I actually saw him play last season,” Lidstrom said. “He played in my hometown Vasteras for a good two months. He was loaned from Frolunda where he plays now to my city to the team here where I live.

“I saw him play as a 17 year old. He was good skater. He’s a long, lanky kid but you saw the skill that he had when he was skating the puck up the ice. And he was playing against men. He was 17 years old, playing against men he could handle himself.

“This season I’ve seen play, taking strides, big strides to become more of a comfortable player playing against men. His ice time has increased. He can skate the puck up the ice all by himself. He plays a lot harder in his own zone.

“I’ve seen improvements from him in one year. A lot of things happen when you’re 17,18 years old. A lot of things kind of develop even more, even better. But I’ve seen some big steps just from one year to another.”

Learning From A Swedish Idol

While working with Lidstrom on his book The Pursuit Of Perfection, several prominent Swedish NHL defensem related stories of being mentored by Lidstrom prior to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Lidstrom served as an advisor to the Swedish team for that tournament.

“He was my idol growing up and the reason I became a defenseman,” Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson explained. “I´ve been studying how he played, but it is tough to copy him.

“His success is the main reason that we have so many leading Swedish defensemen on teams around the league right now.”

Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, like Lidstrom a Norris and Conn Smythe Trophy winner, remembered the perpetual grin that was enveloping his face the first time he got to spend significant time with Lidstrom.

“(Anton) Stralman and I had the chance to have lunch with him and I think I was sitting through the whole meal with a smile on my face,” Hedman recalled. “I was just trying to take in everything he said.

“He is so smart and knowledgeable. Even if our playing style is different, I hoped to pick up some details to implement into my own game.”

The elite of Sweden’s NHL defenders were wisely hanging on Lidstrom’s every word. They recognized the presence of greatness and excitedly gleaned whatever nuggets of knowledge they could from this generational player.

Imagine how much Lidstrom’s wealth of hockey IQ is going to help Detroit’s young defensive prospects progress.

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