Picking his most skilled Detroit Red Wings teammate wasn’t as easy for Nicklas Lidstrom as the seven-time Norris Trophy winner made the game appear while he was spending two decdes in Detroit as a generational NHL defenseman.
There were, after all, many all-time greats who lined up alongside Lidstrom over his time with the Red Wings.
“I played with Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Brett Hull,” Lidstrom recently told Hockey Morning, a feature of Swedish website Aftonbladet.se. None of them, though, are the answer to the question of who was Lidstrom’s greatest NHL teammate.
“Pavel Datsyuk is the most skilled player I have ever played with,” Lidstrom said. “Datsyuk’s skill and what he could do with the puck . . . he is the best I have ever played with.”
Red Wings Battles With Chelios
Among Lidstrom’s fondest memories of his time in Detroit is watching the daily one-on-one challenges between Datsyuk and Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios during regular Red Wings pratice sessions.
“He and Chris Chelios used to compete in taking the puck from each other,” Lidstrom was recalling. “At the time, Chelios was over 40 years old and was an incredibly competitive person. But Datsyuk just played with Chelios, who was a tough guy to face. He didn’t get hold of the puck.”
Along with the sensational skill that enabled Datsyuk to put together successive 90-point campaigns in Detroit, Lidstrom also recollected the uniqueness of the stick that the Russian forward would use.
“He had a long stick and an almost straight blade, not a nice angle,” Lidstrom explained. “But his stick technique and his movement patterns . . . you couldn’t believe it when you saw him off the ice and then on the ice and the things he did.”
Pavel Datsyuk pic.twitter.com/KjjT37LhIM
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Datsyuk registered 314 goals and 918 points in 953 games with the Red Wings. He was a three-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward and a four-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy due to his combination of high-end skill and gentlemanly play.
Together as teammates, Datsyuk and Lidstrom won two Stanley Cups. Datsyuk retired in 2021. He’ll be on the Hockey Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year and is expected to join Lidstrom as an enshrinee in short order.