Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom are long-time teammates and best friends.
But they are also the only two remaining Red Wings who were a part of Detroit’s last four Stanley Cup-winning teams (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008) and , in addition, the only players on the current roster who played for the Wings during the previous century … alright, sorry guys, the 90’s.
They are alone in those distinctions after the retirements of Kris Draper and Chris Osgood earlier in the summer.
Lidstrom is 41 (he’ll turn 42 in April) and Holmstrom 38 (he’ll be 39 in January).
“Me and Homer are still hangin’ in there,” Lidstrom said.
Neither is signed beyond the 2011-12 season. Lidstrom has his usual one-year deal, which will be followed by his always much-anticipated decision of rather or not he’ll return for the following season.
This is the final year of Holmstrom’s contract.
This will be his 15th NHL season and, particularly with the punishment he takes in front of the opposition net and his overall physical style of play, he knows this could be his final season. He says both his knee and his back, which have both caused him to miss a lot of games over the past few seasons, feel fine. But that’s before the first time he gets whacked in the small of the back by a goalie’s stick in 2011-12.
“I’ll see what happens, for sure,” Holmstrom said about what happens beyond this season. “The body has been through a lot through the years, but it’s so much fun … We’ll see how the season goes. But it feels like it will be a tough decision.”
Besides his birth certificate and the bald spot on top of his head, Lidstrom has very few physical indications of his age. The Red Wing captain won his seventh Norris Trophy last season as the NHL’s best defenseman, becoming the oldest player to ever win the award.
The seven Norris Trophies ties Lidstrom with Doug Harvey for second on the all-time list, behind only Bobby Orr , who has eight.
The Red Wings have been in a gradual transition for the past few seasons but with the exits of Draper
and Osgood, it seems to be more pronounced this season.
“It’s like when Stevie (Steve Yzerman) retired and Shanny (Brendan Shanahan) left,” Lidstrom said. “I think that’s probably closest to this year. Two guys who have been a big part of the organization leaving.”
Yzerman retired and Shanahan left as a free agent after the 2005-06 season, which was the year after the entire 2004-05 season was wiped out because of the Lockout and Mike Babcock’s first season as the Red Wings’ coach.
It’s possible that Lidstrom and Holmstrom will both retire after the 2011-12 season.
They could be linked in that decision just as their on-ice fortunes have been over the past 15 years. That’s especially the case on the power play where Holmstrom has been a fixture in front of the net. He has screened goalies to allow the majority of Lidstrom’s power-play goals on shots from the point in that span and has also “stolen” a few by tipping in blasts that may have gone in anyway.
Off the ice they are neighbors and drive to practice together.
Holmstrom says, “Even if you’re good friends, you have to put that aside and decide what you want.”
But you have to wonder if either made the decision to call it a career first after this season, would the other be as motivated to return?
“We’ve been battling for so many years that we have a bond,” Holmstrom said.
In 2011-12, when No. 5 winds up for a shot with No.96 in front of the net, it would probably be wise to pay a little more attention to their synchronized movements than in previous seasons.
That scene may never happen again after the coming season.