By: Mike Stone
Nicklas Lidstom’s retirement the other day automatically brings people to compare him with other great defenseman in NHL history. There is obviously no argument that Lidstrom is the best defenseman in the history of the Red Wings. The biggest debate seems to be in figuring out where he ranks in the pantheon of all time greats. I never saw Doug Harvey or Eddie Shore play in their prime, so I can only judge on who I have seen. Here are my top 5 .
5. Paul Coffey
4. Denis Potvin
3. Ray Bourque
2. Nicklas Lidstrom
1. Bobby Orr
I understand that there are those who think Larry Robinson, Scott Stevens, Chris Chelios, and Brad Park should be there, but it’s my list.
I stated on the air that I felt that Orr was the best of all time and I was stunned at the feedback. Some, not all, Red Wing fans that I was nuts in not having Lidstrom ahead of Orr. I am sorry, I not only think Orr was the best defenseman ever, I feel he was the best player ever.
Lidstrom wins on the longevity angle, but it’s not Orr’s fault that he played in a time where they did not have arthroscopic surgery to fix his knees. Lidstrom was amazing; he was the best positional player to ever play the blue line. He was great on the power play and the penalty kill but Orr changed the game. Bobby Orr could do everything and was the most dominant player in the game, not just the best defenseman. He was the first defenseman to use offense as a weapon. How good would Phil Esposito have been without #4? He scored, passed, hit, fought, and played great positional hockey.
Here is one of my favorite personal Bobby Orr stories. In 1973 we took my grandfather to his first hockey game. The Flyers were playing the Bruins. My grandfather was not much of a hockey fan; it was all baseball, basketball, and football for him. After ten minutes of the game, he said, “Michael, I don’t know much about hockey, but that number 4 guy in black is ten times better than anyone else on the ice.” One only had to have eyesight to see the obvious, there never was and never will be another Bobby Orr and being second to him is pretty fricking impressive.
If you don’t believe me, watch Mike Babcock compare Lidstrom and Orr below.