There was a stretch of games late in the Detroit Red Wings' season that Nicklas Lidstrom sat out because of an injured foot. He missed a good majority of March, not surprisingly a month in which the Red Wings struggled to string together wins.
One scout watching Detroit play during that time turned to the guy sitting next to him and made an observation many of us were thinking.
"This is a different hockey club without Lidstrom," he said.
And now, we find out how different.
As reported by colleague Pierre LeBrun, Lidstrom will announce his retirement on Thursday morning during a news conference in Detroit, immediately starting the clock on his entry to the Hall of Fame. He'll go down as the best defenseman of his generation and one of the best of all time.
He's not a player you replace in one offseason.
"He's the heartbeat, the backbone of their hockey club," said an NHL scout. "He's Denis Potvin of the New York Islanders. He's Larry Robinson of the Montreal Canadiens. You don't replace those guys. There's been many, many great defensemen over the years and he's one. You don't replace these guys."
They'll have to try.
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