Nicklas Lidstrom is so used to being great that the star defenseman refused to settle for just being good.
Lidstrom retired after 20 quietly spectacular seasons with the Red Wings, leaving a legacy of greatness on and off the ice along with perhaps another $6 million he could have made with a third straight one-year contract.
The four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner fought back tears as he made the announcement Thursday. He said he knew it was time to end one of the best careers in NHL history when he started to work out recently.
“My drive and motivation are not where they to need to be to play at this level,’’ Lidstrom said.
The 42-year-old Swede set an NHL record by playing 1,564 games with a single team. He had put retirement on hold in each of the previous two years by signing one-year contracts.
“I’ve been dreading this day since I became manager in 1997,’’ Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
Even when Lidstrom didn’t have one of his best years, such as last season, he was still the storied franchise’s best player on the blue line and one of the better defensemen in the league.
Lidstrom had 34 points and a plus-21 rating that ranked among the league leaders, and for his career wound up with 264 goals and 1,142 points.
After being incredibly durable for 19 seasons, he missed a career-high 11 games last season with a bruised right ankle and was out for another game with the flu.
He plans to move his family to Sweden and hopes to have an off-ice role with the Red Wings.
Lidstrom was named the NHL’s best defenseman last year for a seventh time since 2001, matching Doug Harvey’s total and trailing Bobby Orr’s league record by one. When Lidstrom won his final Norris Trophy last summer, he was a finalist for the 11th time in 13 seasons.
Flames hire Hartley
Bob Hartley has returned to the NHL to coach the Flames, succeeding Brent Sutter, who left the team in April after three seasons. Hartley coached Colorado for five seasons and won a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001. He joined the Flames Thursday following a championship season with the ZSC Lions in Switzerland. Hartley said he was in talks with the Canadiens about their coaching vacancy, but informed them this morning he would join the Flames . . . The Blue Jackets signed center Derek MacKenzie to a two-year contract. MacKenzie, 30, has 19 goals and 26 assists with 92 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating in 193 career games.
Kings of the road
From Vancouver to St. Louis, on to Phoenix and now New Jersey, the Los Angeles Kings have been able to jump on their opponents and take away any advantage the fired-up arenas would be expected to give the home team.
The excitement builds inside the raucous buildings, and what should be a pure rush of adrenaline, can sometimes turn into a wave of nerves that can rattle even the best of players.
Whatever the cause, the Kings - the No. 8 seed out of the West - have capitalized on every possible thing they can while playing away from home. They are a record 9-0 on the road in these playoffs, and are lengthening another record with 11 straight wins in enemy arenas, dating to last season.
The Kings took a 1-0 series lead over the Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals with a 2-1 overtime win Wednesday night, spoiling New Jersey’s first chance in these playoffs to open a series at home.
“You’ve just got to come ready to play,’’ Kings defenseman Matt Greene said Thursday after the team held an optional practice.
The Kings seemed as focused as can be as they roll through the playoffs. They are 13-2 so far.
Los Angeles has led, 3-0, in each series and shows no signs of letting up.
New Jersey’s Adam Henrique said the Devils have to have short memories after Game 1.
“We need to focus on our game, how we need to play. Maybe we were a little nervous coming out at the start of the game [Wednesday]. We were throwing pucks away. We weren’t hanging onto the pucks, making plays. There’s a lot of room for improvement on our side.’’