NHL History: 30 best players in the 21st century (Updated 2023)

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Nicklas Lidstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

30 best NHL players of the 21st century: 4. Nicklas Lidström

While Karlsson is the best defenseman of the 2010s, Nicklas Lidström is probably the best defenseman of all time. He’d probably be the top player on this list, but a lot of his career accomplishments came in the 90s. Still, the ability to be the best well into his 30s, and probably into his 40s, might be the best accomplishment in hockey.

Lidström didn’t have to be overly physical to overpower his opponents. He was constantly the smartest player on the ice. He could jump passes, poke check through legs, stop 2-on-1s, and put a power play out of commission.

Want to talk about awards? Seven Norris Trophies. All of them came post-2000. Conn Smythe Trophy during the Red Wings’ 2002 Stanley Cup victory. That was one of two times he raised Lord Stanley’s Cup. He was a 12-time All-Star and even won a gold medal with Sweden in 2006. He is the most decorated defenseman in the history of this sport, Bobby Orr aside.

The Red Wings never missed the playoffs during Lidström’s 19-year career. This is where he showed just how important it was to have one of the very best on the blue line. Outside of his runs in the 90s, he helped the Red Wings take three runs to the Final, winning twice. There’s no denying Lidström’s importance to this league and this sport. Players will be trying to play like him for generations to come.