Hockey has grown a great deal since the early days. The rules, style of play, equipment, and the players have all changed for the better. One of the best parts of hockey is the discussions and debates over the history of players that make the game great. We look at who was the better defenseman, the Boston Bruins Bobby Orr or the Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom?
Bruins Orr or Red Wings Lidstrom best ever?
Plenty of similarities between the two but they also had their differences. Both left their mark on the game in their own way and, to this day, continue to be great ambassadors to the game of hockey. They both elevated the game their own way and they both changed the game in ways that will not be repeated. Orr and Lidstrom were not only the two best defenseman in NHL history but two of the best overall players in the history of the game.
Bobby Orr joined the Boston Bruins from the Oshawa Generals in the 1966-1967 season. From game one, he electrified the crowd by skating end to end and skating into the offensive zone whenever he had the puck, rarely done by a defenseman at that time. Once she stepped on NHL ice, he was destined to be one of the great ones, as he seemingly was a fourth forward as his skating was flawless.
His skating was something to watch on the ice and his overall ability had paid off by several awards and honors. Throughout his career, Orr participated in seven All-Star games, won the Calder Trophy in the 1966-1967 season, won eight Norris Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, and three Hart trophies. He was voted to the 1966-1967 NHL All-Star second team once and the NHL All-Star first team eight times. Bobby Orr also won two Stanley Cups, a Canada Cup in 1976, and was selected to the NHL Hall of Fame in 1979. In his 12-year career, Orr posted 270 goals and 645 assists for 915 points and was a +582 in his career. In the playoffs, he recorded 26 goals and 66 assists for 92 points in 74 games and was a +60. Orr played for the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks in his career, which came to an end way too soon because of injuries.
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas LIdstrom was one of the few success stories of the 1989 NHL Draft. Selected in the third round of the 1989 draft, he burst onto the scene and immediately made a name for himself. Part of some of the best Red Wings teams in history, Lidstrom always played with a calm demeanor about him. He never played a physical game, never got into a confrontation with the officials, and never had controversies off the ice. Lidstrom played a quiet, yet deadly, game as he let his play speak for him,
He was an assassin on the ice. He would wait for his opportunity to strike and made the opposition pay for their mistakes. Unlike Orr, Lidstrom was not an end-to-end skater. LIdstrom would skate would skate when he needed to and would not put himself, or the team, in danger. He had a smooth stride that let him get involved offensively if he had to.
Lidstrom was just as accomplished as Orr in his career. Playing his entire career with the Detroit Red Wings, Lidstrom played 1,564 games, totaling 264 goals and 878 assists for 1,142 points and was a +450. In the playoffs, Lidstrom played 263 games, scoring 54 goals and 129 assists for 183 points and was a +61. He, like Orr, won several trophies and had many accomplishments. He played in 11 All-Star games, won seven Norrris Trophies, and one Conn Smythe Trophy. He was voted to the NHL All-Star second team twice and the NHL All-Star first team 11 times. Lidstrom won four Stanley Cups, all with Detroit. He was on the ice for 535 goals scored for Detroit, which is seventh all-time. He spent his last six seasons as Red Wings captain and won two gold medals (2006 Winter Olympics Turin and 1991 World Championship Finland). LIdstrom was elected into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2015.
So who was the best defenseman, Boston Bruins Bobby Orr or Detroit Red Wings Nicklas LIdstrom? If I had one game to win and the season, or the Cup, was on the line my choice is LIdstrom. He was so dangerous on the ice but so deceptive in his next move. Orr was a game-changer in terms of how the game was played but his injuries and risk taking did him in what was a shorter career than expected. LIdstrom had a longer career, was dangerous from the point, won more Stanley Cups, and played on some Hall of Fame teams. Lidstrom is my choice for best defenseman all-time. Who is yours?