SAN JOSE, Calif. — Moritz Seider knows Nicklas Lidstrom was a phenomenal player; it’s the person behind that legend who Seider is eager to befriend.
Seider, the most promising defenseman the Detroit Red Wings have had since Lidstrom debuted 30 years ago, is a leading candidate for the Calder Trophy. If Seider finishes second in voting, he’d have something in common with Lidstrom, who was runner-up to Pavel Bure in 1991-92. Lidstrom went on to win four Stanley Cups and seven Norris Trophies during a 20-year career with the Wings, and was so good at everything teammates nicknamed him “the perfect human.” Seider would like to find out for himself.
“I had a chance to meet him at the home opener, seems like a really genuine guy,” Seider said Tuesday, mere hours after general manager Steve Yzerman announced Lidstrom’s hiring as vice president of hockey operations. “I’ve heard a lot of great things. I think his game, we don’t have to talk about that, it’s been phenomenal to watch.
“I’m even more interested in the person than the hockey player — there’s way more behind it. That’s what I’m most interested about. I just want to get to know him, have a chat, see what he has to say about the organization, how we are going to develop as a team and as a group to take the next step.”
Lidstrom emerged from the third round of the 1989 draft to become a cornerstone for the Wings as the franchise enjoyed its second dynasty. Now he strengthens the front office as the Wings seek to once again become a Stanley Cup contender.
“I try to hire the best possible hockey minds who have a great work ethic and a real passion for doing the job,” Yzerman said.
Lidstrom, 51, was ready to re-immerse himself in hockey after a decade of enjoying post-retirement life. He hung up his skates in 2012 as the highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history, amassing (1,142 points in 1,564 games), and now that he and his wife, Annika, are almost empty nesters, Lidstrom was ready for a new challenge. Yzerman wants Lidstrom to be as involved in as many aspects of running the team as Lidstrom wants to be, and certainly, there’s a natural fit mentoring the likes of Seider and defense prospects such as Simon Edvinsson.
“I’ll be part of overseeing the defense, looking at things that can help them improve, small tips for them to become better players,” Lidstrom said. “I’ll be part of watching them play and trying to get to know them away from the rink as well, kind of know their personality, to help them become better hockey players.
“We all want to see the team, the organization, make progress and become better and start making the playoffs again.”
Defenseman Gustav Lindstrom grew up in Sweden, where Lidstrom, Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg belong to a special echelon of Swedish hockey gods. Lindstrom used to watch clips of Lidstrom on YouTube.
“I think it’s good for everyone, for the whole organization, to get back a legend like that,” Lindstrom said. “We can learn a lot from him. It’s easier as a player to listen to those guys, when you know that they have played at the highest level and they understand the game.”
Lidstrom joins a list of former longtime Wings players now serving in various roles on the hockey operations side that also <includes Niklas Kronwall, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Jiri Fischer and Daniel Cleary.
“Nick is an extremely intelligent person, an extremely intelligent hockey guy,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “His role only increases the resources that we have, the experience we have. For me, as I’ve said lots with Steve, Steve has been through so much, and I would say the same with Nick. Nick was a very cerebral player and sees the game as well as anybody ever saw the game. So anytime you get opportunities to use those types of great resources, you definitely should, and I will.”
Blashill said Lidstrom, “can certainly help a guy like Moritz. I think he can help all of us. He can help us coach Moritz better.”
Seider summed it up best when he described his reaction after reading the news about Lidstrom’s hire: “I think everyone is happy in Hockeytown.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.