Joe Louis had come out of retirement to fight Rocky Marciano the minute he was 76 years old. Joe Louis is always lying about his age. He lie about his age all the time. One time Frank Sinatra came in here and sat in this chair. I said Frank 'you hang out with Joe Louis, just between me and you, how old is Joe Louis.' You know what Frank told me, he said "Hey, Joe Louis is 137 years old." A hundred and thirty-seven years old!
--Clarence the Barber, "Coming To America"
Nicklas Lidstrom might be slowing down, but that only means he's fallen to all-star levels from superhuman levels. In 2009, he led the team in power play minutes, was second in penalty kill minutes, and third in even strength minutes. It all added up to Lidstrom leading the team in minutes played at age 39.
Lidstrom's traditional numbers, 9G 40A, were good for third on the team and if Mike Babcock had decided on Jimmy Howard over Chris Osgood in goal from the beginning of 2009, Lidstrom likely would've been a Norris Trophy finalist.
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This is going to sound a bit like the movie "Rookie Of The Year", Lidstrom is one of only 25 players to have a 70 point season after the age of 36 and the only defenseman to do so. He's one of 30 players to have a 55+ point season after the age of 37 and one of 25 players to have a 45+ point season after the age of 38. If Lidstrom is able to post a 50 point season at the age of 40, he'll join Ray Bourque, John Bucyk, Alex Delvecchio, Gordie Howe, Mark Messier in a rather exclusive club.
Lidstrom isn't just living off of the power play either. Listed below is Lidstrom's Corsi over each of the last three seasons. This data can be found at behindthenet.ca thanks to Gabe Desjardins.
And lest we think Lidstrom is sponging off of the rest of the team's work in the Corsi department, I've done a Corsi WOWY comparison of the 2009-2010 Red Wings. This data can be found at the outstanding timeonice.com by Vic Ferrari.
All but two Red Wing regulars from last season were worse without Lidstrom on the ice, including two of the best two-way players in the league in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
The Wings have been near the top of all of the management efficiency metrics we've looked at thus far and the primary reason might be the ageless Swede patrolling the blueline. Lidstrom is still driving on-ice results on the penalty kill, the power play, and at even strength and he's still pushing and pulling teammates along with him. When normal players hit forty, they the develop into specialists - hovering on the side-boards on the power play or winning faceoffs and hurrying off of the ice, or hanging on to the bottom pairing for one more season. Lidstrom turned 40 and remained among the top 5% of the league at his position.