Dear Red Wings: Lidstrom officially joins the Yzerplan

NHL legend joins Red Wings front office as VP of hockey operations

DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 13: Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on against the Boston Bruins on February 13, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Gregory Shamus, 2011 Getty Images)

Nicklas Lidstrom is back in the mix. He’s part of the Yzerplan. He’s catching the Yzer ... plane.

Lidstrom joins front office

No, he’s not playing again. I do wonder if he could though ... anyway, when you can add someone nicknamed “The Perfect Human” to your squad, you do it. Steve Yzerman is officially bringing in his former teammate Lidstrom as the vice president of hockey operations. He’ll have his hand in everything, the Wings announced this week, and I think that’s marvelous.

I have no idea if this is a good position for him (who really cares either way, it’s Nick Lidstrom!), so we’ll trust Yzerman, obviously, but I think he definitely deserves his place in the Yzer-circle (trying that out ... kind of like “inner-circle” ... meh). I am certain Lidstrom will focus a lot right now on helping onboard and develop a list of Swedish prospects in the Red Wings system (see below).

This was a pleasant surprise on Tuesday when the Red Wings made the announcement. I guess I never thought he would want to commit to traveling here from Sweden more often. The Lidstrom family did immediately move home to Sweden after he retired in 2012.

“We will always cherish our time spent here and are proud to claim that we are also from Detroit,” read the ad in the newspaper.

And I assumed that was that as they rode off into the Scandinavian sunset. But he’s been back around these parts a bit. Recently, there was a random night when Lidstrom was shown on the big screen at LCA. I don’t remember exactly why he was there, but perhaps he’s already been doing this job for a while without being officially on the payroll. He has also talked during recent interviews about helping scout some of the young Swedes back in the homeland. It all makes a ton of sense in hindsight. Of course Yzerman would keep one of the greatest defenseman (perhaps the greatest) in the history of the game on speed dial.

Swedish prospects

The Red Wings of today are still pulling talent out of Sweden, not the least of which is 2020 first-round draft pick Lucas Raymond. Raymond is among the NHL’s top rookies this season.

But the list of Swedish prospects does not end there for Detroit. Defenseman Gustav Lindstrom has been developing since his draft in 2017. Albert Johansson (D), 21, was drafted by Yzerman in 2019, as were forwards Elmer Söderblom and Albin Grewe.

Defensemen William Wallinder and Gustav Berglund were selected in 2020, as was forward Theodor Niederbach. And in 2021 the Red Wings drafted 6-foot-5 defenseman Simon Edvinsson out of Sweden at 6th overall.

Again, all of these prospects are from Sweden, so for them to be greeted in Detroit by one of hockey’s most legendary defenseman in Lidstrom ... that’s special. Lidstrom clearly knows the path they must take to be successful when moving to North America to compete in the NHL.

Meanwhile, the Red Wings front office (Yzer-club?) includes quite the list of former players including Yzerman, Lidstrom, Kris Draper (Director of Amateur Scouting), Niklas Kronwall (European Player Development), Pat Verbeek (Assistant GM), Jiri Fischer (Associate Director of Player Personnel) and Dan Cleary (Assistant Director of Player Development).

Lidstrom’s career recap

Nicklas Lidstrom retired from hockey in May 2012 after a 20-season NHL career with a long list of accolades including four Stanley Cup championships (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008) with the Red Wings.

Lidstrom was a 7-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman. He compiled 1,142 points in 1,564 NHL games, all of which were with the Red Wings, of course. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015, his first year of eligibility. He was also named one of the NHL’s “100 Greatest Players.”

The 1989 NHL draft class will go down as one of the most notable. It included players such as Mats Sundin, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Vladimir Konstantinov and many more NHL standouts. Lidstrom was selected 53rd overall in the third round of the 1989 draft by Detroit. The Wings passed up a lot of Canadian and American players for the tall, slim Swede.

They wouldn’t have to wait long for Lidstrom to shine. He scored 11 goals and 49 assists in his 1991-92 rookie season and led all Red Wings defensemen with 60 points.

Detroit dug even deeper in the 1989 draft as they selected Fedorov 74th overall and Konstantinov 221st overall. The low draft picks with big impact would become a trend for the Wings in the following decade.

Nicknamed “The Perfect Human,” Lidstrom became the first European captain to lead the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup championship (2008). In fact he was the first ever European-born captain to lift the Stanley Cup. He had big skates to fill when Yzerman retired in 2006 after 20 seasons with the C, and he filled them well.

Related: “It’s surreal that my name’s going up there, too” -- Red Wings honor Nicklas Lidstrom with retirement of his No. 5

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Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.