Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Detroit Athlete of the Decade Tournament: The Finals

POLLS CLOSED: Lidstrom wins 73% to 28%

In what should come as a surprise to no one, Chauncey Billups and Nicklas Lidstrom have advanced to the finals of the Detroit Athlete of the Decade Tournament. Billups advanced to the finals with a resounding 82%-18% victory over Lions kicker Jason Hanson, while Lidstrom took down Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez, 84%-16%. Who will be crowned the king of the D? That's up to you. Polls will stay open through the rest of the week, with final results posted on Sunday.

Final Round: Billups vs. Lidstrom

Chauncey Billups (Sam Weiss, The Ace of Sports)

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If Ben was the heart, Rip was the legs, Tay was the arms, Sheed was the soul and Darko was the appendix, then Chauncey Billups was the head of the 2003-2004 World Champion Detroit Pistons. David Thorpe, Executive Director of the Pro Training Center at IMG Academies, called Chauncey arguably the smartest player in basketball and most Pistons fans would probably agree. In addition to Basketball IQ, Chauncey brought good defense, unselfish play and a cool head to the world champions. One can use descriptions ranging from the vague terms of amateur sportscasters to numbers that only a stat-geek could appreciate. (Examples: unlike most players given the label from nimrod Sportscenter analysts, Chauncey is ‘clutch’. Also, a stat-geek might point out that his Free Throws Attempted per Turnover Committed is outrageously high, tops in the NBA year after year, demonstrating the ability to operate in traffic without losing the ball).

For the last 30 years, the team with the best individual player has always won the NBA finals. Except for the 2003-2004 Pistons. Because of their unique accomplishment, it is difficult to pick any one of them as most responsible. Any one of the starting five could have won the Finals MVP. Were someone to argue that Tayshaun, Rasheed or Ben was more deserving of this honor, his or her argument would certainly have merit, so I’ll keep mine very simple:

A. No sports accomplishment of the last decade meant more to the people of Detroit than the 2003-2004 NBA Championship.
B. By almost any statistical measure, Chauncey was the best player on that team and has been the best player on the Pistons ever since.
C. As a fanatic who has watched the team play (and who loved/loves all Stones equally, even Carlos Delfino and Ronald Dupree), I agree. Chauncey was the most valuable player.

Chauncey doesn’t need to become a symbol of the entire Piston’s team or the city of Detroit itself; he’s got a ring and a Finals MVP Trophy.

(Of course, he could go out and win another championship next year just to make my argument a little bit better. Just a thought.)

Nicklas Lidstrom (Dave, Gorilla Crouch)

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Nick Lidstrom is widely considered to be one of the top 2 or 3 defensemen to ever play the game. He has been awarded the Norris trophy as the league's best defenseman six of the last seven seasons. He trails only Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey for most Norris trophies awarded to an NHL defenseman. This would be comparable to a pitcher winning 6 out of 7 Cy Young awards or an NBA player winning Defensive Player of the year award that often. It's an incredible feat that has been accomplished by a remarkable and rare talent.

While awards help to make the point, statistics show what a player actually did on the playing surface against his competition. Over the past 10 regular seasons, Nick Lidstrom has averaged playing in 80 of his team's 82 games, and averaged 14 goals and 49 assists per year. That comes out to 63 points per season with an average plus/minus rating of +24. Night in and night out he's faced the absolute best talent in the league and the Red Wings have outscored the opposition by 24 even-strength goals on average every year for the past 10 years.

Regular Season:

Lidstrom's 142 goals is the 3rd most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's 489 assists are the most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's +237 rating is the best by a defenseman over the past 10 seaons.
Won 6 of the last 7 Norris trophy awards.

Playoffs:
Lidstrom's 26 goals is the most by a defensemen over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's 76 assists is the most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's +20 rating is the 4th best by a defensemen over the past 10 seaons.
3-time Stanley Cup champion over the past 10 seasons.
He was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in the 2002 playoffs.

Olympics:

Lidstrom has averaged just under a point a game in Olympic competition over the past three winter competitions and scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden in the 2006 winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Nick Lidstrom is the best athlete in Detroit over the past ten seasons. He's been acknowledged as one of the best defensemen in the history of hockey and his regular season and playoff stats bear that out. He's also a three-time world champion over the past 10 seasons, once winning the playoff MVP award in addition to an Olympic gold medal.

4 comments:

SpottieOttieDopaliscious said...

Just found your blog and love it. But I don't know how you can not nominate Pudge for Tiger of the decade. Also, I prefer Sheed over Ben, but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Where is Yzerman? He belongs here over Lidstrom. He was the Wings best player in 3 out of 4 stanley cups. He carried this team on it's back and is more deserving of being here than either Chancey or Lidstrom.

Kristopher said...

"Where is Yzerman? He belongs here over Lidstrom. He was the Wings best player in 3 out of 4 stanley cups. He carried this team on it's back and is more deserving of being here than either Chancey or Lidstrom."

No, not by a longshot. Stevie Y is undeniably a legend and a leader, but if you go by 1998 to 2008, the guy who really held this team together in the last decade was Nick. 6 Norris Trophies, a Conn Smythe Trophy, and a plethora of firsts. He won a Stanley Cup without Stevie here, and his performance has been steady even as he's gotten older.

If you want to say Stevie Y was the best player from 1988 to 1998, I'd completely agree, even with a guy like Barry Sanders in the mix. He was not just a great player, but a fantastic leader, and he brought home the championships to prove it. But this is 1998 to 2008. This is Nick's decade, and no one elses.

Ace said...

Amen, Kristopher. Just personal opinion here, but I don't think anyone on any Detroit team touches what Lidstrom has accomplished in the last decade, and he is criminally underrated and overlooked even by his own team's fans. The guy is an all-time great. I love Stevie Y as much as any die hard Wings fan, but he was declining even when Detroit won the first cup in 1997.

In fact, Christy at Behind the Jersey, who wrote the piece for Yzerman, initially wanted to write the argument for Lidstrom. Plus, the voting speaks for itself.