Thanks André! I remember about 10 years ago, maybe a little more now, I was watching hockey with one of my good friends (who really knew the game and this is way before I studied the history of the game) and I noted, "I don't think we realize it, but we're watching something really special with Nicklas Lidstrom" and it turns out he remembered it and brought it up a few years ago and I don't think either of us realized how dominant Lidstrom was going to be even into his advanced years. What a terrific player.
As for Bourque, he seems like he's pretty underrated...
I mean, the guy made the 1st or 2nd all-star team (meaning that he was at least a top-4 defenseman in the entire league) every year from 1979-80 to 1995-96 - and those were mostly first team awards! He also then made a team in 98-99 and 00-01. Additionally was a "third-team" all-star in two other seasons.
Just for comparison (not placed in descending order, rather left in year order):
Norris: 4th, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 4th, 1st, 1st, 4th, 1st**, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 8th, 7th, 3rd, 7th, 2nd
Hart: 5th, 5th, 10th, 2nd, 8th, 2nd^, 4th, 6th
* - named a unaminous first-team all-star in 1987 and captured 52 of 54 first place votes for the Norris (!) - this would become fairly normal in his peak seasons
^ - Lost the Hart Trophy by 2 voting points (227 to 225 to Messier) but upon investigation, the Edmonton writers purposely left Bourque completely off their ballot to give Messier a better chance to win the Hart. Even two third place votes for Bourque would have secured him a Hart Trophy, the first by a d-man since Bobby Orr in 1972 (before Orr, the last d-man to win the Hart Trophy was Babe Pratt in the war-tattered 1944 season - meaning Bourque was the rightful winner of the only Hart trophy for a d-man not given to Orr in 50 years!). There's no justification for this, as 58 of 63 first place votes were split between Messier and Bourque. There were literally no other choices in the league that season. No justification for Bourque not be top-3.
** - 1990: Bourque a unaminous Norris winner. All 63 first place votes placed league-wide (!)
It's difficult to get into the top-3 and 4 d-men in the league without getting big time 1st and 2nd place votes...look at how many times he was considered one of the best d-man in the league (every one of his 22 seasons - only 3 years was he not considered top 5, 0 years was he considered outside the top 8) which is backed statistically and by the ol' eye test he was clearly one of the best players ever when you watched him and he dominated through different eras. In the 80's in the wide-open hockey, he would regularly put together 80 and 90 point seasons, he's led the league in shots 3 times. And then into the late 90's and early 2000's where he still dominated on both sides of the puck. All that ice time he logged and he never took 100 minutes in PIMs during the season which means he played a clean and effective game. In fact, he sees quite a bit of Lady Byng votes in his time as well. He wasn't a minus player on the season until 1997 (the Bruins finished last in the league that year).
And that Stanley Cup championship at the end of his career wasn't exactly handed to him while he was a bit player. He logged #1 d-man minutes all regular season (over 26 minutes) and then increased the workload in the playoffs (28:32 per night at the age of 40 on a Cup winner!) Here's a defenseman with over 400 goals (he's the only one, in fact, only 4 others have 300+ and he's over 400!) and nearly 1200 assists (1 of only 2 that has even 1000+ [Coffey]) and 1579 points (most all time; only one other player has 1300 or more points on his career and he's nearly at 1600!).
Norris: 7th, 6th, 6th, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 6th, 1st, 1st, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 1st
Hart: 9th, 10th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 4th
First team All-Star: 10
Second team All-Star: 2
"Third team" All-Star: 3
61 of 62 first place votes 1st all-star team in 2003; 133 of 134 first place votes 1st all-star team in 2008
Lidstrom has a strong voting record as well. But he was never really, really strongly considered for the Hart. Bourque was really given some serious looks at a non-defensemen award. Lidstrom played for 21 years, but didn't dominate voting until Bourque, MacInnis, Chelios, Leetch, Coffey, etc. left the league or fell out of their prime.
Lidstrom wins his Norrises against: Niedermayer, Chara, Phaneuf, Keith, Green, Weber, Boyle, etc.
Bourque wins his Norrises against: Larry Robinson, Borje Salming, Mark Howe, Denis Potvin, Rod Langway, Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Doug Wilson, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, etc.
If anything Bourque is closer to 3rd than he is 5th.