Without going into a full account of their competition, I'll just say that Niedermayer's win was over Lidstrom in the worst season of Lidstrom's career (at least since he was a young developing player) and Lapointe's 2nd place finish was to prime Bobby Orr.
Niedermayer's 2 10th place finishes were with only a handful of votes, so I almost didn't include them.
Niedermayer's 1998 was kind of a fluke season for him, where he scored a lot more points than he did in any other year until his Norris season. He got recognition because of the points he put up that season, not really his overall game (which was pretty good, not elite). I've seen Niedermayer of the era compared to Jay Bouwmeester and I think it's a good comparison - very good defenseman, has all the tools to be elite but not the toolbox, never really in the conversation for the true elite talents in the league.
When the Devils were winning the Cup in 2000, Niedermayer was a 30 point defenseman, who was still prone to errors in his own end.
I rank Guy Lapointe and Niedermayer very close to each other. I do have Lapointe slightly ahead though.
I can see the arguement for both guys and like with Orr and Lisdstrom, I have them closer together than most, because I value length as much as peak.
Lapointe did have the better peak though and by quite a bit.
I would agree that Guy Lapointe is somewhat underrated, which is strange for a dynasty player. I would guess that the reason Lapointe lacks the praise that dynasty players usually get is because he was clearly behind Robinson on the dynasty and Savard (even though I believe Lapointe was better) was the captain with a Conn Smythe and gets lots of praise himself. It seems strange to give a lot of praise to the guy perceived to be the third best defenceman on his team, but really no team has ever had three defencemen as good as Robinson, Lapointe and Savard. Of course it also hurt to play prime years against Orr and then peak Potvin and Robinson when it came to award voting.