Pantheon of Greats

Let’s kick this one off with a couple of quotes. First from the all-time favorite the Mighty Ducks‘ Gordon Bombay- “A team isn’t a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.” The next one is from The Sandlot, but it is probably more applicable than the one above.

“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

Every generation has their GOATs, you know, their greatest of all time players. The hot shots who will live in the pantheon of greats for decades to come. In their 90 years as a franchise, the Detroit Red Wings certainly have seen their fair share of GOATs come and go. While some of these are no-brainers and you’ll say to yourself “Duh, anyone could have put them on a list…”, others on my top 20 of All-Time Red Wings will probably leave you scratching your head wondering if I’ve blocked too many shots with my bucket.

1. Gordie Howe “Mr. Hockey” (1946-71). No list would be complete without Gordie, whether it be the Red Wings or the entire NHL. Since passing away on June 10, 2016, his legacy lives on with a laundry list of achievements that are only rivaled by one player. [You may have heard of him.]

  • Hall of Fame
  • 23x All Star
  • 4 Stanley Cups (1950, 52, 54, 55)
  • 6x Hart Trophy
  • 6x Ross Trophy

2. Steve Yzerman “The Captain” (1983-2006). Oh Captain, my Captain. Stevie Y bust on the scene in 1983 and became captain of the Wings just three years later. It took him a while to get his first inscription on Lord Stanley’s Mug [glares intently at the Ovechkin haters], a whopping 14 years after his rookie season. Still, that is short compared to how long it took other players who still have yet to hoist the Cup in June.

  • HHOF
  • 9x All Star
  • 3 Stanley Cups (1997, 98, 2002)
  • Masterson Trophy (2002-03)
  • Pearson Trophy (1988-89)
  • Selke Trophy (1999-2000)
  • Conn Smythe (1998)

3. Erik Nicklas Lidstrom “The Perfect Human” (1991-2012). The Perfect Human may not be his official nickname, but Erik is really his first name. After becoming the first European-born player to captain a Cup team in 2008, Lidstrom hung up his skates in 2012 before having his number retired by the Red Wings. When you talk about elite defensemen, Nick is always mentioned by friend and foe.

  • HHOF
  • 11x All Star
  • 4 Stanley Cups (1997, 98, 2002, 08)
  • 7x Norris Trophy
  • Conn Smythe (2002)

4. Sergei Fedorov “Feds” (1990-2003). Say what you want, he’s still one of my favorite Wings of all time. Without his explosiveness to create plays and the ability to score at will, where would Detroit be now? Would there have been a Cup in 1997? Would there have been a Cup in 2002? Without the ability to travel to parallel dimensions, no one can answer that for sure. Instead, we’re left with a faint memory of a Russian speedster who held the NHL’s Russian-born scoring title until Ovi came along.

  • HHOF
  • 6x All Star
  • 3 Stanley Cups (1997, 98, 2002)
  • Hart Trophy (1993-94)
  • Pearson Trophy (1993-94)
  • 2x Selke Trophy

5. Pavel Datsyuk “Magic Man/Magician”(2001-16). [starts bawling] I miss Datsyuk, but the man was burnt out on the NHL. He was at the top of the sport, so why not retire while you still have your health? He logged 300 hours — yes, HOURS of ice time over his 953-game career with Detroit. You’d be tired, too.

  • 3x All Star
  • 2 Stanley Cups (2002, 08)
  • 4x Lady Byng
  • 3x Selke Trophy

6. Brendan Shanahan “Shanny” (1996-2006). This is where the list starts to get a little obscure. Shanahan went on to become the head of the NHL Department of Player Safety and now is working as a double agent for Toronto [Auston Matthews to Detroit?]. Sigh, one can dream.

  • HHOF
  • 2x All Star with Detroit
  • 3 Stanley Cups (1997, 98, 2002)
  • Clancy Trophy (2002-03)

7. Ted Lindsay “Terrible Ted” (1944-65). I never got the chance to see him play live, because let’s face it- he retired 20 years before I was even born. Terrible Ted is the second member of The Production Line to make my list, which should come to no surprise to any of you readers out there.

  • HHOF
  • 11x All Star
  • 4 Stanley Cups (1950, 52, 54, 55)
  • Ross Trophy (1949-50)

8. Alex Delvecchio “Fats” (1951-74). Okay, first of all how did he come up with the nickname Fats? I have to hear that story. The third and final member of The Production Line, and I can hear you rolling your eyes at the obviousness of it.

  • HHOF
  • 13x All Star
  • 3 Stanley Cups (1952, 54, 55)
  • 3x Byng

9. Terry Sawchuck (1950-64, 1968-69). The face only a hockey puck could love. When your number is in the rafters of Joe Louis Arena (soon to be Little Caesars Arena), you could probably say you are Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

  • HHOF
  • 11x All Star
  • 4 Stanley Cups (1950, 52, 54, 55)
  • Calder Trophy (1950-51)
  • 4x Vezina Trophy

10. Larry Aurie “Little Dempsey” (1928-39). Still a sore subject as illustrated by Mike Illitch taking his number 6 off the League’s officially retired list and placing it back into circulation. Still, no player has worn Aurie’s #6 since 1959.

  • Stanley Cup (1936)
  • All Star (1936-37)

11. Chris Osgood “Ozzy” (1993-2001, 2005-11). April 1, 1998 was no joke. I still remember Ozzy boxing and wrestling with Patrick Roy as if it were yesterday. Now in the analysis business, it’s hard not to wonder if he took too many shots off the helmet. A save is a save, right?

  • 2x All Star
  • 3 Stanley Cups (1997, 98, 2002)
  • 2x Jennings
  • Fox Sports Detroit analyst

12. Vyacheslav Kozlov (1991-2001). The second member of the Russian Five to make my list, because it is my list. I’m not saying you have to agree with who I’ve haphazardly thrown on here, but at least respect my opinion.

  • 2 Stanley Cups (1997, 98)

13. Dominik Hasek “Dominator” (2001-04, 2006-08). He spent most of his career with the Sabres, but without Hasek, it’s hard to say if Detroit wins the Cup in 2002 and 2008.

  • HHOF
  • 2 Stanley Cups (2002, 08)
  • Jennings Trophy (2007-08)

14. Chris Chelios “Cheli” (1998-2009). A defector from Chicago and Montreal, Cheli is now on Detroit’s coaching staff. (Probably could use some pointers, eh?)

  • HHOF
  • All Star
  • 2 Stanley Cups (2002, 08)

15. Darren McCarty “D-Mac” (1994-2004, 2007-09). Claude Lemieux isn’t turtle enough for the turtle club. Yes that was a Master of Disguise reference, and it’s applicable after Lemieux’s dirty hit on Draper that McCarty enacted his revenge on March 26, 1997.

  • 4 Stanley Cups (1997, 98, 2002, 08)
  • 21 game winning goals

16. Vladimir Konstantinov “Vladdy” (1992-97). Watching Yzerman hand the Cup off to Vladdy after winning in 1998 still tugs at my heart strings, and I’m 31 years old. His inspiration to the team lifted them to repeat as Cup champs, and he has been a living inspiration ever since while making strides both figuratively and literally by defying the odds and walking on his own after his limousine wreck in June of 1997. [It’s rather fitting he is ranked 16th on my list, eh? That was not planned.]

  • Stanley Cup (1997)
  • 8 game winning goals

17. Kris Draper “Drapes” (1993-2011). The center of the Grind Line put up what I thought were surprising numbers over his career. Plus the fact that Detroit got him from Hartford for $1 is a pretty cool tidbit of information.

  • 4 Stanley Cups (1997, 98, 2002, 08)
  • Selke Trophy (2003-04)
  • 23 game winning goals

18. Sid Abel (1939-52). Again, another eye roll from the audience as yet another retired number graces the list of top-20 Red Wings. I know it’s obvious.

  • HHOF
  • 3x All Star
  • 3 Stanley Cups (1943, 50, 52)

19. Mickey Redmond (1971-76). Whether it be his “Mickeyisms” on Fox Sports Detroit or scoring points (which he did fairly well at almost a point per game with Detroit), Mickey Redmond gets a nod in my top 20 because why not.

  • 2x All Star
  • Fox Sports Detroit color commentator

20. Mike Vernon (1995-97). Despite only playing in 95 games for the Wings, Vernon rounds out my list because of his play in the 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

  • Stanley Cup (1997)
  • Jennings Trophy (1995-96)
  • Conn Smythe (1997)

Stats from the players on my list can be found in this nifty little spreadsheet I made up, took a screenshot of, and cut down to size to eliminate the excess clutter. While many of them played stints with other teams over their respective careers, please note that the stats provided are for ONLY their time in the Winged Wheel.


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