There are many great names that could be included in a "Best Red Wings of All Time" list, but there are certain names that are synonymous with Red Wings; Names that are routinely mentioned; Names that can be rattled off by even fans of other teams. This list is reserved for truly legendary names that will always come up in a "greatest Red Wings" conversation. They mean a lot not only to this historic hockey team, but to the NHL and the game of hockey itself. Here they are, in no particular order:
There is something to be said about someone who is recognized as Mr. Hockey; even by non-Red Wings fans. Gordie Howe leads the Red Wings in all time points, goals and games played, all while also ranking third all time in penalty minutes for the team. The term Gordie Howe Hat Trick is credited to his name, symbolizing a player achieving a goal, an assist and a fight in a single game. He served on the Production Line, a line that dominated the NHL in the 40s and 50s, along with Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel.
He was one component of the famous Production line, along with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. During the late 40s and early 50s, all 3 players on this line ranked among NHL's leading scorers. Sid Abel played in the NHL during a time when the pay was low and there was only a handful of teams. He was given the name Boot Nose after an altercation between him and Maurice Richard of the Montreal Canadiens. Sid Abel also served as Head Coach of the Red Wings.
He is one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. He is among only two goaltenders to achieve over 100 shutouts in NHL history during the regular season, with his total of 103 (115 including the playoffs). Terry Sawchuk played during a time when goaltenders did not wear a mask. As a result, he received over 400 stitches on his face, even some on his eyeball. Not until about half way through his career did he begin wearing a mask. At one time, a makeup artist drew stitches on Terry Sawchuk's face to represent all the injuries he had endured. The artist did not have enough room to include all of the stitches.
He was referred to by his team mates as The Perfect Human because he was always in the right position on the ice. Nicklas Lidstrom was such a good defender that much of his success cannot be seen on highlight reels, because he was in such good position that he didn't need to make a "pretty" play. He leads the Red Wings in all time +/- (10th all time in the NHL) and is among the top 10 in team history for most other stats. He was the first European Captain to win the Stanley Cup. He also holds the all time NHL record of 1,564 games played with a single team. Nicklas Lidstrom is arguably one of the greatest defenders of all time, winning the Norris Trophy seven times throughout his career.
Terrible Ted Lindsay earned his nickname from his toughness on the ice. He was one of the premier players in the NHL during his career, playing on the famous Production Line with Gordie Howe and Sid Abel. Ted Lindsay can be found near the top of almost all statistical categories for the Red Wings for stats that were recorded during his time, and was the first player with a dominating mixture of skill and grit to enter the NHL at the time. He is one of the pioneers of the union in hockey, representing the Detroit Red Wings players and starting what is the NHLPA today.
The longest serving Captain in NHL history. He is rightly credited with the nickname The Captain. In honor of his tenure as team captain, the Captain's "C" is affixed to his retirement banner. Steve Yzerman was undeniably the key player drafted to the Red Wings roster in the 80's that turned the team's reputation around. During his career with the team, he led Detroit from being known as the Dead Wings to being known as Hockeytown. Steve Yzerman led the Red Wings to their first Stanley Cup championship in four decades.
No player except Nicklas Lidstrom has played more games in the NHL for just a single team than Alex Delvecchio. When he joined the Red Wings in 1952, he was added to the Production Line with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, continuing the legacy of the already dominant line. Alex Delvecchio is beat out by only Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman for all time goals and assists for the Red Wings, and he is fourth all time in assists for the team. He has also served as Coach and General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings.
Sergei Fedorov had to sneak away and defect from the Soviet Union in order to play for the Red Wings in the NHL. Consequently, he brought an offensive explosion to the Red Wings lineup in the 90s. He racked up 400 goals and 554 assists for 954 points in the 12 seasons he played for Detroit. He is ranked in the top 5 all time leaders for the Red Wings in goals, assists, points, +/-, powerplay goals, shorthanded goals, game winning goals, shots, and overtime goals (whew, that's a lot!) His great speed and skill helped his Russian Five line dominate the NHL and lead the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup.
He dazzles and dangles his way past players of the opposing teams and undresses goalies with his "Datsyukian Dekes". Pavel Datsyuk is currently considered one of the greatest players in the NHL. He has won the Lady Byng Trophy four times in his career, for outstanding sportsmanship. Pavel Datsyuk has been rated amongst his peers in the NHL as the cleanest player, the most difficult to play against and the hardest to take the puck from, among others. One of the most amazing facts about Pavel Datsyuk's superstar status is that he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings at the 171st pick in 1998. It is beleived that the Red Wings scouts were the only NHL scouts to see Pavel Datsyuk play prior to that draft, giving the Red Wings a late gem.
Throughout history, the Detroit Red Wings have had the pleasure of being home to an astounding number of great players. Being on such a list as this one, on a team with such rich history, not only marks them as the best Red Wings of all time but also ranks them amongst the greatest players in NHL history.
There is no doubt that many could argue some names could be added to this list. If you feel my list is incomplete, please feel free to share your opinion in the comments.