Ken Holland and the Red Wings scouts have made a living drafting players in late rounds that blossomed into superstars (see Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg). Some players have been busts though. Igor Grigorenko and Tom McCollum certainly fit that description, although Grigorenko had the excuse of being in a car accident and never really regaining his form.
There have been a couple drafts in Detroit’s history that stand out as their best, but which one is the overall best? Let’s take a look at the 1983 and 1989 drafts.
In 1983, the Red Wings had the fourth overall pick and were lucky enough to have Steve Yzerman fall to him. We could just compare Yzerman to the other draft and have a pretty good argument for his draft being the best. They took Lane Lambert in the second round and had him for three okay seasons before trading him to New York for Glen Hanlon. In the third round, the Red Wings picked another long-time Red Wing in Bob Probert. Detroit took Czech sniper Petr Klima 86th overall and then Grind Line member Joe Kocur two picks later. Finally, the Red Wings took Stu Grimson in the tenth round for some more toughness. Grimson did not sign and was drafted again by Calgary two years later. Combined, this draft produced 1,323 goals, 1,713 assists, 3,036 points, and over 10,000 penalty minutes in the careers of those players. They also combined for six Stanley Cup rings.
Six years later in 1989, the Red Wings were coming off of a Western Conference finals loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers. They had reached the Western Conference finals the year before as well. In the draft, they took Regina Pats center, Mike Sillinger, in the first round with the 11th pick. In the second round, the Red Wings drafted defenseman Bob Boughner. Then the fun began. The Wings took Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, and Dallas Drake in the third, fourth, and sixth rounds, respectively. Finally, in the 11th round, Detroit took a chance and drafted a Russian defenseman by the name of Vladimir Konstantinov. Of the 14 players drafted in 1989, only one other player besides those mentioned played a game in the NHL (Shawn McCosh played nine games in his career). All of these players combined for 1,227 goals, 2,367 assists, 3,594 points, and over 5,000 penalty minutes. These players also combined for nine Stanley Cup rings as well.
So which draft was better? For the sake of this argument, let’s decide which draft was better for the Red Wings.
The players from the 1983 had direct and indirect impacts on winning the recent championships. Steve Yzerman was obviously at the center of it all. Joey Kocur was there grinding it out. Stu Grimson and Bob Probert were there before the championships to protect the skilled players as they developed. Petr Klima indirectly helped as well. He was traded in a package for Jimmy Carson, who was traded to Los Angeles later for Paul Coffey in a multi-player deal. Paul Coffey would eventually be sent to Hartford for Brendan Shanahan, who was right there alongside Yzerman for three championships.
From the 1989 draft, Lidstrom, Fedorov, and Konstantinov developed with the Wings and won the 1997 championship together. Bob Boughner and Mike Sillinger did not have any impact on the Cup runs. Sillinger was actually traded for Stu Grimson in 1995 before the run to the finals. Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov were dynasty players that were essential to winning the 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cups as well. Dallas Drake and Lidstrom were in Detroit for the 2008 Cup as well.
My vote: the 1989 draft was the best. It comes down to Yzerman vs. Fedorov and Lidstrom. Steve Yzerman was my hockey idol growing up, but Fedorov and Lidstrom were essential to starting the Red Wings dynasty.
What do you think?
Stats and draft results provided by hockeydb.com