draper

If the Detroit Red Wings had a Skills Competition

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo by Spokeo

Though no Detroit Red Wings player will be a part of it, the NHL All-Stars will be participating in the All-Star Skills Competition this weekend in Columbus. Among the events are competitions for fastest skater, fastest slap shot, most accurate shot, and best at breakaways. Looking at this from a different and probably more entertaining perspective, I wonder which Red Wings would participate in each event if the team had its own skills competition.

Teams used to hold these kind of events for fans in the past, but have since allowed players not invited to the NHL events to take the time off and rest up for the stretch run. Red Wings like Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek have already found sun and warm weather for the week break. If those two and the rest of the team were still in town, who would participate in what event? Who would win? Well, we thought about it and need your opinion regarding the participants and winners.

Fastest Slapshot

Who has the fastest clapper on the team? There is no clear answer like Alex Ovechkin in DC or Zdeno Chara in Boston. The Red Wings boast a few players with hard shots, but none that could break a goalie’s hand. Who gets your vote? The winner receives the Reed Larson Award for hardest shot.

Niklas Kronwall – Known for blasting shots from the point on the power play, Kronwall probably takes a clapper more than anyone on the team. He tries to be more accurate that powerful with his shot like the great Nick Lidstrom.

Jonathan Ericsson – “Big Rig” can really bring it from the blue line, but does not wind up for the cannon shot very often. He has rifled some big shots in the past though.

Teemu Pulkkinen – You can’t be compared to Brett Hull unless you have a heavy shot. Teemu’s go-to is his cannon that we are all hoping he’ll get to shoot a lot of in the show soon.

Danny DeKeyser – Another blueliner who favors the smart play over the big wind up, DeKeyser would be another participant in the hardest shot competition. Does he trump the field?

Most Accurate Shot

Guys like Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov come to mind when thinking of Red Wings who can pick a corner. Who from today’s team would win the competition though? There is an abundance of talent here, but we picked the top four for consideration. The winner receives the Sergei Fedorov Award for Shooting Excellence.

Pavel Datsyuk – Obvious participant. Magical in general for snipage.

Johan Franzen – Though he goes through dry spells, Franzen can snipe. He can go bar down on most goalies in the league when his confidence is riding high.

Tomas Tatar – Could he be the next best pure goal-scorer for the Red Wings? His team-leading 21 goals don’t lie. He could reach 40 goals this season if he keeps making goalies look bad.

Henrik Zetterberg – Most of Z’s goals are not fancy snipes, but accurately and strategically placed shots to where the goalie is not covering. Could that translate to hitting all four targets at each corner of the net?

Fastest Skater

Which Red Wings player has the best wheels? We cannot go into bars to determine that, but we can quantify who can skate around the rink the fastest. Speed is another talent the Wings have collectively, but here are the top four. Winner receives the Kris Draper Hustle Award.

Darren Helm – Like Datsyuk when it comes to sniping, Helm is an obvious candidate for fastest skater.

Luke Glendening – He would probably have Mike Babcock‘s vote. Hustle is key here.

Brendan Smith – When given a lane and an opportunity, Brendan Smith can really fly. As a defenseman, you wouldn’t normally consider him for a fastest skater competition, but he deserves the chance.

Justin Abdelkader – Just another Red Wings player who can move in a fast manner. Abdelkader could definitely keep pace with the other competitors.

Breakaway Survival Challenge

For the sake of changing things up from the norm, this competition would be to see which Red Wings player would be the last man standing in a breakaway contest. To ensure that all four are not stopped on the first try, imagine Jimmy Howard is in net for the event. This winner receives the Steve Yzerman Award.

Pavel Datsyuk – We haven’t seen as many Datsyukian Dekes lately, but Pav can still dangle with the best. He is currently the active leader for shootout goals.

Gustav Nyquist – He’s the next man up after Datsyuk in the shootout and has converted on a few attempts this season. Could he outlast the Premier of Danglestan?

Tomas Tatar – Typically number three in the shootout lineup, Tatar can also snipe goalies when it comes to shootouts.

Tomas Jurco – He was highly-touted in juniors for his dangles and we have seen flashes of that over the past season and a half. Jurco is a wild card here with the skills and not much shootout experience.

Slowest Skater

Just for funsies. Which player on the Red Wings would take the longest doing a lap around the Joe? Could one of the goalies beat them? These players can have cinder blocks in their skates at times. Johan Franzen is not an option here because he can skate fast…when he wants. I won’t elaborate on why they are slow to prevent hurt feelings. Just vote for who you think needs turbo boosters to reach normal speed. I’m not sure this warrants an award, but winner get the Andreas Lilja Cement Shoes Award.

Vote! See, voting can be fun when it doesn’t involve politics or prom king or queen! Vote!

Top 9: Career Shorthanded Goals for the Red Wings

Detroit’s penalty kill was abysmal against the Bruins. Just horrible. But now it is the offseason and the Red Wings’ management can look to the free agent market, trading block, and minors for players that can better contribute to the penalty kill. They could also find someone else to coach the special teams with a struggling power play as well. I heard Adam Oates is available for power play duties.

This Tuesday’s Top 9 will focus on the top scoring penalty killers the Red Wings have sent out over the course of their history. It is more of a Top 8 with a couple of ties on the list. Are there any surprises?

8. Marcel Dionne, Nicklas Lidstrom, and John Ogrodnick: 10 goals

Marcel Dionne

Marcel Dionne – Photo courtesy of Hockey Hall of Fame

6. Gordie Howe and Nick Libett: 11 goals

Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe – Photo courtesy of Walter Iooss Jr./SI

5. Shawn Burr: 14 goals

Shawn Burr

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

4. Kirk Maltby: 18 goals

Kirk Maltby

Photo courtesy of Detroit Red Wings

3. Kris Draper: 21 goals

Kris Draper

Photo courtesy of Detroit Red Wings

2. Sergei Fedorov: 31 goals

Sergei Fedorov

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

1. Steve Yzerman: 50 goals

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Hockey Hall of Fame

 

Stats provided by hockey-reference.com

Detroit Red Wings Playoff Hockey: More Than Just a Game

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports

It’s gameday.

Today is the return of Red Wings playoff hockey. For the 23rd year in a row, Detroit’s beloved hockey team will begin its quest for the Stanley Cup.

Legends of the game have donned the Winged Wheel in pursuit of the most glorious trophy in sports. Some have succeeded, while others have failed. However, every year there is an optimistic feeling entering the playoffs, no matter what the circumstances are. Biased? Maybe.

As a Red Wings fans, I’ve seen it all. We have been the number one seed and captured the Cup. We have also been the number one seed and have been eliminated in the first round. Anything is possible.

We have seen the highs. “McCarty draws. McCarty in. McCarty…SCORES! A magnificent goal! Darren McCarty!” We’ve seen Igor Larionov, the oldest player on the ice, shelf a backhand over a sprawling Arturs Irbe in triple overtime. We’ve seen Steve Yzerman (three times) and Nicklas Lidstrom hoist the Stanley Cup while the Red Wings faithful erupt in a euphoria unlike any other.

We have seen the lows too. Both Yzerman and Lidstrom had their careers come to a close after a disappointed first round upset. We’ve seen the New Jersey Devils sweep the Red Wings in the finals after Detroit had steamrolled everyone in their path. We’ve seen Claude Lemieux smash Kris Draper’s face in. On top of that, the Avalanche eliminating the Red Wings after a record-setting 62 wins during the regular season to advance to the finals was a tough pill to swallow.

Vladimir Konstantinov

Photo courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images

Emotion does not quite capture the feeling of Red Wings fans during playoff season. Though we are away from the players in the stands or through the TV at home, we are there with the players feeling what they feel. Hockeytown’s reaction to the 1997 Stanley Cup championship was equivalent to Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, and the rest of the team celebrating on the ice after overcoming so many obstacles during the season.

Nothing can compare to the way hockey players feel after winning a championship. Hockeytown knows that feeling though, even if we are not on the ice with them. The feeling after losing a crucial game and having your season end is one of the worst, most gut-wrenching emotions every hockey player will endure. Detroit knows that feeling as well. But every year, we hope and pray for that championship elation at the end of the playoffs. Addiction? Possibly.

As the 2014 playoffs begin, we ready ourselves for a familiar setting, even if some things are different. Sure, Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson are out of the lineup, but can that stop Detroit? No. We are the eighth seed playing the President’s Trophy-winning Bruins. Is that a problem? No, Edmonton eliminated us in a similar circumstance in 2006. We might as well have the top seed with all the confidence the Red Wings and fans have entering the first round.

Best of luck, Detroit. We are all behind you and cannot wait to see the Red Wings on top at the end of the pursuit.

Let’s go Red Wings.

Throwback Thursday: Taking a look back at the 1997 Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Mary Schroeder/Detroit Free Press

In the spring of 1997, the Detroit Red Wings captured Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in 42 years. Steve Yzerman led the team through a trying regular season to the finals, where the Red Wings faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers. You all know this though. We all know this. I even have the championship video committed to memory and have been able to recite the lines from the “documentary” since I was a kid.

This Stanley Cup victory was especially sweet for Detroit because most of the Red Wings’ fan base had not seen a championship in their lifetime. It was the first one I had seen, despite the fact that I was only seven. It was also the first my dad had seen though. That victory was the first time the Stanley Cup was brought home to Hockeytown since my Grandpa was 33 years old.

Detroit had a rough season that year trying to find an identity. They had won a league record 62 games the previous season, but did not bring home the Cup. The year before, the Red Wings were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the first round. The Wings had a coming-together moment on March 26th that propelled them into the playoffs on a high note. Darren McCarty finally got his vengeance on Claude Lemieux for his hit on Kris Draper the previous spring. Patrick Roy came to Lemieux’s aid, but Brendan Shanahan met him at center ice. Adam Foote and Mike Vernon soon joined the fray. All of this started from a stop in the play because of Igor Larionov going after Peter Forsberg. Even though “The Professor” was over a decade younger than Forsberg, he stood up and helped to inspire the team. Detroit came back to win the game 6-5 in overtime.

Those were only a few players crucial to the team’s success that year. Scotty Bowman and the Red Wing’s front office put together a grittier team than recent years, instead of relying on talent alone. Let’s take a look at the lineup and how each player was acquired.

C: Steve Yzerman (C) – Drafted 4th overall by Detroit in the 1983 Draft.

LW: Tomas Sandstrom – Acquired from Pittsburgh for Greg Johnson halfway through the season.

RW: Darren McCarty – Drafted 46th overall by Detroit in 1992.

C: Sergei Fedorov (A) – Drafted 74th overall by Detroit in 1989.

LW: Slava Kozlov – Drafted 45th overall by Detroit in 1990.

RW: Doug Brown – Claimed off waivers from New Jersey in 1995.

C: Igor Larionov – Acquired from San Jose for Ray Sheppard in 1995.

LW: Brendan Shanahan – Acquired from Hartford along with Brian Glynn for Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey, and a first round pick one game into the season.

RW: Martin Lapointe – Drafted 10th overall by Detroit in 1991.

C: Kris Draper – Acquired from Winnipeg in 1993 for future considerations ($1).

LW: Kirk Maltby – Acquired from Edmonton for Dan McGillis in 1996.

RW: Joey Kocur – Signed as a free agent in December of that season.

D: Nicklas Lidstrom – Drafted 53rd overall by Detroit in 1989.

D: Larry Murphy – Acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline for future considerations.

D: Slava Fetisov – Acquired from New Jersey in 1995 for a third round pick.

D: Vladimir Konstantinov – Drafted 221st overall by Detroit in 1989.

D: Aaron Ward – Acquired from Winnipeg for Paul Ysabaert and a fourth round pick in 1993.

D: Bob Rouse – Signed as a free agent prior to the 1994-95 season.

G: Mike Vernon – Acquired from Calgary for Steve Chiasson in 1994.

G: Chris Osgood – Drafted 54th overall by Detroit in 1991.

 

Other key contributors that season drafted by Detroit were Mathieu Dandenault, Jamie Pushor, Tomas Holmstrom, Kevin Hodson, and Anders Eriksson. Detroit signed Tim Taylor as a free agent in 1993.

Shanahan, Lapointe, McCarty, Sandstrom, Draper, Maltby, and Kocur gave Detroit sandpaper that they could balance across all four lines. The acquisition of Larry Murphy gave Detroit’s defense a former Cup winner that brought out the best in Nick Lidstrom.

No one predicted this team would win the Cup in 1997 after everyone did the previous year. The Red Wings overcame adversity to eventually become the best team in the NHL. Who is to say the Red Wings of 2014 can’t do the same?

Playing a Two-Way Game

Alex Ovechkin

Photo courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Alex Ovechkin is a polarizing figure around the NHL. No, he is not a Red Wing, but does have a place in this blog. Here’s why: Steve Yzerman was once in a similar situation as Ovechkin.

Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, our beloved captain lit up the scoreboard, but the Red Wings never were legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup. They reached the Campbell Conference (Western Conference) Finals in 1987 and 1988 only to be eliminated quickly by the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers won the Cup both years because Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier could do anything they wanted on the ice. Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey (only in 1987), Craig Simpson, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, and Grant Fuhr also “contributed.” Detroit did not return to the conference finals until 1995.

In 1993, Yzerman was approached by newly-appointed coach Scotty Bowman. He wanted Yzerman to focus more on his defensive game in order to help develop the team. Bowman said the points would come, but not as often as they usually did. However, his contributions playing well in the defensive zone would more than compensate for the loss in production. Yzerman could have easily said no and continued to score at will. He reached 100 points in each of his previous six seasons.

Instead, Steve decided to focus more on the defensive side.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of AP

Now, the leader of the team and leading scorer was playing a more defensive style of hockey and it began to rub off on the rest of the team. Detroit continued to score as well. Sergei Fedorov and Ray Sheppard each had 50 goal seasons. Fedorov bought in as well and won the Selke Trophy that year. He would win it again in 1996.

Scotty Bowman taught superstar players that how to play defense and continue scoring, even if it was at a slower pace than they are used to. That has rubbed off on Red Wings players since then. Guys like Yzerman, Fedorov, Kris Draper, Darren McCarty, Keith Primeau, Dallas Drake, Slava Kozlov, and Martin Lapointe were on that 1993-94 Red Wings team that Scotty Bowman influenced. The next four years produced incredible results stemming from a defensive system. Detroit reached the finals in 1995, set a record for regular season wins in 1996, and won the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998.

All of those players are now retired. However, the way they played the game rubbed off on younger players. Last I heard, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were two of the best two-way players in the NHL. Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary also got a chance to play with Steve Yzerman and learn the ropes of defensive hockey. Now, guys like Gustav Nyquist, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, and Tomas Tatar are all playing strong defensively (some more than others though).

Getting back to Ovechkin – he needs to change his style. As of this morning, he is -35 on the season with 74 points. He only has 38 points at even strength. That means that 73 goals have been scored while he has been on the ice. That number is absolutely absurd. He is a right wing, so his contributions to the defensive end may not be as crucial, but the problem is not the Caps defense, centers, and goalies. If someone is not covered in the defensive zone, everyone overcompensates to cover, often leaving their man. This scramble usually results in a goal against.

Will adopting a more defensive style work? Dale Hunter tried that a few seasons ago, but him and Ovechkin were often feuding and they did not advance far in the playoffs. Perhaps a change of players and management in DC will produce better results, even if Ovechkin’s numbers decline. Ask Steve Yzerman what meant more, three Stanley Cups or putting up 100 points every season? In a crazy hypothetical situation, I’m sure Yzerman would have had no problem refraining from scoring if it meant Stanley Cups in Detroit.

Thank you Scotty Bowman for changing the Detroit Red Wings culture to a more accountable one that continues today. Thank you Steve Yzerman for the selflessness that led Detroit to three Stanley Cups.

The All-Time Red Wings Team

All-time team

Photo courtesy of Carlos Osorio/AP

I have often thought of who would be selected for an all-time greatest Red Wings team. This would be a team that would combine the greatest players from today, my childhood, my dad’s childhood, and even when his dad was growing up. Imagine Steve Yzerman skating the puck into the offensive zone, walking around a defenseman, and dishing the puck off to Gordie Howe, who one-times it into the back of the net. What if Bob Probert was called for a roughing penalty and Kris Draper and Ted Lindsay were sent out as the forwards of the penalty kill with Nicklas Lidstrom and Marcel Pronovost on defense?

I have always known who I would select for my all-time greatest team. In Fall of 2012, Eklund, over at Hockeybuzz, put together a content strategy that had his blog readers vote on the members of each teams’ all-time greatest team. They would compete in simulated games on NHL 2013 after each player would uploaded with the appropriate ratings to create a buzz during the lockout. Detroit’s roster had all of the obvious choices – guys like Yzerman, Howe, Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, and Terry Sawchuk, plus a few questionable choices.

Take a look at my team, the Hockeybuzz team, and a team composed of the top scorers by position and decide who you think best exemplifies the Red Wings’ all-time best.

Red Wings Intelligence Team:RWI Team

Hockeybuzz Team:Hockeybuzz Team

Top Scorers Team:
Top Scoring Team

April Fools Day: Beware of the Pranksters

In every hockey locker room, there are pranksters. The Red Wings are no different. Two of the more popular goofs in recent history were Dino Ciccarelli and Kris Draper. Dino was a general prankster and Draper specialized in getting guys good on their birthday. He became known as the “birthday bandit.” Check some of the Red Wings’ work below:

Dino Ciccarelli:

 

Kris Draper, Patrick EavesChris Osgood:

 

Steve Yzerman even had his hand in a few pranks:

 

Brad May:

 

Finally, in this last video, Henrik Zetterberg pranks Pavel Datsyuk and Jiri Hudler while they were helping serve coffee for a “Hockeytown Thanks” promotion. Skip to the 1:00 mark.

 

Happy April Fools!