eriksson

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?

The Trade That Almost Was

First off, congratulations to the Red Wings for clinching the playoffs for the 23rd straight year. I can’t wait for the playoffs to start and for the Wings to make some noise in the East.

Wayne Gretzky

Photo courtesy of Rick Stewart/Getty Images

On August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles in a trade that created shockwaves throughout the hockey world. “The Great One” left the only team he knew only a couple months after leading the Oilers to their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. Gretzky was traded along with Marty McSorley and future Red Wing Mike Krushelnyski for another future Red Wing in Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million, and first round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993.

Some people do not know that Gretzky was allowed to pick his destination after Oilers owner, Peter Pocklington, told him that they had to move him. Pocklington knew Gretzky was going to be a free agent after the 1988-89 season and wanted to receive something in return rather than lose Gretzky outright in free agency. Gretzky begrudgingly picked Los Angeles over another team because his wife, Janet Jones Gretzky, was an actress in Hollywood. That other team was the Detroit Red Wings.

We almost acquired Wayne Gretzky in 1988. We had just lost to the Oilers in the Western Conference finals the previous spring and lost to Gretzky’s team. Imagine the possibilities for the 1988-89 season and beyond if we had acquired Gretzky. But what would it have taken to acquire Wayne?

Los Angeles gave up two great, young players in Carson and Gelinas. Carson had just come off of a 55 goal season in LA and Gelinas was one of their top prospects in juniors. Who would have been the Red Wings equivalent of those two players? I believe three players would have matched Carson and Gelinas. Adam Oates, Petr Klima, and Joe Murphy could have gone to Detroit for Wayne Gretzky. Oates and Klima were just coming off of a great playoff against Edmonton. Joe Murphy was a former first overall pick that still had a lot of upside at the time. Klima and Murphy (and Adam Graves)would later go to Edmonton for Jimmy Carson and Kevin McClelland in 1989. Add in the cash and draft picks and there may have been a deal.

Now the trade between Detroit and Edmonton stands at Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley for Adam Oates, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, $15 million, and first round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993. Sounds like a good deal, but let’s look at who Detroit drafted in those years. In 1989, the Red Wings drafted Mike Sillinger in the first round. He had a great career, but was traded in 1995 and never made much of an impact in Detroit. In 1991, the Red Wings took Martin Lapointe in the first round. Lapointe played a crucial role in the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup runs. In 1993, Detroit drafted Anders Eriksson in the first round. Eriksson was a top defensive prospect for Detroit in the mid- to late-90’s and played in the back-to-back finals runs in 1997 and 1998. Eriksson was also traded for Chris Chelios in 1999. Chelios played a role in the 2002 and 2008 Cups as well.

Now the trade stands at Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley for Adam Oates, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, $15 million, Mike Sillinger, Martin Lapointe, and Anders Eriksson. There’s no telling if Edmonton would have drafted those players, but let’s assume so for the sake of this argument. Is this a trade we would want over 25 years later knowing the outcome? No, but we could not have predicted the future back then. Here is a quick look at what the 1988-89 Red Wings could have looked like:Projected 1988-89 Lines with Gretzky

The 1988-89 Red Wings finished 11th in the league that year, while Los Angeles finished 7th. Because Detroit finished 11th that year, they were able to draft a few good players in the draft. Those players were Sillinger, Bob Boughner, Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Dallas Drake, and Vladimir Konstantinov. Those players may not have been available when and if Detroit finished with a better record with Gretzky on the team. The same can be said about players drafted in later drafts like Keith Primeau, Slava Kozlov, Lapointe, Jamie Pushor, Chris Osgood, Mike Knuble, Darren McCarty, Dan McGillis, Eriksson, Mathieu Dandenault, and Tomas Holmstrom.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Another argument against the Gretzky trade is what if Steve Yzerman could not develop the way he did with Gretzky as the star of the team? He could have asked for a trade elsewhere where he could have been the star. Gretzky and company producing a better record could have kept Jacques Demers as the coach in Detroit for a longer amount of time as well. That would mean that Scotty Bowman may never have come to Detroit.

It’s cool to think that Wayne Gretzky could have been a Red Wing, but the repercussions of the trade would not have been worth it knowing what we know now. I’m thankful Wayne went to LA and won zero Cups while Yzerman and company stayed in Detroit and eventually won four Cups since.