klima

Best Draft in Detroit Red Wings History?

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.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Steve Babineau/Getty Images

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.

Nicklas Lidstrom

Photo courtesy of Doug Maclelland/Getty Images

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

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.