probert

Chicago Blackhawks: True Rival of Today’s Detroit Red Wings

Chris Chelios

Photo by Reuters/Shaun Best

Often times, NBCSports’ Wednesday Night Rivalry Night delivers a matchup of two marketable teams from big market cities. Tonight’s Red Wings-Blackhawks matchup offers that, plus a respectable rivalry in today’s NHL.

Jonathon Ericsson once said in a Bob Duff article that the players from both teams always get up for the Detroit-Chicago games and have mutual respect for each other. The matchup is truly quality hockey at its finest.

Already this season, the Detroit Red Wings have been featured on Rivalry Night a number of times, including matchups with the Capitals, Penguins, and Avalanche. There is plenty of bad blood with the Avalanche in the history of the two franchises, but none as of late. The Penguins and Capitals are obviously former Stanley Cup opponents, but do not offer much else in history or distaste for each other.

The Red Wings-Blackhawks rivalry can be traced back to the days when the Norris family owned both teams. Their proximity to each other and distance from other original six teams offered a Midwest rivalry during Original Six play. Red Wing greats Glenn Hall, Ted Lindsay, and Sid Abel all spent a portion of their careers in Chicago (usually through unbalanced, intra-family trades to improve the Blackhawks).

Of the players on today’s teams, only Marian Hossa and Danny Cleary have played for both the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Greats Chris Chelios and Bob Probert also spent time as fan favorites for both franchises during their careers.

The showcase of these two teams for Rivalry Night features Detroit’s one true, contemporary rivalry. It can be traced back to the franchises’ entrance to the NHL, but most recently to the 2009 Western Conference Finals, where the Red Wings defeated the Blackhawks in five games on Darren Helm’s overtime goal.

Since then, the Red Wings and Blackhawks have been among the NHL’s most talented teams year-after-year. They feature superstars, budding players, and the most pure skills between any two teams in the NHL. Look back to the quality of hockey played during the 2013 playoff matchup of these two teams. Though the Red Wings lost, you can’t help but appreciate the talent these two teams put on the ice for that series.

The teams’ talent and compete levels are similar because their systems are bred from the same template: the Red Wings franchise. It’s no wonder the Blackhawks resemble the Red Wings—Scotty Bowman is a team consultant and his son is the GM. The Blackhawks are modeled after the success the Red Wings experienced over the past two decades. Pretty cool to be model franchise for rival teams and other NHL clubs, huh?

Enjoy the game tonight. It’s the best matchup in the NHL and the best rivalry the Red Wings are a part of today.

Do the Red Wings Need Size in the Lineup?

Bob Probert

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

It was apparent against the big, bad Bruins that the Red Wings were lacking in the physicality department. Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, and Kevan Miller pushed the Red Wings around and did not allow them to achieve consistency in their speed game. Since the Red Wings couldn’t play their game, they could not generate optimal scoring opportunities. Tuukka Rask is a world-class goalie and stopped everything the Bruins kept to the outside with ease.

Look at the teams still in the playoffs. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal all have complete teams with size and toughness to keep things in check. In Sunday’s Western Conference matchup, players like Brandon Bollig, Matt Greene, and Bryan Bickell keep everyone in line on the ice. There is no one player dominating or roughing everyone up. Those players police the ice, but have skills other than toughness.

Justin Abdelkader has similar attributes for the Red Wings, but no one fears him on the ice. He hits and fights more out of necessity than desire. Other than Abdelkader, the Red Wings really don’t have players that grind and wear down opponents physically, much like how the Grind Line was so effective for the Red Wings from 1997 to 2002.

Should the Red Wings invest in players to fill that role? Jonathan Ericsson, Drew Miler, and Brian Lashoff can be physical, but they don’t scare anyone. In the past, guys like Bob Probert, Darren McCarty, and Kirk Maltby created room for other players and lines to generate scoring chances. I think they need one more player to really wear down some teams.

Imagine an energy line of Darren Helm at center, Justin Abdelkader on a wing, and another player with grit. They could rough up a team with their up-tempo, physical style and create room for the other lines to score. Steve Downie, Steve Ott, and Brian Boyle cold all fill this role and contribute on the penalty kill if called upon. Boyle is currently filling this role for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. He gets under the skin of opposing players and has the physical strength to keep them from playing their game.

On the other hand, the Red Wings have not really employed this strategy lately. They tried with Jordin Tootoo, but he was too one-dimensional to fit the Red Wings system. In addition, Drew Miller is already slated for energy line duty and does not fit anywhere else on the team. Miller could play with Helm and an addition, but is slower and less physical than Abdelkader.

My vote is to add size. The players mentioned above would be good fits, as would Mitch Callahan on a line with Helm and Abdelkader. Speed and physicality will allow smaller players on other lines to do their thing without much resistance, or else those defenders would be dealt with. Detroit doesn’t need a fighter, just someone to scare the other teams.

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

Friday Fun: Red Wings’ Streak Continues

I’m still pumped the streak will continue for the Red Wings. At times during this season, thoughts of making the playoffs were more of a wish than a guarantee. Nonetheless, Detroit will make the playoffs for the 23rd straight year. Today’s Friday Fun is a video tribute to the playoff streak and the 23 overtime goals scored in that time. Coincidence??? Thanks to YouTube’s awood40 for yet another awesome Red Wings video. It was great to see players like Bob Probert, Bob Errey, Shawn Burr, Igor Larionov, Yves Racine, and young Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman in action. Enjoy 23 years of success:

 

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

Top 9: All-Time Penalty Minute Leaders

On March 26th, 1997, all hell broke loose at the Joe. Pent up frustrations boiled over during the heated matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and the Red Wings leading to a line brawl with Darren McCarty and “the turtle”, Claude Lemieux, at center stage. With the 17th anniversary of the brawl this past Wednesday, today’s list is going to take a look at the Top 9 penalty minute leaders in Red Wings’ history.

For a look at the fights that happened 17 years ago, visit hockeyfights.com and view the game’s profile. You won’t be disappointed.

Here are the Top 9:

9. Gary Bergman– 1101 PIMS

Gary Bergman

Photo courtesy of Steve Babineau/Getty Images

8. Reed Larson– 1127 PIMS

Reed Larson

Photo courtesy of Steve Babineau/Getty Images

7. Dennis Polonich– 1242 PIMSDennis Polonich

6. Darren McCarty– 1302 PIMS

Darren McCarty

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

5. Ted Lindsay– 1423 PIMS

Lindsay

Photo courtesy of TedLindsay.com

4. Gerard Gallant– 1600 PIMS

Gerard Gallant

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

3. Gordie Howe– 1643 PIMS

Gordie Howe

Photo courtesy of Richard Meek/SI

2. Joe Kocur– 1963 PIMS

Joe Kocur

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

1. Bob Probert– 2090 PIMS

Bob Probert

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

Stats provided by hockeydb.com