One of the original six franchises the Detroit Red Wings have a long and storied history, and no shortage of great players have worn the winged wheel. In the early 1950s and again from 1997-2009 they were the class of the NHL, and they boast a boatload of Hall of Famers on their all-time roster. So which of those legends made the cut as the greatest Detroit Red Wings of all time? Read on to find out.
10 – Brendan Shanahan
This feisty forward is one of the purest snipers in the history of the game, with 650 career goals at the time of this writing. He spent 9 full seasons with the Red Wings, scoring 309 goals during his time there, while helping them to 3 Stanley Cups. He wasn’t afraid to drop the mitts when the occasion demanded either. This combination of skill and grit make Shanny deserving of the number 9 spot on this list of the top 10 Red Wings of all time.
9 – Alex Delvecchio
This career Red Wing played an incredible 1,549 games for the Wings between 1951 and 1974. He racked up 1,281 points during that time, and helped the team capture 3 Stanley Cups in the 50s.
8 – Pavel Datsyuk
Currently at number 8 and still building his resume, Pavel Datsyuk will no doubt finish his career higher up this list. An absolute magician with the puck, Pavel Datsyuk is arguably the NHL’s most gifted stickhandler and makes regular appearances on highlight reels around the NHL. His dynamic dangling aside though, he is one of the game’s best two way players, equally at home in the offensive or defensive zone, as evidenced by his three Selke Trophies as the NHL’s best forward. Despite that defense-first mentality Datsyuk has finished in the top 5 in scoring twice in his career and has racked up an impressive 804 points in just 824 career games with the Wings.
7 – Ted Lindsay
“Terrible Ted” Lindsay played alongside Gordie Howe and Sid Abel, and his talent and the rough play that earned him his nickname made him one of the most dominant players in the game. His tactics inspired the NHL to create penalties for both elbowing and kneeing, hoping to discourage Lindsay from hurting other players. Though some of his attributes were common to many goons in the history of the sport, this winger had talent as well, leading the league in scoring in 1950. He finished his career with over 800 points and won the Stanley Cup an impressive 4 times.
6 – Sergei Fedorov
This dominant Russian superstar is a no-brainer for a place in history as one of the greatest Red Wings of all time. This smooth-skating, slick-passing, sharp-shooting forward racked up 875 points as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. He wasn’t just an offensive force though. 2 Selke trophies as the league’s best defensive forward give testimony that he can play on the other side of the puck as well. He also captured a Hart trophy and was an integral part of Detroit’s 3 Stanley Cup championships during his time there.
5 – Red Kelly
The Detroit defensemen finally get their first representative on this list with the legendary Red Kelly. This puck rushing defenseman spent the bulk of his career with the Wings, before moving to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs, where he would finish out his playing days. Kelly won a staggering 8 Stanley Cups during his career, and tallied over 823 points in an era where offensive defensemen were a rare commodity.
4 – Nicklas Lidstrom
Though he might not have the flash of Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman or Sergei Fedorov, this almost robotic, perennial Norris trophy candidate is certainly deserving of his high position on this list. Taking over the captaincy of the team when Steve Yzerman retired Lidsrom immediately became the hub of their team, and both their offensive and defensive games seemed to center around this capable Swede. He won four Stanley Cups with the team, captured seven Norris Trophies, and won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in 2002. The Red Wings haven’t been the same since he hung up the skates.
3 – Terry Sawchuck
Despite the star power they had, none of those historical Red Wings teams would have been as successful without one of the greatest goalies in the history of the game backstopping them. Sawchuck was moody and mysterious off the ice, but once the puck dropped he was as fierce a competitor as the sport has ever seen. During his Hall of Fame career he won 4 Stanley Cups, a Calder trophy, 4 Vezinas, and at the time of his retirement he had more wins and shutouts than any goalie in the history of the NHL.
2 – Steve Yzerman
Another career Red Wing, Steve Yzerman bled red and white during his 22 seasons with Detroit. The longest serving captain in NHL history, Yzerman help lift the lowly Wings of the 80s to a perennial Stanley Cup contender from the mid-90s onward. This incredibly talented forward finished his career with an amazing 1,755 points, including a 155 point season – the highest single season total by any player not named Gretzky or Lemieux. He won 3 Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe, and a Selke during his time there, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest captains ever to play the sport.
1 – Gordie Howe
As great as Yzerman was, there can only be one choice to head the list of the top 10 Detroit Red Wings of all time. “Mr. Hockey” is the NHL’s most legendary player, and his accomplishments and his longevity make the moniker well-earned. Howe played an NHL record 26 seasons during his career, playing 1,767 games, and scoring 1,850 points during that span. He won 6 Art Ross trophies, and 6 Hart trophies to go along with his 4 Stanley Cup titles. No other player before or since has been as consistent a force in the game of hockey as Howe was. He is, without question, the greatest Detroit Red Wing player ever.
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