The Detroit Red Wings, as one of the Original Six in the National Hockey League, have a history that dates back longer than just about every other team in the league. Throughout the years, there have been several stretches of absolute dominance by the Wings because of some all-time great players.
It’s hard to narrow it down to just a few, but there are a handful of Red Wings players who stand out as the franchise’s best. Let’s take a look at the five players who stood out above the rest in Hockeytown history. Before we start the list, here are some players that just missed the cut: Serge Fedorov, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Alex Delvecchio.
Many know about how Gordie Howe dominated for the Red Wings in the post-World War II years, but the casual fans might not know much about his longtime teammate Ted Lindsay. The left winger played for 14 seasons in Detroit (and another three with Chicago), recording 728 points in his 862 Red Wings games.
All of Lindsay’s best seasons came in the Motor City, and he won four Stanley Cups along the way. Lindsay was named an All-Star in nine seasons and won the 1950 Art Ross Trophy in addition to being named to the NHL’s 100th Anniversary Team. His jersey hangs in the rafters at Little Caesars Arena, and he became a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
There were a couple of times in which goaltender Terry Sawchuk left the Red Wings only to return to the franchise. Sawchuk started his career with Detroit where he spent his first six seasons, five of which resulted in him being named an All-Star and three of which saw him win the Vezina Trophy.
Sawchuk then spent two seasons with the Boston Bruins before his first return, and his second Red Wings tenure lasted for seven seasons. He had a third one-year stint, bringing his total to 14 seasons in Detroit. Sawchuck finished with 350 wins in his 734 appearances, saving 90.4 percent of shots and allowing 2.44 goals per game.
If it weren’t for the fact that Steve Yzerman was there for almost his entire career, Nicklas Lidstrom would have been the captain in Detroit for many more years. The Swedish defenseman played all 20 of his NHL seasons with the Red Wings and his list of accolades is one of the most impressive in NHL history.
Lidstrom recorded 1,142 points in 1,564 NHL games, which was good enough for sixth all-time when he retired in 2012. Lidstrom was named an All-Star 12 times, winning four Stanley Cups for the Wings. He famously won seven Norris Trophies as the best defenseman in the NHL and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. Naturally, his number six jersey was retired by the Red Wings not long after his career ended.
Spending your entire NHL career with one team used to be more common in the early days of professional hockey, but changed dramatically during the 1990s and 2000s. One man that still remained with one franchise despite the ever-changing league was Steve Yzerman, who spent all 22 of his NHL seasons with Detroit and was everyone’s favorite Red Wing if they grew up in the 1990s.
Yzerman won the Art Ross Trophy in his first year and finished with 692 goals and 1,063 assists in 1,514 career games. The Hall of Famer won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, winning the Pearson, Smythe, Selke, and Masterson Trophies along the way. Strangely enough, Yzerman was only named an All-Star once (1999-2000).
Yzerman is a legend and will forever be synonymous with the Red Wings, but there’s only one “Mr. Hockey” and that’s Gordie Howe. Howe started his NHL career in Detroit when he was just 18 years old following the end of World War II. By his third year, Howe was an NHL All-Star and remained with the franchise until his early 40s. All in all, it was 25 seasons for Howe wearing the winged wheel, most of which came as the team’s captain.
During those 25 seasons, Howe collected 786 goals and 1,023 assists (1,809 total points) over 1,687 games. He won four Stanley Cups to go along with his six Ross Trophies and six Hart Trophies. The 21-time All-Star was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and was considered the best NHL player of all time before Wayne Gretzky came along.