By: Will Burchfield
Though the Red Wings of today are nothing to write home about, those of yesteryear will forever stand out. Aside from the Canadiens, there may not be a franchise with a longer list of all-time greats.
On Friday, the NHL will announce its top 100 players of all time in celebration of its centennial season. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see upwards of 10 Red Wings earn recognition — start with the seven players whose jerseys hang in the Joe, then add in a few more who may join them there soon.
But what if the top 100 was boiled down to the top 25? Would the Wings still be well represented? USA Today’s Kevin Allen took up the exercise on Wednesday, and the answer to the latter question is a resounding yes.
He kicks things off with Gordie Howe at No. 1, citing Mr. Hockey’s toughness in ranking him ahead of Wayne Gretzky (No. 2) and Bobby Orr (No. 3):
“What separated Howe from Gretzky and Orr was an ability and willingness to physically dominate opponent. He was as ruthless as he was skilled.
Howe scored his last NHL goal, at age 52, during the 1979-80 season. Today, a player registering a goal, an assist and a fighting major penalty is said to have achieved a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.”
[RELATED: Gordie Howe’s Top 5 Moments]
The next Red Wing on Allen’s list is Niklas Lidstrom, ranked No. 13. He is the third-ranked defenseman overall, trailing only Orr and Canadiens’ great Doug Harvey (who played two games for Detroit in 1967).
“A near-perfect two-way defenseman who won seven Norris Trophies, four Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy,” Allen writes of Lidstrom.
The Swede’s seven Norris Trophies are tied with Harvey for the second most of all time. Orr won eight.
After Lidstrom, goaltender Terry Sawchuk comes in at No. 15. Only Martin Brodeur (No. 11) and Patrick Roy (No. 12) best Sawchuk between the pipes.
Writes Allen, “Four Vezina trophies, four Stanley Cups and 103 shutouts in 971 NHL games.”
Sawchuck was also named Rookie of the Year in the 1950-51 season and played in 11 All-Star Games. Only four goalies have won more Vezina Trophies (Jacques Plante, Bill Durnan, Dominik Hasek and Ken Dryden), none of whom, it should be noted, crack Allen’s list.
The final Red Wing among Allen’s Top 25 is Steve Yzerman, coming in at No. 17. (Yes, No. 19 would have been more fitting.) The Hall-of-Fame center doesn’t have as many individual awards as the aforementioned Wings, but captained the team to three Stanley Cups.
Writes Allen, “Elite scorer who altered his game to become one of the game’s top playoff warriors.”