“Won’t you me to Hockeytown?” Our second NHL Saturday miniseries takes us to Detroit and the infamous Red Wings, one of the Original Six in hockey lore. This is a franchise that has won 11 Stanley Cups, including four in the Expansion Era since 1968. How many of those teams will make our Top 5? We will see below, but for the record, the championships came in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008. The Wings also lost in the Finals twice during this span (1995, 2009). Enjoy our rankings below!
No. 5: 2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings
One of the aforementioned Cup winners, these Wings topped the Central Division with 115 points, built on the back of a 54-21-7 record. The team was third in scoring goals and first in goal prevention. Detroit went 16-6 in the playoffs, knocking out Nashville (6 games), Colorado (4 games), Dallas (6 games), and Pittsburgh (6 games) to claim the Cup. This was a dominant team full of future Hall of Fame players, for sure.
Center Pavel Datsyuk (31G, 66A) and left wing Henrik Zetterberg (43G, 49A) led the team in scoring, supported by defenseman Nicklas Lidström (10A, 60A). In net, two legends spilt time: Dominik Hasek (27-9-4) and Chris Osgood (27-10-3). They combined for 9 shutouts, but in the postseason, the Red Wings went with the hot hand: Osgood, who posted a 14-4 record with a 1.55 GAA and a .930 S%. Lidström won the Norris, and Osgood won our Conn Smythe. It was a banner year, for sure.
No. 4: 1992-1993 Detroit Red Wings
This is the surprise entry in the bunch, for sure. Detroit finished second in the old Norris Division with 103 points, The 47-28-9 record doesn’t stand out, but the Red Wings led the NHL in scoring goals while finishing seventh in goals scored against them. The formula didn’t work well in the postseason, however, as Detroit lost in the first round of the postseason to fellow Original Six member Toronto—losing Game 7 at home in overtime. Overall, the Wings outscored the Maple Leafs, 30-24, in the series. Ouch!
Leading the scoring for this offensive powerhouse was C Steve Yzerman (58G, 79A), supported well by right wing Dino Ciccarelli (41G, 56A) and Sergei Fedorov (34G, 53A). As for the goaltending, it’s amazing the team did so well with Tim Cheveldae (34-24-7) and Vincent Riendeau (13-4-2) in net. Who were those guys?! No names, for sure, and in the postseason, that’s what hurt the Wings: Cheveldae started all seven games, posting a 3.40 GAA and an .880 S%. Enough said.
No. 3: 2005-2006 Detroit Red Wings
Another somewhat random surprise, as this team was upset in the first round of the postseason quite shockingly (see below). But the Wings finished first in the Central Division with a 58-16-8 record, for a 124-point total. They finished second in both scoring and scoring defense, so the six-game upset loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round was quite painful for Hockeytown. Alas, Detroit lost a double-overtime Game 3 and never recovered, losing three-one goal games overall in the series.
On offense, the Red Wings got great seasons from Datsyuk (28G, 59A), Zetterberg (39G, 46A), and Lidström (16G, 64A) again—as well as from age-37 LW Brendan Shanahan (40G, 41A). That’s a lot of firepower! Manny Legace (37-8-3, 7 SOs) had a great year in net, supported by Osgood (20-6-5). So, what went wrong in the playoffs? Legace was mediocre, and the Oilers shut down the Wings scoring corps—Detroit managed just 17 goals in the six games after averaging 3.7 scores per game during the year.
No. 2: 1994-1995 Detroit Red Wings
This team dominated a shortened season due to labor strife, posting a 33-11-4 record to finish first in the Central Division with 70 points. Third in scoring and second in defense, Detroit cruised through the Western Conference playoffs, dropping three teams in succession—Dallas, San Jose, Chicago—while losing just twice. But the tables were turned on the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals, as they were in turn swept by the New Jersey Devils … preventing Detroit’s first Cup win since 1955.
Some familiar faces topped the scoring for these Wings, as they had five skaters post at least 40 points: D Paul Coffey (14G, 44A), Federov (20G, 30A), Ciccarelli (16G, 27A), C Keith Primeau (15G, 27A), and RW Ray Sheppard (30G, 10A). Detroit got an upgrade in net from the season two prior, as veteran Mike Vernon (19-6-4) and Osgood (14-5-0) held the fort down. However, in the Cup Finals, the Wings ran into a hot team and scored just 7 times in 4 games, ending the dream.
No. 1: 1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings
This should be no surprise, as this squad set the all-time record at the time for wins (62) and points (131) in a season. With just 13 losses and 7 ties, Detroit easily won the Central Division while finishing third in scoring and first in goals allowed. But the Red Wings struggled in the postseason, needing six games to eliminate Edmonton in the first round and seven games to defeat St. Louis in the second round. That left them sapped against Colorado in the conference finals, and they infamously lost in six games.
The leading skaters on this team? Federov (39G, 68A) and Yzerman (36G, 59A), ably backed by Coffey (14G, 60A) and Lidström (17G, 50A). Osgood had an amazing season (39-6-5, 2.17 GAA, 5 SOs), and Vernon (21-7-2, 2.26 GAA, 3 SOs) wasn’t too shabby in net, either. So, how did this team lose?! Coming off a Game 7 double-overtime thriller against the Blues, the Red Wings skated like dead things against the Avalanche, losing the first two games at home. And then … yeah, you remember what happened next.