So many great players have donned the red and white in Detroit.
The Detroit Red Wings are one of the most storied franchises in the National Hockey League.
Countless players have come in and out of Detroit, but some of the best in history have stayed, won and will forever live in Red Wing lore. All-time greats like Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay still grace the halls of Joe Louis Arena in celebration of this team’s tremendous antiquity.
From the “Production line” to the “Russian five” to the “Grind line,” this historic team has been home to some incredible memories. Names like Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom helped carry this team from the “Dead Things” in the 1980’s into the era of Hockeytown.
There are just too many amazing talents to consider and it is difficult to leave some great names off this list. The players on this list were judged on three criteria—statistics as a Red Wing, their longevity with the club, and the level of threat they posed on the ice.
With that, here are—in this writer’s opinion—the five greatest scorers in Detroit Red Wings history.
Nicklas Lidstrom is a memorable player and arguably the best defenseman in NHL history.
Nick was the second captain of the Red Wings in this writer’s lifetime.
Arguably the best defenseman to ever play the game, he won four Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy with a Hall-of-Fame lineup in 2002 and seven total Norris Trophies. He finished tied with Doug Harvey for second-most behind Bobby Orr’s eight.
Lidstrom played from 1991-2012 with Detroit, is fourth with 1,142 points and is the franchise leader in plus-minus with a plus-450. He doesn’t make the list simply because he’s not known as a scorer, but as the ageless wonder who ruled the blue line for two decades.
I’m going to receive some flack for this, and it’s alright.
“Terrible” Ted Lindsay was a tenacious forward who stands just 5’8”. He was relentless after the puck and played alongside Red Wing greats Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Alex Delvecchio on the “Production line.” Ted is fifth of all time in Detroit with 335 goals and eighth with 728 points.
He doesn’t crack the list primarily because the top-five have either surpassed his totals or are likely to do so very soon. Don’t let this take away from the greatness of either of these two players.
Pavel Datsyuk has tremendous ability and some of the slickest hands in hockey.
While Datsyuk may not necessarily be known as a “scorer” his skill ranks among the top players in today’s NHL.
He’s cracked the 30-goal plateau three times and the 90-point mark twice. As this list is still quite young, Datsyuk may present one of the highest threat-factors. He’s dangerous from anywhere on the ice and one who may be more treacherous without the puck.
His 256 goals may have him only 11th of all time, but his point total is sixth in Red Wings history. A marvelous playmaker and a magician with the puck, he’s the kind of talent that makes the players around him better and his opponents look much worse.
He’s a world-class player and such a joy to watch. Hockey fans are spoiled knowing they are witnessing historic ability in present time.
Alex Delvecchio was a skilled center and true professional with the Red Wings.
Alex “Fats” Delvecchio was a smooth skater and the perfect player to center the “Production line” after Sid Abel.
Delvecchio is third of all time in Detroit in both goals (456) and points (1,281) in his 24 years with the club. His longevity puts him on our list and is one of the main reasons for his high point production. More impressively is his minuscule 383 career penalty minutes, which ranks 47th.
The reason he ranks fourth on this list is because of his numbers. While tremendous in total, his highest point total in a single season was 83 in 1968-69. While impressive in today’s age, his linemate, Gordie Howe, was the scoring threat putting up 103 points that year.
Alex was obviously talented enough to earn accolades of his own, including three Lady Byng Trophies (1959, 1966, 1969), The Lester Patrick Trophy (1974) and three Stanley Cups (1952, 1954, 1955).
While he may not be a prolific scorer, he certainly had the talent and was one of the classiest guys to ever play the game.
Sergei Fedorov as a tremendous talent with an innate scoring ability.
A tremendous skater with a wicked shot, Sergei Fedorov burst onto the scene in the 1990-91 season and was incredible with the Detroit Red Wings for 13 total.
When he left to sign with Anaheim after the 2002-03 season, it left a bitter taste in the mouths of a lot of Red Wing faithful. However, his time in Detroit was special and he has the numbers to prove it.
Part of three Stanley Cup championship teams (1997, 1998, 2002), Fedorov was one of the most prolific scorers in hockey’s modern era. In 1994 Fedorov scored a career-high 56 goals and 120 points en route to the Frank J. Selke, Lester B. Pearson and Hart Memorial trophies.
He would win another Selke Trophy in 1996 and make six All-Star appearances. Fedorov scored 30 or more goals in nine of his 13 years in Detroit, is fourth in team history with 400 goals and fifth with 954 points.
As a key member of the “Russian Five” with Igor Larionov, Slava Kozlov, Slava Fetisov and Vladimir Konstantinov, Fedorov enjoyed his most fruitful years in Detroit. He would spend his last five seasons between the Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals.
Just another one of the many Hall-of-Fame bound players to enrich the franchise.
Steve Yzerman is the greatest captain in Detroit Red Wings history.
Coming in at number two is one of the greatest players in NHL history—Steve Yzerman.
“Steve Y” was Detroit’s captain from 1986-2006 and ultimately redefined the word in Hockeytown. Detroit’s all-time assists leader (1,063) has the NHL record for longest-tenured captain with 19 seasons and 1,303 games served.
Yzerman's total 692 career goals—second-best in Detroit—rank eighth all time in NHL history and his 1,755 points are good for sixth all time.
For six-straight seasons (1987-1993), “The Captain” put up 100 or more points including five 50-goal seasons—cracking 60 goals twice.
When Scotty Bowman took over the Red Wings in 1994, a change in style helped develop Yzerman into one of the greatest two-way players and leaders the game will ever see. He led Detroit to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998 and again in 2002.
Over the course of his career Yzerman collected a mess of hardware. He won the Conn Smythe (1998), Lester B. Pearson (1989), Frank J. Selke (2000), Bill Masterson (2003) and the Lester Patrick Award (2006).
Yzerman ranks in the top-two in most offensive categories in Red Wings history, and his longevity, statistics and threat level also rank him second only to our list’s number one.
Gordie Howe is Detroit's all-time leading scorer.
Only Mr. Hockey himself can trump Stevie Y on this list. Detroit’s all-time leading scorer played in some form of professional hockey across six decades. Who else can say that?
Gordie is tops in team history with 786 goals, and his 801 total is second of all time only to Wayne Gretzky. His 25 years with the Red Wings gives him the edge in longevity and his numbers may never be surpassed by a member in the winged-wheel.
Howe was as persistent and physical as a scorer could be. His 1,643 penalty minutes in Detroit are surpassed only by his ability to put points (1,809) on the stat sheet.
In his career Howe won four Stanley Cups (1950, 1952, 1954, 1955), six Art Ross Trophies, six Hart Trophies, a Lester Patrick Trophy, a NHL Lifetime Achievement Award and played in 23 NHL All-Star games. He is also the oldest player to play in an NHL game (52 years, 10 days).
There isn't much else you can say to justify Gordie Howe as the number one scorer in Detroit Red Wings history. Based on the criteria, nobody was a bigger scoring threat, put up better numbers or had the longevity of Mr. Hockey—it’s possible no one ever will.