Ranking the 5 Greatest Rookie Seasons in Detroit Red Wings History
The National Hockey League first awarded the Calder Trophy to the league’s most outstanding rookie in 1933.
While only five Detroit players have earned the honor—none since 1965—it shouldn’t take away from several outstanding rookie seasons from some of Hockeytown’s finest. There are so many historic names that have sported the winged wheel, but not all of them had memorable rookie seasons.
It’s not always the biggest name that wins the honor, but the trophy isn’t necessarily needed to recognize a tremendous first year. This list was composed with a combination of each player’s rookie statistics, their impact on the club during that season and their recognition.
Detroit has witnessed many fine starts to a young star’s career, and here are five of the greatest rookie seasons in Detroit Red Wings history.
He did help Detroit reach the postseason but were swept in the second round by the Chicago Blackhawks. While Nick’s 60 points are terrific for a defenseman—let alone any rookie by today’s standards—he falls just outside of the list.
Hank’s 2002-03 rookie season was a tremendous boost for Detroit in their forward depth.
Now let’s move on to the five that made the list.
5. Glenn Hall
While playing with Edmonton of the WHL, Glenn Hall received a promotion to the Detroit Red Wings in December 1952 to replace an injured Terry Sawchuk, but it was before the 1955-56 season that Hall earned the starting gig.
His talent was enough for Detroit to trade Sawchuk to the Boston Bruins.
During his rookie year “Mr. Goalie” would start all 70 games for Detroit, which was customary as there were no backup goaltenders. He finished the year with a record of 30-24-16 with a sparkling 2.10 goals-against average and 12 shutouts.
Hall was awarded for his stellar play with the Calder Trophy and named to the NHL Second All-Star team.
4. Sergei Fedorov
The dynamic Russian made his presence felt with an impressive rookie season in 1991.
In 77 games, he registered 31 goals and 79 points helping Detroit return to the playoffs after missing out the year before. He did not receive the Calder Trophy as it went to Ed Belfour of the Chicago Blackhawks, who earned both best rookie honors and the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender.
He finished second on the team behind Steve Yzerman in nearly every offensive category but led the club with five game-winning goals.
He earned a spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie team and was a force to be reckoned with in Detroit for 13 seasons.
3. Roger Crozier
You may be starting to sense a pattern here with goalies, but Crozier is another Red Wing to earn the Calder Trophy.
During his 1964-65 rookie season, Crozier started in all 70 games leading Detroit to a league-best record of 40-23-7. He sported a 2.49 goals-against average with six shutouts and carried Detroit into the playoffs, where they were upset in the first round by the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games.
Crozier replaced Terry Sawchuk after he was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Intra-League draft before the 1964-65 season.
He would earn a spot on the NHL First All-Star team as well as honored with the Calder Trophy, becoming the fifth Red Wing to receive the award, and the last one to date.
2. Steve Yzerman
Yzerman’s rookie season was sensational, scoring 39 goals and 87 points in 80 games played. While the team lost to the St. Louis Blues in four games (best of five), Yzerman was a great contributor to helping Detroit return to the post season after a five-year drought.
He finished second in the Calder voting that year, with the trophy going to Buffalo Sabres goaltender Tom Barrasso—who also won the Vezina Trophy. However, Yzerman led all rookies in scoring, made the NHL All-Rookie team, and gave Detroit fans something to cheer about for decades to come.
The rest is history with “The Captain” and his rookie year was just the first of many magical seasons in a Red Wing uniform.
1. Terry Sawchuk
His name has bounced around this list multiple times, but Terry Sawchuk’s rookie season was the best in Detroit Red Wings history.
As a 21-year-old, Sawchuk delivered a monumental season with league-bests in wins (44), games played (70) and shutouts (11) during the 1950-51 season. He was the second Red Wing to win the Calder Trophy and first since Carl Voss received the very first award in 1933.
His total record on the year was a remarkable 44-13-13 accompanied by a stellar 1.99 goals-against average. He was also a member of the NHL First All-Star team his rookie year and led the Red Wings to the top seed in the playoffs, where they were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in six games in the semifinals.
Sawchuk’s wins total has stood as a team record for goaltenders and was only matched by himself the very next season. As one of the greatest players in Red Wing lore, his rookie season ranks among the best in Detroit as well as history.
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