Before we begin, let me tell you that I wasn't exactly thrilled when I got this assignment.
For one thing, there's already a bazillion (yeah, that's a number) "Top 10, 20, 100..." lists of all kinds in the world.
Top 10 Movies, Top 20 Vacation Destinations, Top 100 Places To Eat Organic Ice Cream Whilst Wearing a Three-Cornered Hat, The Top 10 Top 20 Lists of Top 100 Top 10 Lists...these things are everywhere.
Additionally, "Top" lists run rampant in the sports world. Now, this makes some sense as sports in general rely heavily on statistics and various forms of quantification when it comes to selecting players and developing strategies.
Still, I for one think there are way too many "Top" lists that, more often than not, are simply statistical rankings (in which case, they contain information that anyone can get from a stat sheet), or, a ranking of "popular" players, teams, coaches, etc. that may or may not truly be at "the top" in their category.
So, when I was asked to rank the Top 25 Detroit Red Wings of all time, I was left to wonder how exactly to go about creating something that was both interesting to write and interesting to read.
Sure, I could do what most list writers seem to do and start with Gordie Howe and work my way down. I could re-print a list of franchise scoring leaders and then add Terry Sawchuck into the mix.
I could simply list the 25 best players to ever wear a Red Wings jersey, which would lead to a little more diversity than such a list of would typically have.
I could have done these things, but I didn't.
What I focused on was trying to find the 25 best Red Wings of all time.
Now, what is a "Red Wing"?
To my mind, a "Red Wing" player is defined by his skill, his work ethic, his ability to put the team ahead of himself, and, his contribution to sustaining the Detroit Red Wings as the most successful US-based NHL franchise in history.
That last one is a little tough to judge, but, suffice to say, if a player has contributed to winning a Stanley Cup, or is highly positioned in a list of franchise points or goals leaders, or (spoiler alert) is named "Bob Probert" they'll be in the mix for Top 25 status.
All of these things, as well as a respectable tenure with the team (sorry, you won't find Brett Hull or Luc Robataille on here), are what I used to select a group of candidates.
From that group (there were 42 I started with), I ranked them from the bottom-up, re-ranked them, and then, ranked them again.
Once each name had a number next to it, I listed them in order, 1-42, drew a line under 25, and presto, I had my list.
To be quite honest, I was surprised myself when I saw who was on there and where (which is hard to do when you're the only one making the list in the first place).
I questioned my reasoning, thought about going in a different direction, and wondered if what I was doing was all wrong.
Then, I read the list again and thought, "50 years from now, will any of these guys not be remembered for being Red Wings."
The answer, to my mind, was "no."
The proceeding list is likely going to look a lot different than others you've seen.
Some picks may pleasantly surprise you, others may piss you off.
However, consider the criteria by which they were selected before you flame a particular pick, I'm prepared to defend every one of them.