Few teams in the NHL boast a more robust history than the Detroit Red Wings. As an Original Six franchise, they have been around longer than your average sports team, and as such, have had dozens of legendary players pass through their halls and locker rooms.
It's always a joy to travel back in time a bit and read about players like Norm Ullman, Ted Lindsay and the rest of the players whose dusty stories are major parts of Red Wing lore.
There wasn't YouTube back then. No phones with stellar capture-to-Internet capabilities. There's something refreshing about having to rely on the eye-witness accounts of others. About having to imagine the scenes with your own brain and creativity.
It feels a bit like...real history.
And I have sifted through that history and found who I believe to be the 11 most prolific, entertaining and outstanding goal scorers in the bygone times of the Detroit Red Wings.
Here's your Red Wings trivia question for the day: How many goals has Tomas Holmstrom scored in his career?
If you guessed 232 without cheating and asking Google or Jeeves, you're right! If you're surprised by this figure, then you're in the same boat as I was when I was looking over Detroit's all-time scorers list.
Homer has taken cross checks to the back, slashes to his ankles, chops to his nether regions and received more face washes than any player in the history of the NHL (or at least I'd bet on that...they don't track that stat, sadly) all for the sake of screening the opposing netminder and deflecting shots.
He's not an NHL-level skater, and he certainly isn't an elite player. But he knew his role from the beginning and has been a central figure on several very good Red Wings teams. Settling into a role is what the Wings have been about for the last 15 to 20 years, and few have done it more effectively than Holmstrom.
Hopefully Detroit Red Wings fans realize how lucky they are to have a team that possess four players that will be among the top 11 or 12 goal scorers in the squad's history simultaneously. That fact is only made more impressive by looking up and down the list of skaters that have worn the winged wheel.
The other half of the "Euro twins," Henrik Zetterberg is only one goal shy of overtaking Tomas Holmstrom for 10th all time in Wings scoring (poor Homer).
The electric plays Hank makes are overshadowed by those of Pavel Datsyuk, but he is still quite the magician when it comes to puck handling and making plays happen out of thin air. When he appears to not be a threat is when he is his most dangerous.
He's put up 556 points as a Wing—231 of those points have been goals.
How many players could step into the massive captaincy void that was left when Steve Yzerman retired? Not many, but Nicklas Lidstrom has done just that, and he has done an admirable job to boot.
It's not a coincidence that Detroit has made the playoffs every season that Lidstrom has been on the team. You couldn't ask for a steadier, more classy guy to anchor your blue line. A majority of his 1,108 points have come from assists. But No. 5 has still put up 253 goals throughout his career.
He's been the power-play quarterback for as long as I can remember, finding ways to work the puck to the slew of good forwards Detroit has had through his career.
252 goals is good for ninth, but he could conceivably finish his career occupying the eighth spot.
The deal for Brendan Shanahan may be one of the most important in the team's long history. He was a large factor on the Red Wings team that won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, and he played a big role in helping the squad finally smash through a devastatingly long Cup drought.
He was a fan favorite during his time in Detroit—not only could he score goals, but he brought the toughness and tenacity to the rink that the slick and skilled forwards tended to lack.
Shanny notched 309 goals as a Red Wing, which is good for seventh all time. Not bad for a guy who only cost the team an underachieving Keith Primeau, an aging Paul Coffey and a first-rounder.
Tomas Holmstrom won't stay 10th among all-time Red Wings goal scorers for long. Teammate Pavel Datsyuk will make sure of that.
Not only is he one of the most prolific goal scorers in Detroit's history, he is also one of the most supremely talented. The moves he makes look like dekes that could happen only in an NBA Jam-style hockey game.
Calling him a human highlight reel would be an injustice, as a high percentage of his 222 goals are ESPN Top 10 worthy.
Datsyuk will likely not finish his career as a member of the illustrious 500 goal club, but few of its members could do the things that he does at top speed on a nightly basis. He embodies creativity with the puck, and he's a constant threat to create a goal or play out of nothing.
From what I understand, Norm Ullman was the Pavel Datsyuk of his time. He was a tremendous stickhandeler, using his prowess with his blade to help round out one of the most potent lines in league history.
While skating along with players like Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, one would expect Ullman's assist numbers to be impressive. He only managed 434 helpers during his career. Ullman was no slouch when it came to lighting the lamp, though—he did so 324 times during his career as a Red Wing.
This image comes from this website.
I've been itching to find an excuse to use this photo in a story—mission accomplished.
"Terrible Ted" Lindsay was a rough and tumble hockey player. When he entered the league during the 1944-1945 season, the NHL didn't have penalties for elbowing and kneeing. When he retired 20 years later, that was no longer the case.
He skated on one of the most highly regarded forward lines of all time, playing with Norm Ullman and Gordie Howe. (And you think Anaheim's RPG line is potent!) He scored 335 times as a member of the Red Wings—a number that would be higher had Lindsay not helped form the NHLPA. That action led directly to his trade to Chicago.
Sergei Fedorov was sent to planet Earth from another dimension. I'm convinced of that. His offensive prowess was matched only by his ability on the other side of the puck—he is still the only player in the history of the NHL to win the Hart trophy and Selke in the same season.
He would eventually score 483 goals during his NHL career—400 of them came as a Detroit Red Wing.
He's the one in the suit...
Alex Delvecchio rounded out another all-time great line, the famed Production Line II. And that's a name that the trio of Delvecchio, Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay lived up to firmly. This was an odd case where the sequel was just as outstanding as the original.
He was the player synonymous with the Detroit Red Wings before Steve Yzerman was finished playing as a mite. No other player has skated in more games for the same team except Gordie Howe—quite an accomplishment given the league's history.
Across those 1,549 games, he scored 456 goals. Only Howe and Yzerman scored more.
It's hard for me to maintain any sort of journalistic integrity when I get the opportunity to write about Steve Yzerman. The urge to morph into a total fanboy and gush is strong, so I guess I'll make this quick.
Yzerman was drafted in 1983, much to the chagrin of Detroit's GM at the time, who wanted Pat LaFontaine. The resurrection of the Detroit Red Wings—known as the Dead Wings at the time—coincided with the drafting of Yzerman, and with the Ilitch family taking ownership of the team.
He went on to embody everything that the Red Wings wanted from a player. Two-way play, a high level of skill and a lot of guts.
Through 1,514 games, the captain netted 692 goals.
There. I think I made it without going all school-girl-at-a-Bieber-concert over Yzerman.
It's Mr. Hockey. The Immortal No. 9, he of 786 goals.
What else can I say?