Detroit Red Wings History: Best Moves in the Ilitch Era, Part 3, Dynasty Years
The Detroit Red Wings won Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998, repeating as champs.
After the 1998 Stanley Cup, they were essentially guaranteed a division championship and were usually contending for best in the Western Conference, if not the entire NHL.
But the Red Wings did not go back to the Stanley Cup Finals for a few years after their back-to-back championships.
It took them til 2002 to get back to the Finals, where they knocked off the Carolina Hurricanes in five games.
After that, Detroit experienced some of the biggest playoff upsets in Red Wings history.
The Red Wings lost to Anaheim in the first round in 2003. In 2004, they lost in the second round to Calgary. 2005 was the lockout. 2006 saw Detroit lose to Edmonton in the first round, in possibly the biggest upset in playoff history. In 2007, Detroit lost to the Anaheim Ducks in the conference finals.
Detroit won the Stanley Cup again in 2008, and almost repeated in 2009.
But who brought them to these Stanley Cup championships?
And how does a team win four cups in a span of 11 years after not making the Stanley Cup Finals out of any of the other seasons?
Those answers and more are coming up in part three of my series on the best moves in the Mike Ilitch era.
1. Brendan Shanahn Traded to Detroit from Hartford in 1996
Brendan Shanahan was one of the most noticeable figures in the Detroit lineup in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Naturally, then, it follows that I forget to include him in the second slideshow, where he likely belonged chronologically.
Nevertheless, he makes an appearance here in the third slideshow, because he was a member of the Red Wings well into the 2000s.
Shanahan was a crowd favorite in Detroit, and whenever he scored at home, they played the "Irish Jig."
I guess Shanny loved the song, because he put up 309 goals in a Red Wing uniform.
He was instrumental in the Red Wings Stanley Cup championships of 1997, 1998 and 2002, putting up 17, nine and 19 points, respectively, throughout each of those postseasons.
Shanahan didn't care what the score was, he had a great shot, and he wasn't afraid to drop the gloves and fight an opponent, either.
He was a respected member of the hockey community, and he currently serves as the NHLs chief disciplinarian.
2. Drafting Pavel Datsyuk at 171st Overall in the 1998 NHL Draft
Pavel Datsyuk is almost as talented as he is creative.
The Russian superstar was drafted in the sixth round of the 1998 NHL Draft at 171st overall.
Did somebody say diamond in the rough?
Datsyuk's YouTube footage is far too numerous to give him justice to list in this slide.
His creativity is eye-popping, as is his stick handling and decking. And his puck control cannot be measured in an NHL video game.
Datsyuk just simply does things that normal talented hockey players would never even dream about doing in a game, let alone a practice.
He scores goals in ways that make those watching simply scratch their heads in disbelief.
Without question, Datsyuk should make anyone's top 10 list of best late-round draft picks.
Datsyuk's 223 goals and 660 points in 674 games are certainly something to behold considering he only came into the league at age 23—a mere 10 years ago.
3. Drafting Henrik Zetterberg 210th Overall in the 1999 NHL Draft
Henrik Zetterberg was another late-round steal for Detroit in 1999.
In comparison to the 209 players drafted before him in 1999, Zetterberg has by far achieved the most in comparison to where he was drafted.
Zetterberg won the 2008 Stanley Cup with Detroit, and in doing so, was awarded the Conn Smyhe trophy with 13 goals and 14 assists in the 2008 playoffs.
Zetterberg put up career highs in goals and points with 43 goals and 92 points, respectively.
His career high in assists came last season with 56. Zetterberg has gone to the net less, but seems to have developed a playmaker-like ability.
He has 560 points in 598 career games.
He is no longer the dominant goal scorer that he used to be, putting up only a combined 47 goals the past two seasons.
But Zetterberg now serves as a leader on the team at 31 years old, and the Red Wings know that he can carry a team, both in the regular season and the playoffs.
That is where he can be truly invaluable to the Red Wings.
4. Drafting Niklas Kronwall 29th Overall in the 2000 NHL Draft
Unlike Zetterberg and Datsyuk, Kronwall was drafted in the first round of the 2000 NHL draft.
Kronwall did not start playing in the NHL until 2003-04, and he has only played in five full seasons with the Red Wings.
He is known more for his ability to block shots than his ability to put up points, but he did hit 45 assists and 51 points back in 2008-09.
Kronwall is also known for his talent in throwing huge open ice hits; many of these can be found on YouTube.
Kronwall just signed a fat new deal worth $4.75 million over seven years.
It is great to see Kronwall continue to develop his offensive game and all Red Wings fans hope that he can get it back to the 50 point area.
5. Signing Brett Hull During the 2001 Free Agency
Brett Hull may have only played three seasons in Detroit.
But he was the missing piece in getting Detroit to the Stanley Cup Finals, and helping them win it all in 2002.
Hull put up 10 goals and 18 points in the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs, looking just like a younger version of himself, as he helped Detroit win the Cup. And by doing so, he won his second career Stanley Cup.
Hull had 92 goals among 207 points with Detroit in three seasons. He was let go at that point, but he gave Detroit the ability to be successful one more time.
The 2002 Stanley Cup team in Detroit was one of the most loaded of all time.
Hull joined Yzerman, Fedorov, Shanahan, Lidstrom, Matt Schneider and others to claim the franchise's 10th Stanley Cup.
Hull's glory days may have been behind him. But he helped Detroit get back to the promised land once more.
Impact of Signings and Draft Picks
The Detroit Red Wings were without a doubt the most privileged franchise in the 1990s and 2000s.
I say this because they used prospects that they had drafted to excel, and continued to draft high quality prospects even when they were winning Stanley Cups and making the playoffs.
Detroit's signings in the late 1990s and early 2000s proved pivotal to keeping them in the mainstay of the playoff picture every year.
Although players like Yzerman, Shanahan, Hull and Fedorov all left or retired, they left the door open for continued success in players like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Kronwall.
Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall, led by captain Nick Lidstrom, have proved that they are still able to be at the top of the league, despite losing some of the best players of all time from their roster.
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