A look at the Detroit Red Wings’ All-Decade team for the 1990s
This is part of a series detailing the all-decade team for every NHL franchise for the 1990s. The all-time teams were compiled using a mix of skill, longevity and statistics; it is not necessarily the best, most memorably or most talented players. Instead, this is the list of players by each position who had the best numbers over a prolonged period (i.e. at least three full seasons between 1990-91 and 1999-00) during the regular season.
Team: Detroit Red Wings (1990-91 to 1999-00)
438-250-98, .620 WIN PCT, 2,849 GF vs. 2,212 GA, +637 Diff, 10/10 Playoff Appearances, 2 Stanley Cups
The best team of the 1990s. That is how you summarize the Detroit Red Wings’ run between the 1990-91 and 1999-00 seasons. They made the playoffs every year, winning 16 of 24 playoff rounds. They were eliminated in the first round three times in four years from 1991 to 1994. But from 1995 to 2000, they won two Stanley Cups (’97 and ’98), lost in the Finals (’95), lost in the Conference Finals (’96) and made it to the second round twice (’99 and ’00). That is an impressive run: they won 15 playoff series in six years. They had one of the greatest regular seasons in NHL history in ’95-96, going 62-13-7 for 171 points and a sickening 79.9% win percentage. And that was after posting a 72.9% win percentage in the lockout-shortened ’94-95 season. They had a win percentage above 60% six times during the decade, and only once had a sub-.500 record or negative goal differential (34-38-8 with a -25 differential in ’90-91). Overall, their 62.0% win percentage was the best in the league during the 1990s, a full 4% better than the next-closest team (the Pittsburgh Penguins). They could score, averaging 3.62 goals for per game (second only to the Penguins). But they could also defend: they allowed 2.81 goals against per game, ranking 4th in the league. Their +637 goal differential was +1: to put that in perspective, the New Jersey Devils were second at +369. They were almost TWICE as high as the next-best team. Simply amazing, and when you factor in their Cup title in 2002, their run from 1995 to 2002 definitely that of a dynasty.
Left Wing: Brendan Shanahan (313 GP, 146-134-280, +63, 513 PIM, 30 GWG)
Honourable Mention: Vyacheslav (Slava) Kozlov
Simply put, Brendan Shanahan’s acquisition was a critical move in putting the Red Wings over the top. They had skilled players and they had physical players, but no one that put everything together like “Shanny” did. He was well worth the cost of Paul Coffey and Keith Primeau. In his first season in Detroit (’96-97), Shanahan was a beast: 46 goals (20 on the powerplay, 7 game winners), 87 points, +31 rating 131 PIM, and 323 shots on goal. He slowed the next season two seasons (28-31 goals and 57-58 points), but rebounded for 41 goals and 78 points in ’99-00. He always had a positive +/-, posted 100+ PIM each season, and twice recorded NINE game-winning goals in a season (his 30 game winners represented a staggering 21% of his goals for Detroit in the 1990s). He also had 266+ shots on goal for four straight seasons. While he had two slower offensive seasons, the fact remains that he was always a threat to score, he was getting involved physically, and he was always a threat on special teams (three seasons of 13+ powerplay goals). Slava Kozlov was a strong player on the left wing as well (two 30+ goal seasons, three others in the 23-29 range, and two 70+ point seasons), but he just didn’t have the all-around impact that Shanahan did. Shanahan was a First Team All-Star in 2000, and also represented the Wings at the All-Star Game from 1997 to 2000.
Centre: Steve Yzerman (742 GP, 336-534-870, +164, 482 PIM, 44 GWG)
Honourable Mention: Sergei Fedorov
Sergei Fedorov was one of the best players in the NHL in the mid-1990s. In ’93-94, he scored 56 goals and 120 points (along with a +48 rating). In doing so, he won the Hart Trophy (as league MVP), the Lester B. Pearson award (MVP as voted by the players) and the Selke Trophy (as the league’s best defensive forward). He was also named a First Team All-Star. He played in three All-Star Games (’92, ’94 and ’96) and won the Selke again in 1996. In addition to that monster season, Fedorov scored 30+ goals five more times (with two others in the 26-27 range), scored 79-87 points three times (along with 107 points in ’95-96, and 50 points in 42 games during ’94-95, nearly a 100-point pace). He was in the +26 to +49 range five times, and his 55 game-winning goals represented 18% of his 301 goals scored during the 1990s (he also had 734 points). So how does a guy with those credentials NOT get named best of the decade? When he plays on the same team as Steve Yzerman.
Yzerman scored 100+ points in the first three seasons of the decade, including a monster 58-goal, 137-point effort in ’92-93. He slowed down offensively as his game became more focused on a two-way strategy, but he still had three more seasons in the 82-95 points range, and three others in the 69-79 range. He scored 22+ goals nine times, including five times eclipsing 35 goals (with two in the 51-58 range). He was only negative once, and was +22 or better five times. He was always a factor on special teams: he scored 9+ powerplay goals six times, and scored 21 shorthanded goals between ’90-91 and ’92-93 (and then 11 the rest of the decade). And he scored 6+ game-winning goals four times: in total, his 44 game-winners represented 13% of his goal total. He also had 200+ shots on goal eight times, including three of 295 or more. He was one of the classiest players in NHL history, and the only reason he isn’t the greatest Red Wing of all time is because Gordie Howe will never relinquish that title (nor should he). In 2000, Yzerman won the Selke and was named a First-Team All-Star. He played in the All-Star Game from 1990-1993, and then again in 1997, 1999 and 2000. He also won the Conn Smythe as Playoff MVP when the Wings won their second of back-to-back cups in 1998. One of the greatest players and captains in NHL history, not just Red Wings history. And in the interest of full disclosure, my personal favourite player of all time.
Right Wing: Ray Sheppard (274 GP, 152-113-265, +38, 101 PIM, 16 GWG)
Honourable Mention: Dino Ciccarelli
Poor Ray Sheppard, he JUST missed out on the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup window; he was traded to the San Jose Sharks early in the ’95-96 season for Igor Larionov. The deal worked out well for Detroit, as Larionov was a productive member of their Cup-winning teams in ’97 and ’98 (as well as ’02). Back to Sheppard: he was an incredibly productive goal-scoring machine on the right wing for Detroit in the early 1990s. He had a 36-goal, 62-point season in ’91-92, then a 32-goal, 66-point season in ’92-93. He followed that up with a monster 52-goal, 93-point effort in ’93-94. He also amazingly scored 30 goals (and 40 points) in just 42 games during the lockout-shortened ’94-95 season, a 57-goal pace over an 82-game schedule. He had 26-29 powerplay goals per seasons three years in a row, and he also chipped in 16 game-winning goals during his 4+ seasons in Detroit (11% of his total). He did it with relative low shot totals, too: he scored on 20% of his shots on goal (vs. 13% for Shanahan and 14% for Yzerman). Sheppard was also consistent, falling in the +7 to +13 range every season. He didn’t have the physical play or edginess of Dino Ciccarelli: Ciccarelli had three seasons in the 73-99 PIM range. Dino could also score: he had a 41-goal, 97-point season in ’92-93, and posted another pair of 20+ goal seasons (along with 16 goals and 43 points in 42 games during the ’94-95 season). But Sheppard had two good years and two outstanding ones, so he gets the nod ahead of Ciccarelli.
Defense: Niklas (Nik) Lidstrom (693 GP, 121-375-496, +196, 182 PIM, 15 GWG)
Nik Lidstrom is possibly the greatest defenseman of the 2000’s, and is a top-tier defender from the 1990s. He could score: he scored 10+ goals in eight of his nine seasons for Detroit in the 1990s, topping out at 20 goals in ’99-00. He had seven seasons with at least 56 points, including a high of 73 in ’99-00. He was incredibly disciplined, topping out at just 30 PIM in a single season. He was consistent on the powerplay, scoring 6-9 PPG six years in a row (57 overall in nine seasons). He also had six seasons with at least 200 shots on goal. And he was always positive for +/- rating: his worst was a +7 rating, and he had three seasons of +29 or better (topping out at +43 in ’93-94). One of the best two-way defenseman of his era, and easily Detroit’s best blueliner from possibly the strongest period in team history.
Defense: Vladimir Konstantinov (446 GP, 47-128-175, +185, 838 PIM, 8 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Paul Coffey
Paul Coffey spent just over three seasons in Detroit: he had 30 points in 30 games after being picked up from L.A. in ’92-93, and then had a pair of seasons in the 74-77 points range. He also managed an impressive 14 goals and 58 points in 45 games during the shortened ’94-95 season (a 25-goal, 106-point pace during a full 82-game season). He finished with 46 goals and 239 points in 231 games with the Wings, including a +72 rating, 15 powerplay goals and 8 game-winning goals. Impressive numbers. However, the Wings could never quite get over the hump with Coffey on the blueline, and it was only after they traded him for Brendan Shanahan that they finally won the Stanley Cup everyone was waiting for. Vladimir Konstantinov on the other hand was a hugely important physical presence on their blueline, and a driving force behind their Cup win in 1997… tragically, the Cup-winning game would be his last, as he was involved in a horrific automotive accident and never played in the NHL again. Konstantinov didn’t have Coffey’s offensive skill: but then, it could be argued that no one aside from Bobby Orr ever did among NHL defenseman. Konstantinov spent six seasons with the Wings: he hit the 30-point mark four times, and twice hit double-digits in goals. But his +/- was incredibly robust: his lowest was a +10 mark in the lockout-shortened ’94-95 season, and his lowest rating in a full season was +22 in ’92-93. His high-water mark was an amazing +60 rating in ’95-96. He was a nasty and imposing presence on Detroit’s blueline, posting 100+ penalty minutes each year (including 101 PIM in 47 games in ’94-95). He didn’t score much (47 goals in 446 games), but it counted when he did (5 PPG, 4 SHG, 8 GWG). It is truly a shame his career was cut short, necessitating his replacement by Uwe Krupp (a debacle that Red Wings fans would likely rather forget), although Konstantinov did at least survive the accident (which was not the case for everyone else involved). His tenure (and NHL career) was relatively short, but his impact on the franchise was undeniable.
Goalie: Chris Osgood (337 GP, 196-91-42, 29 SO, 2.36 GAA, 0.909 PCT)
Honourable Mention to Tim Cheveldae
Now some might be surprised not to see Mike Vernon’s name here, especially considering he won the Conn Smythe as Playoff MVP when the Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1997. Vernon was brought in from Calgary (for Steve Chiasson), partly due to the Wings’ first-round upset at the hands of the San Jose Sharks in the 1994 playoffs. He was the #1 man for the ’94-95 season, where they lost to the New Jersey Devils in the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals. He lost the #1 job to Chris Osgood in ’95-96, and was largely the back-up in ’96-97 until he grabbed the #1 role in the 1997 playoffs. But the Wings felt Osgood was ready to take the reins, so Vernon was dealt to San Jose before the ’97-98 season. The move worked out, as Osgood was in net for their 1998 Cup win (and after a few other stops, he was the #1 man for their 2008 Cup win as well). Osgood suffers from the same problem as Toronto Blue Jays’ manager Cito Gaston: the belief that the team could have won with ANYBODY in that position. The fact is that Osgood was a quality netminder. He was fantastic in ’95-96, finishing as a Second Team All-Star, winning the Jennings (with Vernon) for allowing the fewest goals during the regular season, and playing in the 1996 All-Star game. That was by far his best year: he went 39-6-5 with a 2.17 GAA and .911 PCT. Osgood was remarkably consistent: he played 50+ games and won 30+ games four times, and had two other 29+ win seasons. He was never below .500, and he had four seasons of 5-6 shutouts. His goals-against average was typically in the 2.20-2.30 range, and only once was he above 2.50. Overall he had a 64.3% win percentage along with two Stanley Cup rings. No matter how good the team was in front of him, you can’t ignore the results Osgood achieved in net. Honourable mention to Tim Cheveldae; despite being a playoff scapegoat, he had decent results for the Wings. Three 30+ win seasons, and a respectable 9 shutouts in 234 games. His best run (’91-92 to ’92-93) saw him go 72-47-16 with a 3.22 GAA and .887 PCT. Not earth-shattering numbers, but solid enough considering the offensive era he was playing in. He was also the undisputed #1 for three years, playing in 204 games between ’90-91 to ’92-93, which is why he gets the Honourable Mention call ahead of Vernon.