I'm excited. The other night, I was lying in bed and couldn't sleep, and I thought "I need to come up with something that's not going to bore people to tears." That's when it hit me: rank the greatest Red Wings of all time. Brilliant! No one has ever thought of this before. Then, without doing any research, I figured that this has probably been done many times by much more talented people, and I didn't want to duplicate work. I also realized that I would have a real problem with that, because I never saw Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuk, or any of the other Red Wing greats actually play. I could look up stats, but what's the fun in that? That's when I started thinking about all of the great Wings I personally have seen, and the idea was born.
First, before we get into this, a comment on the Wings' signing of Derek Meech:
That's all I've got. He's making league minimum, and yet I feel like he's over-paid. Oh well. He's got some versatility: he can be a 4th line forward or a 6th defenseman. Not too many guys bring that amount of skill to the table. That we got him for only $500K is a steal. We're all still waiting for Helm and Abdelkader to sign, and of course there's He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Because-He-Is-Driving-Us-Crazy-With-His-Indecision. But that's not what I want to talk about today.
On to the series. This will be 19 posts: 1 for each player that I believe is the greatest I personally have ever seen play, either on TV or in person (I'll bet you will never guess who #1 is). Why 19? If you have to ask that question, then get the fuck out of here, because you're clearly an idiot. There a few ground rules for this. First, this is not about the best players to ever put on a Wing uniform at one time. You will not see Brett Hull or Luc Robitaille on this list because those guys were at best one-year players. This is about what the specific player did while wearing the Red and White. Contrary to this, you will also not see life-long Wings on this list just because they have been with the team for a long time. The contributions from the player had to have been significant over at least a few seasons. The time frame is important, as well: I've been a Wing fan since about 1988 (I saw Yzerman play when I was 8 in 1986, but there's a story there that I will share later - I'm such a tease). Being from Toronto, I did not see a lot of games on TV, unless they were playing the Leafs, because these were the days before cable and internet showing every single game. It wasn't until around 1991 that I started to see them on TV more often, so that explains why I don't have a lot of late-80s guys on there. All stats that are presented are the player's stats while playing with the Red Wings. Other than that, there's really no rules other than my own personal beliefs. I hope you guys and gals have as much fun reading this list as I had making it. I also appreciate any feedback regarding it: did I rank someone too high or low? Did I miss someone? Did this absolutely bore you to tears? Let me know.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to the 19th Greatest Red Wing of My Lifetime:
Pertinent Stats: 1090 GP - 152 G - 198 A - 350 P - 769 PIM - + 65
Individual Awards: 2004 Selke Award
Stanley Cups: 4 - 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008
We start our series with a guy that might make a lot of you say "well, this is clearly going to suck". It might, but let me explain why Kris makes THITD's list (at the bottom, I should point out). First, ignore the stats. I did not pick Drapes because of his numbers. They are mediocre at best. He didn't have a season above 15 goals until 2003-2004 when he had 24, and that represents a career high for him. He's only touched 40 points once, and his +/- usually hovers right around even. Drapes is here because of the intangibles he brings to the table, which is something that I pay attention to.
His story is similar to Drew Miller's: he was picked up off waivers from an under-achieving team in 1993, and the sum total of what the Wings paid for him was $1 American Dollar (or, $250 Canadian at the time). There's not a Red Wing fan alive who would say he was not worth it. Since then, he has become one of the core guys that the team is built around. No, he's not a top-6 forward. But what he did for the Wings was give them a legitimate 3rd line/checking line center. He ate up valuable minutes and he was great at faceoffs (still is, to a degree). There was a time that he and Maltby probably made up the best 1-2 punch of penalty killers in the NHL. One thing I always used to notice was that after the Wings were scored on, who did Scotty put on the ice? Draper and his line. He brought energy to the team, and if you ever saw ESPN's The Season, you'll know he's a good dressing room guy. One thing I remember from that show (besides Tomas Holmstrom's daily butchering of the English language) was Draper saying to Shanahan "I don't think Jack Bauer would like you doing that to his hat" after Shanny had written something on a "24" hat. I thought that was hilarious. There's also the well-known antic of shoving a pie in a teammate's face on his birthday.
One thing for me that gets Draper on this list is the fact that he has played over 1000 games as a Red Wing; only Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom accomplished. 1000 games with one team by anyone is a major feat for anyone, and even more so when you consider that Draper has never been a "star". I think it speaks to the Wings' belief in him as an important cog of the team that he has remained with the team, and playing the same role he has had for his entire career. His role has been reduced somewhat with the emergence of Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves as penalty-killers, but he has transitioned to being a role model for those guys, teaching them what it takes to be a 3rd line player in the league while contributing to the team's success. I've long maintained that one of the biggest reasons why the Wings broke through and won the Stanley Cup in 1997 was the emergence of the Grind Line, especially Draper. A team can not be successful without their depth players stepping up, and Draper led the charge for the Wings. It is for that reason combined with his consistency throughout his Wings career that has garnered him the #19 spot in the Greatest Red Wings of My Time.