Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Greatest Red Wings of MY Time - #4

For anyone that hasn't seen it, George Malik's contribution to Yahoo's Mount Puckmore series is up, and as we've come to expect from George, this did not disappoint. The 4 names listed were:

Gordie Howe
Ted Lindsay
Steve Yzerman
Nicklas Lidstrom

I can't disagree with any of those choices, because that was my final 4 when I was discussing it with some of the other bloggers. As usual, George has represented the Red Wings fanbase well, and if there were ever some sort of United Nations of Bloggers, I would recommend that George be the ambassador for the Wings.

We turn our attention back to our series, and today we present the next-to-last of the non-lifers on the list. #4 of the Greatest Red Wings of My Time.

Brendan Shanahan

Pertinent Stats: 716 GP, 309 G, 324 A, 633 P, +144, 1043 PIM
Awards: King Clancy Memorial Trophy (Humanitarian Efforts) - 2003
Stanley Cups: 3 - 1997, 1998, 2002

Brendan Shanahan was born in Etobicoke, and I only mention that because (a) he was just inducted into the Etobicoke Hall of Fame and (b) I was also born in Etobicoke. In case you were wondering, Etobicoke (the "-ke" is silent, BTW) used to be its own municipality, but was absorbed into the City of Toronto in the mid-'90s. Just a little Canadian history for you. It's also a bit of a joke with Drew from NOHS. Moving on.

Shanny had already forged himself a good career with the Devils, Blues and Whalers when he requested a trade from Hartford. The Wings, realizing they needed a legitimate power forward, immediately put together a package that included Paul Coffey, Keith Primeau and a 1st round draft pick to obtain him. Right from the start, Shanahan fit in with the team and became an instant fan favourite. He scored 46 goals in his first season with the Wings, but his greatest moment for me from that season was his flying takedown of Roy on March 26. This act solidified his place as a true member of the Red Wings and not some gun-for-hire brought in to score goals *cough*Hossa*cough*. In the playoffs that season, Shanny was amazing, scoring 9 goals and 17 points as the Wings captured their first Cup in 42 years. Along the way, he scored the series-clinching goal against the Ducks, and he added a couple of big goals in the Finals (the insurance marker in Game 2 and the shot-from-behind-the-net in Game 3). The next season was a bit of an off year for him, but the Wings were able to repeat as champs.

Over the course of his Red Wing career, Shanahan became on of the team's most consistent scorers. In 9 seasons, he never scored less than 25 goals, and he hit the 40-goal mark 3 times. He also exhibited a mean streak, as evidenced by his 1000+ PIM in 9 seasons. In 2001-2002, he returned to playoff form, racking up 19 points in 23 games as the Wings won their 3rd Cup in 6 years. Shanny was the one who potted the empty-netter that season, ensuring the Wings would be victorious. Unfortunately, he would be unable to replicate his playoff scoring over the next 3 postseasons, tallying only 10 points in 22 playoff games. His inability to score was one of the main reasons why the Wings were not successful in the playoffs, and after the 2005-06 season, he and the team parted ways as the Wings were ready to move forward with a different nucleus.

In terms of my lifetime, Shanahan is without question the best power forward the Wings have had. He could score and he could hit; his hands were soft enough that he could score a pretty goal, or he could turn them into fists and pummel an opponent. Essentially, he was what Keith Primeau should have been when the Wings drafted him. I've always found it ironic that the Wings had to get the player they wanted all along by trading the very guy they had drafted to fill that role. That Shanahan was not only a better scorer than Primeau was but also tougher says a lot about how good Shanny was, because Primeau turned out to be a pretty decent hockey player.

While Shanahan never had any real postseason success to speak of prior to the trade, his presence on the team seemed to legitimize the Wings in a way that no outsider could. They were suddenly tougher, but with a lot of skill to go with that toughness. He also gave the Wings a bonafide scorer to give them 2 real offensive lines that could match anyone in the league. Having Shanahan on the team allowed Yzerman to concentrate more on his defensive play and not worry about having to pick up the slack offensively. He just seemed to be the kind of guy whose game was suited for the playoffs. That he was able to contribute immediately and win a Cup in that first season speaks volumes to how important he really was to the team.

For me, Shanahan represents the "Golden Age" of the Wings in my lifetime. As an integral part of the '97 team, he will always hold a special place in my heart, because that was my favourite year to be a Wing fan. There was always something different about them winning the first one, especially after having to watch them fail again and again and again prior that. But it wasn't just what he did in the playoffs that made him special to me; he was the Wings' best goal scorer for 9 years, but he was also one of their toughest player. He was the prototypical "power forward", and without him I don't know how successful the Wings would have been. The trade for him put the Wings on a level they had never previously been on, and allowed them to become the dominant franchise they are today. When he left, it signalled the end of an era, as he (with Yzerman) were the last of the "Old Guard" of forwards to still be on the team. Unlike other free agents that leave, Shanny was not ridiculed or thought less of because he left; instead, we recognized him for what he did for the team and wished him well in his future endeavours. He is on record as saying that if (come on, we all know it is "when") he enters the Hall of Fame, he will do so as a Red Wing; if that doesn't speak volumes about what his time in Detroit meant to him, I don't know what would. So today we celebrate Brendan Shanahan, the best power forward I've ever seen, and the 4th Greatest Red Wing of My Time.

*Thanks to Anonymous who pointed out there is still one more non-lifer to come. A big mistake on my part.


  1. "Shanny was not ridiculed or thought less of because he left"...proven by the fact that you still see countless #14 Shanny Red Wing sweaters at JLA (and in bars) when the Wings play.


  2. I couldn't agree more. And why so many Wing fans not only follow Shanny on Twitter, but also interact with him. I get the feeling that when NHL fans look back on Shanahan's career as he enters the HOF, most of the memories will be about him as a Red Wing.

  3. If this is the last of the non-lifers, is federov not on your list?

  4. and yes, I spelled "fedorov" incorrectly.

  5. Damn it! That was a very glaring omission on my part. I don't consider Federov's post-Wing career to have occurred. Thanks for pointing that out.

  6. Anonymous: "Last of the non-lifers"...thinking Stevie and Nick are #1 and #2...they're lifers aren't they? If not what's your definition? Thought #3 might be Sergei, but after your comment Graham, thinking maybe not.


  7. not sure where i read it, but in a recent interview with Shanny he was asked when he goes to HHOF and if they had to put you in as a member of a given team (which i dont believe they do)what team would he pick. no hesitation. he said the red wings. i love how un-diplomatic he was about it. he didnt waffle around about the blues, or teh devils for drafting him, or anything. 2 words, one answer. Red Wings. love that guy. he'd be my #2 all time behind stevie. when he scored the cup clincher in 2002 (he also scored the game winner, but i'm talking about the 3-1 insurance goal) and they played the irish jig they play for him, man the joe was rocking so hard. chills. and i felt amazing when following that goal he leaped into the arms of his best friend stevie. bloodied the captains nose in celebration. they were were also the first ones to hug it out when they won it 30 seconds later. best friends those two.

    i remember when shanny left, it was not the wings decision. i mean who knows what goes on behind closed doors, but i read an article back then where he said that he and stevie sat down to dinner, and when the captain told him he was retiring, he knew it was time to move on. for some reason, even though it hurt for him to go, this seemed appropriate. a nice passing of the torch.

  8. Look at the smile on Bowman's face at the press conference where Shanahan was introduced to Detroit. I know those two often clashed, but Bowman knew Shanny was the final piece to the puzzle.
    He was a delight to watch.

  9. @Anon:

    I read the same thing. I think when people look back at his career, they will also think of him as a Wing, since that's where most of his success came.

    I can't imagine how cool it must have been to have been at the game when they won. That would have been freaking amazing, and to your point about Yzerman and Shanny being friends, that was obvious from the Olympics that year as well; being Canadian we got a lot of coverage of Team Canada. I had always envisioned a time when they would be the Commish and the Wings' GM together. Still could happen.


    I remember that. The smile on Shanny's face was huge too, as I think he understood how special that team was and knew what they were capable of. Shanny was a great player and one of the best I've seen in the Winged Wheel.

  10. Graham - Quick Wings / Blues story for you. We go every year to see a game or two over in St. Louis, so one year, my wife and I head over and have really good seats (usually they're good but not great), and some dude 4 rows behind us and 5 over towards center-ice keeps yelling "Shanahan is a Homo". We can't help but hear this jerk, who obviously was living in the past and didn't stop to look at the Blues blueline to find Mr. Pronger who was traded for Shanahan a number of seasons previous.

    So my wife keeps glaring at this moron, and tells him to STHU at some point, at which point moron brain basically challenges my wife to a fight!?! My wife!! WTF? Clearly, his deck of cards is not equipped with all 52.

    Mind you, i'm the guy from Detroit, she's from Northern Missouri, her 1st hockey game that she ever watched was the USA/USSR 1980 Olympic game, so if anyone should get into a fight at a hockey game, it should be me....but no, somehow it's the woman.

    Anyway - the Wings won the game (as they usually do when we're there), Shanny didn't score, though I think he did have an assist and the last I checked, he didn't come into the crowd to find moron brain who challenged his masculinity.

    Too much fun though - and I haven't stopped giving her the business, as she's the one who gets into "scurmishes" at hockey games....