Red Wings have bright future
Pick a team, any team in the 30-team NHL and ask the general manager if he would like to have
When he says, "Yes, of course! Who wouldn't, you fool?", ask him this:
"Well, why don't you?"
Try it. It's great fun, and you get to see if the human face can match the same shade of red as the championship sweaters of the above-named famously successful Detroit Red Wings.
The embarrassment comes from the fact that every one of those players was available to other GMs before the Red Wings drafted them. Some went around the draft wheel three, five, six, seven and even as many as 10 times.
Lidstrom, the captain, a five-time -- and by this time next week possibly a six-time -- Norris Trophy winner as well as the 2002 Conn Smythe playoff MVP, was selected in the third round of the 1989 entry draft. He was the 53rd player taken overall.
Franzen, the leading goal-scorer for much of Detroit's most recent playoff run, went in the third round in 2004, the 97th player taken overall.
Holmstrom, who has now had a role in four Cup championships in the last 12 years, went in the 10th round in '94, the 257th player taken.
Datsyuk, who has now won two Cups and the Lady Byng Trophy (gentlemanly play), and is a candidate for this season's Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) in addition to being one of the team's scoring leaders, was a sixth-round pick in '98, the 171st player taken overall.
Zetterberg, the MVP of the 2008 playoffs and the Red Wing who on Wednesday scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal, is also one of the scoring leaders in both the regular- and postseason, and a candidate for the Selke this year. He was a seventh-rounder, taken with the 210th pick in 1999.
And on and on it goes.
This is the first time in recent history that the Red Wings have won a Cup without
"People expected us to go down," Illitch said after Detroit's fourth Cup since 1997 was secured. "The [salary] cap has changed things. Everyone wanted a level field, but we've been able to compete in the new system."
What makes the Detroit Red Wings great is not that they've remained an elite team for well over a decade. That's commendable on its own, but even more intriguing is that even though they are now one of the older teams in the NHL (average age: 32), it's not like this will be their last gasp at or near the top.
The Wings develop players better than most teams, and that's no accident. Detroit has perhaps the largest and most experienced hockey department in the game. They draft well, as shown above, and season their players with time and a system that makes certain the roster is deep for now as well as continually developing replacements for players who need to be replaced or supported en route to the time when they depart.
The Red Wings also manage their money very well. That's a tribute to Holland and associate GM
That's only on the front end.
On defense, Lidstrom,
There's a bit of a question in goal, with
What's amazing to most observers is that in addition to being a champion with a good deal of talent under contract and comfortably under the salary cap, the Wings have a lengthy list of prospects who are in various stages of a well-orchestrated grooming process as some of the older players are phased out.
That's not just luck. That's a program, a core group of players, a second group ready to challenge the core and a bevy of prospects in various levels of development.
No team is perfect, but the Red Wings appear perfectly positioned to stay at or near the top of the NHL for years to come. They are champions on the ice in no small part because of the championship quality of their organization off it.