The Franchise Four. The Mount Rushmore. Four players who tell the story of an organization. In this series I’ll be taking a look at the history of all 30 NHL squads. For criteria, I’m choosing one forward, defenceman, goaltender and a wild card from any position.
An “Original Six” squad, there’s no shortage of sensational star power with the Detroit Red Wings. Since their inception in 1926, the Red Wings have won eleven Stanley Cup titles.
Through the years the team has boasted the likes of Gordie Howe, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Terry Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio, Sergei Fedorov, Ted Lindsay, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Chris Osgood, Red Kelly and Brendan Shanahan.
So, which players make their “Franchise Four?”
4. The Goalie – Terry Sawchuk
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Sawchuk won the Vezina Trophy three-times with Detroit. During his first full season in 1950-51, Sawchuk won the Calder Memorial Trophy, pacing the league with 70 games played, 44 victories and eleven shutouts. For five consecutive seasons, Sawchuk led the league in wins. With Detroit, Sawchuk also led the league in shutouts three-times and goals against average twice. In Red Wings history, Sawchuk is tops among goaltenders in games (734), wins (351), shutouts (85) and goalie point shares 142.9. Sawchuk helped backstop the Wings to three Stanley Cup titles. In each of those Cup winning seasons, Sawchuk led all goalies in postseason wins, shutouts and goals against average. During the 1951-52 playoffs, Sawchuk had almost as many shutouts (four) as goals allowed (five), posting a 0.62 goals against average.
3. The Wild Card – Steve Yzerman (C)
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Yzerman was an instant star with the Red Wings, breaking in at the age of 18. A three-time Stanley Cup champion, Yzerman was also a nine-time All-Star and winner of the Ted Lindsay Award, Selke Trophy and Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. When the Red Wings repeated as Stanley Cup champs against the Washington Capitals in 1998, Yzerman paced the league in postseason assists (18) and points (24), on his way to earning the Conn Smythe Trophy. Yzerman amassed 185 points across 196 career playoff contests. With Detroit, Yzerman potted 60 plus goals twice, 50 plus goals three-times and 40 plus goals six-times. In franchise history, Yzerman ranks second in goals (692), first in assists (1,063) and second in points (1,755).
2. The Defenseman – Nicklas Lidstrom
How great was Nicklas Lidstrom? Well, he could probably still be playing and challenging for a Norris Trophy and he’s been retired since 2012. A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Lidstrom is a seven-time Norris Trophy winner and a four-time Stanley Cup champion. Even more incredible is all of those Norris trophies were earned after the age of 30 and his final one came at age 40. In Red Wings history, Lidstrom ranks second in games played (1,564), tops among defensemen in goals (264), third among all players in assists (878) and fourth overall in points (1,142). Lidstrom was an eleven-time All-Star across 20 seasons. Following the 2001-02 Stanley Cup Final, Lidstrom was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
1. The Forward – Gordie Howe
Mr. Hockey. Gordie Howe belongs not only atop the Red Wings list but among the top four in hockey history. A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and a four-time Stanley Cup champion, Howe is a legend, whose career spanned four decades in the NHL. Howe was a 22-time All-Star, six-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner and Art Ross Trophy winner. Howe is Detroit’s all-time leader in games played (1,687), goals (786) and points (1,809) and ranks second in assists (1,023) and third (1,643) in penalty minutes.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.