The Detroit Red Wings are about to cap off their worst season in a quarter century. Bringing up the rear of the the Eastern Conference, the Red and White are about to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 1990 – back when a 24-year-old Steve Yzerman was completing his sixth full season and second straight year with 60-plus goals.
Yzerman is now 51 years old and in his seventh season at general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. His contributions to the Red Wings organization have not and will never be forgotten. Others like Gordie Howe, Nicklas Lidstrom, Alex Delvecchio, Sergei Fedorov Kris Draper and Pavel Datsyuk will forever be enshrined in Red Wings lore.
There are, however, a number of players that made significant contributions to the organization – some playing their whole careers in Hockeytown – but have since been forgotten. Whether they were traded away or forced into retirement early, time has a way of making us forget players that at one time played a vital role in turning the Red Wings into one of the sport’s most consistent and successful franchises.
Here is a look at 15 forgotten Detroit Red Wings players and what they’re up to now.
15 JOHAN FRANZEN
This seems like the most logical place to start because technically the “Mule” is still on the Winged Wheel’s roster. After missing most of the previous two seasons with concussion-like symptoms, the Wings placed Franzen on long-term injured reserve back in October. And that’s where he’ll remain for the final four years of what was once an 11-year deal to keep the rugged forward in Motown.
It’s never easy to see a player lose the rest of his career due to injury, especially a concussion. In Franzen’s case, he seemed to disappear overnight. It’s easy to forget how integral he was during the Red Wings’ run to the Cup in 2008, a postseason that saw him score 13 goals in 16 games. Franzen spends his time now ribbing former and current teammates on his popular Instagram account @jfranzen93.
14 KEITH PRIMEAU
The hulking forward was a huge part of the Red Wings transformation from cellar-dwellers to Cup contenders in the early to mid-90s. Unfortunately, the 6-foot-5 center left Hockeytown in 1996 in a trade that brought Brendan Shanahan and the Stanley Cup to Detroit in 1997 – the Wings first title in 42 years.
Primeau finished his career in Philadelphia, playing six seasons for the Flyers; but his best years were as a Wing, racking up 97 goals and 230 points in 363 games. Primeau, like Franzen, was forced into early retirement in 2006 due to a concussion. Since retiring, he has co-authored a book called “Concussed” and is currently the president of the Durham Hockey Institute, a youth hockey program with locations in USA and Canada.
13 BRIAN RAFALSKI
After seven years playing for the defensive-minded New Jersey Devils, Rafalski welcomed an opportunity in 2007 to play in Mike Babcock’s system in Detroit that pushed for defensemen to join the rush and be a part of the offense. The move was a good one, as it culminated with back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and 2009.
Injuries, however, caught up with Rafalski, who was forced to retire in 2011 – citing back and knee injuries – with one year remaining on his deal. He tried to make a comeback in 2014, signing with the Florida Everglades, but once again back injuries pushed him off the ice. He currently resides in Florida, where he is trying to build up the Florida Alliance AAA Hockey Club.
12 MATHIEU DANDENAULT
Maybe the most forgetful thing about Dandenault is the fact that he was a lifetime forward converted to defenseman by the legendary Scotty Bowman. The switch came during Dandenault’s second season in the league – a season that ended with his name being etched on Lord Stanley. He would switch back and forth for the majority of his first three seasons before making a permanent switch the blue line in 1998-99.
The speedy and versatile player played nine seasons in Detroit, helping the Wings to three Stanley Cups. Dandenault played in Italy during the 2004-05 lockout then signed as a free agent with his hometown Montreal Canadiens. The lockout provided an abrupt ending to a solid career as a Wing. He retired from the game in 2010 and is now a part-time analyst for Canada’s TVA Sports.
11 KIRK MALTBY
Darren McCarty’s partner in crime on “The Grind Line”, Maltby is tied with Sergei Fedorov for 10th in all-time games played (908) for the Red Wings. Traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Wings during the 1995-96 campaign, Maltby’s gritty playing style quickly make him a fan favorite in Motown. While he never scored more than 14 goals in a season, Maltby, McCarty and Kris Draper made up one of the best fourth lines in hockey, serving as a perfect complement to the Wings’ plethora of superstar talent.
Maltby, Draper, McCarty, Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom are the only four players to be on all four Stanley Cup championship teams between 1997 and 2008. He retired a Red Wing in 2010 and continues to be a part of the team today, serving as a pro scout in Detroit’s front office.
10 VLADIMIR KONSTANTINOV
This might be one of the saddest stories in Detroit Red Wings history. The gritty blue-liner saw his career come to an end just days after hoisting Lord Stanley back in 1997. Konstantinov was in a limousine accident that put one of the toughest players to ever don the winged wheel in a coma for several weeks before eventually pulling through with massive brain damage.
Konstantinov was part of an epic 1989 draft class for the Red Wings that also saw them land hall of famers Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov. Now 49 years old, Konstantinov continues to reside in Detroit, where he has developed a budding career as an artist. Back in 2011, he had a number of his paintings, drawings and 3-D constructions on display at the Gallery U and Boutique in Royal Oak, Mich, with proceeds going to the Brain Injury Association of Michigan.
9 TOMAS HOLMSTROM
A four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings, Holmstrom spent his entire 15-year career playing in Detroit. His retirement, however, got lost in the shuffle because he did it just hours before the Red Wings home opener in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. On the Red Wings all-time record list, the Swede ranks sixth in games played (1,026), 12th in goals (243) and 13th in points (530).
The majority of Homer’s goals came from just outside of the crease, where he made a living frustrating and infuriating goaltenders, defensemen and even referees with his steadfast net-front presence. Since retiring, Holmstrom has moved back to Sweden, where he coaches youth hockey and lives with his wife, Annelie, and their children Max, Isak and Isabel.
8 MANNY LEGACE
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. That’s the way Legace’s career went while with the Detroit Red Wings. He was certainly in the right place at the right time – he’s got a 2002 Stanley Cup ring to prove it – but he was never able to step out of the shadow of Chris Osgood, Dominic Hasek or even Curtis Joseph (yeah, he played for the Wings, too – remember?).
Then came the 2005-06 season, where he beat out the returning Chris Osgood for the starting job and set a franchise record with 10 wins in October. Unfortunately, Legace will best be remembered that season as the goaltender for the No. 1 Red Wings who lost to the No. 8 Edmonton Oilers in the first round. He is now a college hockey analyst for Fox Sports Detroit. Of course, Osgood has the big boy job as the Red Wings analyst on FSD. Always the bridesmaid…
7 VYACHESLAV KOZLOV
Red Wings fans consider him a poor man’s Datsyuk. Not just because they shared a home country and jersey number, but because Kozlov had the tools and skills of Pav, yet lacked his consistency and work ethic. Kozlov played 10 seasons in Detroit, tallying 415 points in 605 career games, and played on a line with Sergei Fedorov and Igor Larionov – with Slava Fetisov and Vladimir Konstantinov on the point – making up the “Russian Five.”
While he left his mark in Detroit with a pair of Cups and some memorable moments in the Red Wings rivalry with the Colorado Avalanche, he’s easy to forget considering he was part of the deal that brought Dominic Hasek from Buffalo to Hockeytown. Kozlov eventually signed with the Atlanta Thrashers then moved on to the KHL before retiring in 2015. He is currently an assistant coach for the Moscow Oblast.
6 DARREN McCARTY
There aren’t too many NHL tough guys that are best known for a goal they scored instead of a face they pounded in. But McCarty is one of those players. His ridiculous, out-of-body experience tally in Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Final against the Philadelphia Flyers turned out to be not only the game-winner, but the Cup-clinching goal to break a 42-year drought for the Wings.
McCarty was the embodiment of those great Red Wings teams through the late 90’s and into the early 2000s, grinding his way to four Stanley Cups. Then, just like that, he was gone. His off-ice troubles with alcohol are well-documented, but since retiring in 2009 he’s been able to clean up his life. McCarty now lives back in Detroit, where he is vice president of business development for a commercial real estate company.
5 MARTIN LAPOINTE
A tough guy that chipped in offensively for the Red Wings in the late 90’s, Lapointe had a stellar season in 2000-01, eclipsing the 20-goal mark for the only time in his career with 27 tallies and 57 points. But instead of remaining with the powerhouse Wings, the UFA turned the atypical season into a payday, signing with the Boston Bruins, who would go on to bow out in the first round of the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs. Detroit, on the other hand, would go on to win its third title in six years.
Lapointe never replicated that huge season in Detroit, but he would go on to play six more seasons after leaving the Wings, playing for the Bruins and Blackhawks. Chicago traded Lapointe to the Senators in 2008, his final NHL season. Lapointe has been the Director of Player Development for the Canadiens since 2012.
4 JOHN OGRODNICK
The 66th overall draft pick in the 1979 draft, it could be argued that Ogrodnick was one of the most productive players in Detroit Red Wings history. Nearly a point-per-game player in his nine seasons with the Wings (1979-87), Ogrodnick racked up 546 points in 558 games (0.98 PPG) – 12th on the Red Wings all-time points list. He even potted an impressive 55 goals and 105 points in the 1984-85 season, numbers that get overshadowed by playing during Wayne Gretzky’s prime and for an atrocious Red Wings franchise at the time.
He was eventually traded to the Quebec Nordiques during the 1986-87 season before playing his next six seasons on Broadway with the New York Rangers. He returned to Hockeytown in 1992-93, where he recorded 12 points in 19 games before retiring the following offseason. Today, Ogrodnick serves as vice president of the Red Wings Alumni Association.
3 JOEY KOCUR
It didn’t take long for “KO” Kocur to make an impact in the NHL. At 21 years old, Kocur’s 377 penalty minutes in 1985-86 led the league. He and teammate Bob Probert quickly developed the nickname the Bruise Brothers. The late Probert became better known, thanks to his ability to fill up both sides of the scoresheet – he scored 29 goals and added 398 penalty minutes in 1987-88. Kocur had just one season with double-digit tallies.
Kocur, though, was able to help two Original Six teams end Stanley Cup droughts. He was on the Rangers when they ended their 55-year drought in 1994 and the Red Wings when they ended a 42-year drought in 1997. After winning another Cup in 1998, Kocur retired with 2,519 career PIMs. He currently heads the Red Wings Alumni Association and the Joe Kocur Foundation for Children, a non-profit that helps needy families and other charitable causes.
2 RAY SHEPPARD
The right-handed sharpshooter played for six different teams during his 12-year NHL career. From 1991 until he was traded five games into the 1995-96 season, Sheppard potted 152 goals in 274 games with the Red Wings. That includes a career-high 52-goal season in 1993-94. Compare that to the 205 goals he scored in 543 combined games for the Sabres, Rangers, Sharks, Panthers and Hurricanes, and it’s clear that his best years were the five he spent in Hockeytown.
Sheppard retired from the game in 2000, but still plays in the Florida beer leagues, spends his days coaching high school hockey and serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Panthers Alumni Association. A plus-2.5 handicap (that’s really good), Sheppard was listed second in the Golf Digest’s Athlete-Golfer Ranking back in 2007.
1 JIRI FISCHER
A first-round pick by the Wings in the 1998 draft, Fischer had the size (6-foot-5) and skating ability to be a long-time factor in Detroit’s defensive arsenal. Then, on November 21, 2005, Fischer collapsed on the Red Wings bench during a home game against the Nashville Predators. Trainers administered CPR before he finally came to six minutes after he passed out. The game was postponed, marking the first time in NHL history a game was postponed due to an in-game injury.
Off-ice heart issues continued to haunt Fischer following the incident and he was never able to suit up again. It was a sad end to a promising career for Fischer, who won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2002. He has spent the previous nine years as Detroit’s director of player development and currently works in player evaluation for the Red Wings.