The Detroit Red Wings' run as hockey's model organization appears to be all but over at this point, but it was definitely a ride for the ages. Between 1990 and 2016, they made the playoffs every year, reached six Stanley Cup Finals and took home for championships. Hockeytown was home to many NHL legends for over two-and-a-half decades, and it's unlikely we see another team dominate so much for over two decades like Detroit did.
With their playoff streak over, fans will now reflect on the incredible journey put on by this team. We saw legends like Steve Yzerman, Chris Osgood, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan turn Detroit from a long-time loser into one of the most dominant sports franchises.
Detroit fans can now look back and recognize their history as being greater than every team not named the Montreal Canadiens (and perhaps not the Toronto Maple Leafs). With that in mind, let's take a look at the eight best and seven worst moves in Detroit Red Wings history.
*Honorable mentions for best moves include trading for Larry Murphy --who helped Detroit win the Cup in 1997 and 1998 -- as well as drafting Chris Osgood, who was a cornerstone of three Stanley Cup teams in Motown
15 Best: Acquiring An Enemy
Sometimes in life, you need to let bygones and bygones and work together. The Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks have always had a strong rivalry, and defenceman Chris Chelios was one of the few stars capable of playing his best against Hockeytown.
But as the Blackhawks began to struggle, they decided to trade away a 37-year-old Chelios to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Anderson Eriksson and a pair of draft selections. Chelios, a three-time Norris Trophy winner, found a great fit on Detroit's blue line. His veteran leadership helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2002 and 2008.
Though Chelios was the best player on one of Detroit's biggest rivals, they decided to cut the hatred and work with him. This turned out to be one of the greatest truces in hockey history.
14 Worst: Signing Johan Franzen Long-Term
'The Mule' was drafted 97th-overall by the Red Wings in 2004, and became a late bloomer for their franchise. Johan Franzen broke out in 2007-08 with 27 goals and 38 points. His 13 goals and 18 points in 16 postseason games helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2008, and it set up Franzen nicely for an extension.
A year later, Detroit gave Franzen an 11-year contract extension worth $43.5 million. This was despite Franzen being 29 years of age and only having two good seasons in his NHL career. Well, the Red Wings were too generous to him. Franzen tore his ACL and missed almost all of 2009-10, but stayed healthy over the next two seasons to reach the 20-goal mark in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
But Franzen hasn't played much since; his 54 games in 2013-14 are The Mule's most in the past five years. Franzen played just two games in 2015-16 and hasn't played since, due to ongoing concussion symptoms. With that, Detroit has him under their payroll for three more years. They never got good value in the huge contract they handed him.
13 Best: 2002 Veteran Shopping Spree
The Red Wings entered the 2001-02 season four years removed from a Stanley Cup, having been eliminated in the first round by the Los Angeles Kings the year before. They decided they needed a little more veteran starpower to compete with top dogs like the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars.
So they brought in six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek, acquiring him in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres. They signed Luc Robitaille, the highest-scoring left winger in league history, to a two-year contract worth $9 million. They also added the fourth-highest goal-scorer in league history in Brett Hull on a two-year, $9 million deal.
It paid off well, as Detroit had 10 Hall of Famers on their team and took home the Presidents' Trophy with 116 points. They finally got through their playoff Kryptonite in the Colorado Avalanche, before defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in five games to capture their third Stanley Cup in five years.
12 Worst: Signing Stephen Weiss
Stephen Weiss showed plenty of potential on fairly mediocre Florida Panthers teams, putting up four 20-goal seasons and twice hitting the 60-point mark. Needing more offence to their ageing lineup, general manager Ken Holland signed Weiss to a five-year contract worth $24.5 million in 2014.
Weiss was limited to 26 games in his first year after suffering needing hernia surgery. He scored just two goals and two assists. He had the chance to turn things around in 2015-16, but finished with just nine goals and 25 points in 52 games.
Frustrated with his lack of progress, the Red Wings bought out the last three years of his contract. Weiss was nothing more than a second-line player and the term given was way too much. The cash-strapped Red Wings will regret this signing for the long run.
11 Best: Drafting Sergei Fedorov
The Red Wings took a chance on the flashy Russian, drafting him 74th-overall in 1989. Sergei Fedorov produced immediately, scoring 31 goals and 79 points in his rookie season. He became a great complement to Steve Yzerman, putting up consistent 30-goal and 80-point seasons, including 56 tallies and 120 points in 1993-94.
Fedorov was vital in the Red Wings marches to the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup, scoring 20 points in each of those playoff runs. Fedorov finished with 400 goals and 954 points in 908 games with Detroit, placing him fifth all-time in franchise scoring.
Though Fedorov never got the recognition that guys like Yzerman and Lidstrom, he was just as paramount to their three Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002 as anyone else. He was a gifted goal-scorer who helped Detroit become a dynasty for the ages.
10 Worst: Trading Adam Graves to Oilers
Adam Graves (Pictured Left) was drafted 22nd-overall by Detroit in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft. But Graves struggled to find his ground in the Motor City, so he was involved in a big trade that sent him, Petr Klima and Joe Murphy to the Edmonton Oilers. The trade became incredibly one-sided for Edmonton and one Detroit would live to regret.
Graves' strong defensive game was huge for the Oilers in their run to the 1990 Stanley Cup, scoring 11 points in 22 games. But when he moved on to the New York Rangers, Graves took his game to the next level. He became an eight-time 20-goal scorer in New York, but 1993-94 was a season like no other for Graves. He had a career-best season, scoring 52 goals and 79 points. He also had 17 points in the playoffs, helping the Rangers end their 54-year Stanley Cup drought. Graves even scored in Game 7.
Too bad Detroit gave up on him so early, though.
9 Best: Drafting Henrik Zetterberg/Pavel Datsyuk
The Red Wings have done so much right, and Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were equally vital to Detroit's success in the 2000s/2010s, so we have to include both even though they were drafted in different years.
Detroit drafted Datsyuk 171st-overall (in the fifth round), back in 1998. He won three Frank J. Selke Trophies as the league's best defensive forward and finished with 314 goals and 918 points, helping Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2002 and 2008.
The Red Wings got another late-round gem in Henrik Zetterberg, selecting him in the seventh round (210th-overall), in 1999. As of this writing, he is seventh in franchise scoring with 325 goals and 902 points. Zetterberg also took home the Conn Smythe in 2008 as the backbone of Detroit's Stanley Cup season.
8 Worst: Trading Adam Oates
Adam Oates went undrafted and signed a four-year deal with the Red Wings for the 1985-86 season. Oates broke out in 1988-89, scoring 16 goals and 78 points. Detroit wanted to make some changes after constant failures in the playoffs, and traded Oates and Paul MacLean to the St. Louis Blues, bringing over Bernie Federko and Tony McKgegney.
As it turned out, Detroit gave up way too early on Oates. In his first season with St. Louis, Oates scored 23 goals and 105 points. He followed it up with 25 goals and 115 points and went on the path to NHL greatness.
Oates reached the 100-point mark four times in his career and finished with 341 goals and 1,420 points in 1,337 NHL games. He ranks 17th all-time in league scoring, and Detroit lived to regret giving away a future legend for little in return.
7 Best: Trading For Brendan Shanahan
The Red Wings consistently dominated in the '90s, but despite having the likes of Osgood, Fedorov, Yzerman, Shanahan, Paul Coffey, Keith Primeau and Kris Draper, they weren't able to get over the hump and win their first championship since 1955. Detroit knew they were one piece away, and they traded away a pair of stars in Primeau and Coffey, along with a first-round pick, to the Hartford Whalers in exchange for Brendan Shanahan in 1996.
Shanahan became a huge piece of Detroit's puzzle. He scored 46 goals and 87 points in his first season with the Red Wings. He had 17 points in 20 playoff games, helping the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 1997. Shanahan wound up scoring 30-plus goals in seven seasons with Detroit and was a huge part of their three Stanley Cup teams in 1997, 1998 and 2002. All Detroit needed after all this time was a true power forward who could bring toughness and score the clutch goal when needed. Shanahan did all that.
6 Worst: Drafting Kory Kocur
The 1988 NHL Draft was home to a number of legends, including Mike Modano, Trevor Linden, Jeremy Roenick and Teemu Selanne. Detroit picked right winger Kory Kocur (Pictured Left) with the 17th-overall selection. He never played an NHL game, and the Red Wings missed out on drafting another future Hall of Famer in Mark Recchi -- who fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins at 67th-overall in the fourth round.
Recchie was one of the NHL's best leaders and most dynamic scorers in the '90s. He cracked the 100-point mark four times and was a star anywhere he went -- with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, especially. Recchi racked up 577 goals and 1,533 points in his career and won three Stanley Cups.
Detroit really could have used that production, but they drafted a player who became a complete bust. Rob Blake and Tony Amonte were among other stars Detroit passed on.
5 Best: Drafting Nicklas Lidstrom
The Red Wings drafted Nicklas Lidstrom in the third round -- 53rd overall -- in 1989. Nobody could have thought that drafting the slick Swede would change the NHL landscape, but hindsight is 20/20.
Lidstrom became one of the NHL's best defenceman in his own end and in the offensive zone. He scored 11 goals and 60 points in his rookie season (1991-92). His talents were often overlooked as other defencemen like Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Scott Stevens and Chris Pronger were in their primes. Nonetheless, Lidstrom put up constant 50-70 point seasons and shut down the opposition's top lines in the postseason, including the Philadelphia Flyers 'Legion of Doom' line in the 1997 Stanley Cup Final.
When all was said and done, Lidstrom won four Cups with Detroit, one Conn Smythe (2002), seven Norris Trophies and finished with 264 goals and 1,142 points. That's definitely more than Detroit could have hoped for when they drafted him fairly late in 1989.
4 Worst: Trading Ted Lindsay and Glenn Hall
'Terrible Ted' Lindsay formed the infamous Production Line with Sid Abel and Gordie Howe. Lindsay was a key part of Detroit's four Stanley Cup championships in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955. One of the greatest goal-scorers of the '40s and '50s, Lindsay finished with 379 goals and 851 points -- most of them coming with the Red Wings.
But Detroit made a head-scratching trade, sending him and another future Hall of Famer in Glenn Hall to the Chicago Blackhawks for the 1957-58 season. Detroit didn't find much success after the trade, and Hall led his new team to a Stanley Cup final victory over the Red Wings in 1961.
Hall finished with 407 wins, 84 shutouts and an impressive 2.49 goals against average for his career. He also won three Vezina Trophies, showing Detroit they were silly for doubting him.
3 Best: Drafting Steve Yzerman
Coming off of one of their worst and most disappointing seasons in franchise history, Detroit landed the fourth-overall pick in a draft that included many Hall of Famers. They were fortunate that the Minnesota North Stars wasted the top selection on Brian Lawton. Hartford took Sylvain Turgeon next, and the New York Islanders took Pat LaFontaine third.
That left Steve Yzerman available, whom the Red Wings wasted no time selecting. 'Stevie Y' quickly went to work in turning Detroit into a relevant franchise, scoring 39 goals and 87 points in his rookie season. Yzerman became Detroit's captain when he was just 21 during the 1986-87 season. His incredible leadership led Detroit to winning three Stanley Cups under his guidance. Stevie Y finished with 692 goals and 1,755 points. If the Red Wings hadn't selected him, they would have not become hockey's most dominant team in the '90s.
2 Worst: Trading Marcel Dionne
Marcel Dionne was drafted second-overall by the Red Wings in 1971, and he instantly became a superstar. He scored a total of 139 goals and 366 points in four seasons for the Red Wings, but they struggled in his tenure there. Dionne also wanted more money that Detroit wasn't willing to offer, so they traded him to the Los Angeles Kings for two players, draft selections and money. None of those assets accounted for much.
Meanwhile, Dionne became one of the top scorers in NHL history. After the trade, he was a six-time 50-goal scorer and reached the 100-point mark in seven different seasons. Dionne ranks sixth all-time in points (1,771), and fifth all-time in goals with 731. Just imagine if Detroit had Dionne and Yzerman all those years together. Wow!
1 Best: Signing Gordie Howe
In 1944, the Red Wings saw a talented hockey player named Gordie Howe and had him try out for camp. They sent him to junior and ensured he remained part of their roster. Howe joined the Red Wings for the 1946-47 season and NHL history would change forever.
To be nicknamed 'Mr. Hockey', you have to be legendary at hockey. Howe was just that.
What can we say about Howe that you haven't heard before? Should we start with him leading the league in goals five times? His six Art Ross Trophies? His six Hart Trophies? His four Stanley Cups? Or how about him being fourth all-time in points with 1,850? Howe is viewed by some as one of the greatest athletes of ever. He changed the game of hockey and became an icon in Detroit. We can only guess how the Red Wings would have fared if they never signed Howe. He's arguably the greatest player to ever live, and his resume does speak for itself.
This was an easy choice for number one on our list.