A few days ago the Red Wings organization announced the inevitable, that Nicklas Lidström's number was to be retired. It wasn't a matter of if, but instead a matter of when.
So when is this "when" that I speak of? March 6th, 2014 against the Colorado Avalanche.
This announcement has re-opened discussions about what to do with some of the Wings other sacred numbers that haven't reached the level of the rafters just yet.
Those numbers are Larry Aurie's #6, Vladimir Konstantinov's #16 and Sergei Fedorov's #91.
Each case is unique. Aurie's number was retired by the Wings but back in those days the numbers weren't hung up in the rafters. Konstantinov never reached the elite level of all of these other players due to his career being cut short. And Fedorov is one of the best players to ever play for the Wings but he had issues with the organization that have resulted in his legacy being tainted.
Larry Aurie's #6
Of the the three aforementioned players, Larry Aurie has the most perplexing case. Aurie, who started off his career with Detroit back when the organization was still named the Cougars, played 12 seasons with the Wings/Cougars/Falcons and was a intricate part of the Wings 1936 and 1937 Stanley Cup winning teams.
Aurie was beloved by former Wings owner James Norris. After Aurie retired Norris ordered that his number was to be retired from use. It remained retired until it apparently was un-retired by Mike Ilitch who seems to have a huge grudge against Aurie. This Kuklas Korner article from 2007 explains everything.
In a 1997 article with the Detroit Free Press, Jimmy Devellano said that the reason that Aurie's number wasn't retired was because he wasn't in the Hall of Fame. This article sadly isn't online so I don't know if he said anything else about Larry.
Over the years there have been many movements to make the number officially retired. In addition to those by Aurie's descendants there have been petitions and demonstrations but to no success.
Larry Aurie's number still remains in a position of uncertainty that it doesn't deserve.
Retire it now Ilitch.
Vladimir Konstantinov's #16
A fantastic career cut short by a tragic accident.
Had Vladimir's career not been cut short then I think we aren't just talking about retiring Lidström's number, but Vladdy's as well.
He was on pace to becoming one of the best defenseman in the game. He was on pace to being a Norris Trophy candidate. He was on pace to becoming a legend.
He was what could have been.
Who wouldn't have wanted more of this for ten more years?
But, sadly, it wasn't to be. When the question pops up of whether to retire Vladdy's number or not I don't know what to do. He was a great player, he truly was, but he wasn't a Lidström, nor was he a Yzerman or a Fedorov.
I will always be split over the issue of retiring his number. It's one of those situations where my minds telling me no, but my body's telling me yes. And I'm not just talking about that R Kelly song. I mean it. I don't know what to do when it comes to retiring #16.
Also, if Jimmy D was telling the truth about not retiring a players number if said player wasn't in the HoF, the case in favor of retiring Vladdy's #16 isn't going too well.
You need to be able to stand in the same sentence as Steve Yzerman, Ted Lindsay, and Gordie Howe if you want your number in the Joe's rafters.
Fedorov may seem like the easiest pick of the three. If you look only at stats, Fedorov is one of the best players to ever play for Detroit. He won a Hart Trophy in 1994 and was a part of the Red Wings '97, '98, and '02 Stanley Cup wins. He was regarded as one of the best players in the world during that time period and without him I highly doubt that we would have ever won those cups.
So why isn't his number already hanging in the rafters? Two reasons: the 1997-98 holdout and the decision to leave the Wings in 2003 to join the Anaheim Ducks. Both of these conflicts impaired the relationship between the Wings organization and Fedorov.
Had either of these two conflicts not occurred (especially the decision to leave the Wings) then we wouldn't be having this debate, his number would already have been retired.
And don't kid yourself that he wasn't a good enough player to have his jersey retired. I mean no disrespect to Datsyuk but I believe that Fedorov was not only as good as Datsyuk but even better.
If Fedorov's #91 never gets retired it isn't a matter of skill but rather a matter of grudges and bitterness.
The cases have been presented and now it's time for the verdict.
I thought long and hard about this and my decision may offend some of you, so be prepared.
Officially retire #6 and #91 and "honor" #16. And by honor I mean never give the number out to anyone ever again. Basically, for #16, things stay status quo.
As much as I love Vladdy, he never reached the elite status of the other players whose numbers are currently retired. Obviously, this is due to a tragic incident. Still, I just don't think he deserves the recognition of some of these other players.
I mean, look at who is hanging up in the rafters. Those guys weren't just stars like Vladdy, but they were superstars. I know that this may be a bad comparison but would anybody retire Nik Kronwall's number? Assuming that he doesn't go on to win a couple of Norris Trophies then the answer is no. I don't think that Kronwall is as good as Konstantinov was but I do think that they are on similar levels.
As for Aurie and Fedorov, Aurie's number was retired so it's a obvious choice to hang it up in the rafters. And without Fedorov we wouldn't have won all of those cups. Not retiring his number would be a huge insult to all Wings fans.
And for the record, I don't think that the Red Wings should retire either Osgood's or Shanahan's numbers.
So what are your thoughts on this whole situation? Do these numbers deserve the recognition of being retired or should nothing be changed?