The year was 1994. The Red Wings still played in the old Central Division, there were 84-games in a regular season, the Quebec Nordiques still existed, and Ray Sheppard scored 52 goals.
Yes, it has been a while to say the least. In light of the release of NHL 14, which includes a special game mode, NHL '94, which commemorates the historic video game, we have decided to hop in the WiiM time machine and head back to 1994.
Just like the current Red Wings team, the 1994 team was poised for success. It had a plethora of rising superstars backed by the magnificent coaching of Scotty Bowman.
It is easy to disagree with my previous statement and say that the '94 Red Wings were at a whole other level in comparison to the current Wings. But I disagree.
Mike Babcock. Scotty Bowman.
You can hate on Babcock as much as you want but you can't deny that he is one of the best, if not the best, coach in the entire NHL. His extensive knowledge of the game, and his determination to stick to his plan, has elevated him far above his peers in the world of ice hockey. Just look at Justin Abdelkader. Mike Babcock knows what he is doing.
Much of the same can be said for Scotty Bowman, who is the greatest coach in NHL history. If you throw out the 9 Stanley Cups, the 1,244 career regular season wins, and the various awards and trophies that he has earned over his prestigious career, you get a guy who simply knew how to get the most out of his players. He wanted only one thing. And that was to win.
Their undeniable willingness to win is what makes these two coaches so similar. We are truly fortunate to have been blessed by their presence.
1994 was a great year for the Red Wings forwards. Sergei Fedorov scored 56 goals and had 120 points, Steve Yzerman scored 82 points in 58 games, and Ray Sheppard scored 52 goals and 93 points! So what does this mean? If Fedorov=Datsyuk, and Zetterberg=Yzerman, does that mean that Abdelkader=Sheppard? I sure hope so!
In addition to the aforementioned players, this season marked the beginning of Kris Draper's and Darren McCarty's illustrious careers with the Wings. It was also Bob Probert's last season with the team as he left Detroit to join the Chicago Blackhawks.
Might Probert's departure signal the end of Tootoo's time in Detroit? And does Draper's arrival bode well for fellow centerman Stephen Weiss? Who knows.
When you get passed the flashy names you realize that the forwards are relatively similar. Both the '94 and '14 Wings teams have their fair share of stars but they also have their filler players. For every Fedorov you have you also have a Samuelsson. For every Pavel Bure or Bob Probert you have, you have a Nyquist or a Datsyuk.
You can tell that the '94 team and the current team were built very similarly.
With a defense highlighted by names like Lidström, Konstantinov, Coffey, and Howe, you can easily argue that the '94 team had one of the best defenses that the Wings have ever had. But I disagree. Instead of Konstantinov, we have Kronwall. Instead of Coffey, we have Kindl. Instead of Howe, we have DeKeyser. Instead of Lidström, we have Sm...yeah, let's not go there.
In all seriousness though, the Wings have, much like they had back in '94, an exciting D-corps. Remember, back in those days, Lidström and Konstantinov were both just breaking into the league, similar to what Kindl and DeKeyser are doing right now.
The names may not be as flashy, but I am confident that this year's defenseman will emulate the performance of what '94 defenseman did.
By far the biggest difference between the '94 Wings and the current Wings are their goaltenders. Although the Osgood & Cheveldae tandem was a better pair than Howard & Gustavsson, neither Ozzy nor Cheveldae were even close to the level which Jimmy Howard currently is at.
I personally believe that Jimmy Howard is the best pure-Wings goaltender since Terry Sawchuk. Yes, that Terry. While you can argue that Mike Vernon and Dominick Hasek were better overall goaltenders, which I totally agree with, neither were bred and brought up through the Wings system. Rather, they were established goaltenders by the time they arrived in Detroit.
I personally love Ozzy, his 400 career wins are legendary, but I don't believe that he had the superstar potential which Howard is currently exhibiting.
Only time will tell whether I am correct or not. And winning a Stanley Cup will be crucial for Howard to assert himself as one of the greats. But if he can do that, and continue to play at the level he currently is at, I think that I have a fair argument for what I am pitching.
So, What Happened To The '94 Wings?
Just like I mentioned earlier, the '94 Wings were poised for success. And through the regular season, they were the most successful team in not only the Central Division, but in the entire Western Conference. The team had some phenomenal individual performances to go along with the the team's success and a long playoff run seemed inevitable.
However, the success in the regular season didn't transfer over into the postseason. The Wings would not make it out of the first round as they lost in 7 games to the San Jose Sharks.
As we reminisce about the past, one can't help but wonder what is in store for the Red Wings this season. Each year brings us new magical moments which will be re-told for generations to come. What will be this years magical moment?