On Thursday night the Red Wings retired Nicklas Lidström's #5 in what was a phenomenal, yet emotional ceremony.
I have to say, I really enjoyed watching it, albeit on TV, and I can't wait until the next time that the Red Wings have one of these.
Which leads me to my question, who will be next? Who will be the next Red Wings player to join Nicklas Lidström, Steve Yzerman, Gordie Howe, Sid Abel, Ted Lindsey, Terry Sawchuk, and Alex Delvecchio in the rafters?
In order to determine which player(s) is most worthy of this honor, we have to establish some criteria:
- The player has to be at least 28 years old. Anyone younger than that hasn't proven themselves enough to the organization at this point.
- The player has to have won at least one Stanley Cup with Detroit.
- The player has to have played at least 75% of his NHL career with the team. This last one is very important, as otherwise Daniel Cleary (67%) and Mikael Samuelsson (48%) would also be up for consideration.
With these criteria in place, the following players are eligible for having their number retired at some point:
Of any of the current Red Wings' players, these four are also the most likely candidates to have their numbers retired.
That said, getting your number retired isn't a small award, it's the honor of a lifetime. Basically, it is hockey's version of getting knighted.
And that is not a small feat.
Henrik Zetterberg (#40)
Since 1986, the Detroit Red Wings have had three captains, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidström, and Henrik Zetterberg.
Zetterberg broke into the league in 2002-03, the season following the Wings' 2002 Stanley Cup victory. As a result, Zetterberg has won one Stanley Cup, which he won in 2008. Compared to Lidström's four and Yzerman's three, that number simply will not do.
There is no doubt that if Zetterberg keeps up that pace that he is currently on, he should be able to have good enough stats to be rafter eligible. Including the playoffs, Zetterberg has played in 882 games, and has scored 834 points in those games.
Zetterberg is currently 33 years old, and assuming that he plays an average of 75 games, and scores at least 65 points in his next six seasons, Zetterberg could finish his career with over 1200 points in over 1350 games. Those stats are not only first-ballot HoF worthy, but also rafter worthy.
But, there is one catch. Zetterberg needs to do one more thing before he can be assured of having #40 retired, he must win another Stanley Cup.
Unless Zetterberg wins another Stanley Cup, there is only a slim chance that he will have his number raised to the rafters.
Pavel Datsyuk (#13)
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg rank very near each other in this argument. Both should finish their careers with an incredible stat sheet, and both have won Stanley Cups.
Datsyuk, who also won the Stanley Cup in 2002, has a slight advantage in the Cup category over Zetterberg, but I still believe that in order to cement himself as one of the Red Wing greats, Datsyuk will need to win another cup in his career.
Unlike Zetterberg, who I fully believe will finish his career as a Wings, there is fair chance that Datsyuk may leave for elsewhere before his career is up. Datsyuk is a Wings through the 2016-17 season before becoming a UFA. While the Wings will try to re-sign him, Datsyuk, who will be 39 at that point, may decide to finish off his career in Russia.
Will this hurt the relationship between Pavel and the Wings to the point where his number won't be eligble for retirement despite his achievements (See Fedorov, Sergei)? Probably not. But, it is something to keep in mind.
Niklas Kronwall (#55) & Johan Franzen (#93)
I decided to place Kronwall and Franzen in the same section, as they overlap in a lot of areas.
Outside of Pavel and Hank, Kronwall always seems to be the next player that people go to in this situation. He is the Wings best defenseman since Nick Lidström, and he is a consistent, proven leader. That said, Kronwall is 33 years old now, and he is not getting any younger.
Johan Franzen is also aging, he is now 34, and has taken a beating in his career. Franzen's tough playing style will probably force him to retire in his late-30's, rather than in his early 40's, thus limiting his career statistics.
That said, the counter-argument for Franzen is similar to that of Kronwall. Both of these players are great, and at times are even borderline elite, but are either of them the greatest to have played in their generation? Certainly not.
You can make a legitmate argument that Pavel Datsyuk is the best center in the league right now, and if you throw in the word "two-way" before center, you will probably win that argument. Same goes for Zetterberg, who, while not being the best scoring winger in the league, is arguably the most well-rounded winger in the NHL right now.
Kronwall and Franzen will both be remembered for their heroic play, similar to Draper, McCarty, and Shanahan, but just like those players, their numbers shouldn't be retired.
Of the four aforementioned players, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have the best chance at having their numbers raised to the rafters.
Will both #40 and #13 be retired? Who knows. But, if the two help the Wings win a couple more cups, then there is certainly a chance that we will be having three retirement ceremonies in the near future. The third? Sergei Fedorov.
You now know my opinion on the matter, so now I want to know yours. Of the current Red Wings, who do you think has the best shot at having his number retired?