On Wednesday, Brad Richards ended his 15 year NHL career after two Stanley Cups, the 2004 Conn Smythe trophy and one final lackluster season with the Red Wings.
The Red Wings organization have made a habit to bring in veterans at the end of their careers in attempt to be savvy and add leadership. Sometimes it's been a heartwarming success that's ended with a Stanley Cup silhouette walking off into the sunset, sometimes it's ended with a depressing suit in the press box. Let's rank 'em.
Steve Ott: But he hasn't even retired yet, you say! But he's yet to even play a game for the Red Wings, you say! Come folks, we know how this one will end.
Erik Cole: Cole is an anomaly on this list because his career ended as a Red Wing prematurely due to a spinal cord bruise. He was acquired via trade at the 2015 deadline from Dallas for Mattias Janmark. In hindsight, Stars GM Jim Nill absolutely fleeced his former boss, Ken Holland; Janmark has gone on to be a speedy forward playing the powerplay and even top line minutes as a rookie, while Cole's season was over before the playoffs started. But hindsight is 20/20. Cole was brought in to aid the Wings powerplay and give them size up front. In 11 games he had 3 goals and 3 assists. He seemed like he could've been a good short-term solution. Instead he's just another dude whose career ended a Red Wing.
The Rankings (Criteria: Had to have played final season with Red Wings via signing, waiver or trade)
10. Ruslan Salei: This is going to be a mostly light-hearted list but I feel I have to mention Rusty who played his final season in the NHL with the Red Wings before passing in the tragic Yaroslavl Locomotiv plane crash at the beginning of the 2011-12 KHL season. Salei was a solid bottom pairing pick up for the Wings--just a quiet, steady, anchor of a defenseman for many years in the NHL. He did his job in his one season for the Red Wings, in that you hardly noticed him. For a certain breed of defenseman, that's not a bad thing.
9. Petr Klima: Former Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup hero and Red Wings hero of the mid-80's, Klima came back in a surprise pick up late in the bizarre 1999 season. Coming off a second straight Stanley Cup, the Red Wings were taking on water. Holland decided to pull off a series of stunning trades in attempt to shock the Wings back into championship mode. Somehow signing the Czech defector out of the German league was considered to be a worthwhile move. Possibly off a surge of adrenaline, Klima scored on his first shot in his return as a Red Wing on Valentine's Day 1999 in Madison Square Garden, but didn't have another point in 12 games before retiring back to the Czech league.
8. Bernie Federko: Poor Bernie had a Hall of Fame career. That sentence only makes sense when you find out it ended with him being sacrificed in one of the most lopsided and controversial trades in NHL history. No, Taylor Hall was not involved. Think of something even more disproportionate. In 1989 Adam Oates was a budding superstar riding Steve Yzerman's sidecar. That summer would come a "heartbreaking" change. Red Wings' Senior Vice President Jimmy Devellano claims the trade of Oates for Federko was to secure a veteran presence to get past the first round. Federko played one season with the Red Wings and they missed the playoffs for the only time in the past 30 years. He amassed the lowest point total since his sophomore season while Oates cracked 102 points centering Brett Hull. At the age of 33, Federko retired a Red Wing, but his no.24 was retired the following year in St.Louis.
7. Brad May: Okay, Brad May is kind of a reach. Most of you probably forgot he even played for the Red Wings. I mean, I did. But in everyone's clamor for the Wings to get a gritty player--an enforcer, May was just that. In 2009-10, he had 10 fights in 40 games, with one (I'm sure beautiful) assist. He signed. He fought. He retired. And he was my dude back in the day with Buffalo and maybe I just added him to this list so I could sneak the MAY DAY goal in here.
6. Ken Wregget: In all my research for this list I was hard pressed to find many goaltenders. But Wregget is a special case for any Red Wings fans who grew up in the 80's and 90's. There was a couple things he was known for. In the 80's it was his mustache. In the 90's it was his pads that literally looked like pillows strapped to his shins. Some might just remember Yzerman eating him alive in the '87 Norris Division playoffs and that's cool too. Wregget came to the Wings as a back up for Chris Osgood in 1999-00 and was perfectly serviceable to end his career. Thankfully Jean Claude Van Damme never had to relieve him in any games at the Joe.
5. Borje Salming: This is probably the most bizarre addition onto this list. Salming, like Federko, spent his entire Hall of Fame career with one team then abruptly ended it with the Red Wings. He came to Detroit as a free-agent in 1989 after 16 seasons as the Toronto Maple Leafs top defenseman. Salming's experience was tied to Federko's in that they were expected to bring the Red Wings a Cup with their leadership but the whole team collapsed instead, finishing in last. He only appeared in 49 games for Wings before finishing his career in Sweden.
4. John Ogrodnick: This was supposed to be a feel good story but unfortunately they all can't be happy endings. Gentleman John began his career in Detroit during the Dead Wing era of the early 80's. For the handful of years in between Marcel Dionne and Steve Yzerman, Ogrodnick was solely dominant in the barren early days of Joe Louis Arena. When the Wings were once again competitive in the 1986-87 season, he was surprisingly traded to the Quebec Nordiques for Brent Ashton, missing out on payoff for years of toiling. After some decent years with the New York Rangers, the Red Wings brought him back in 1992. Unceremoniously he never played regularly. Coach Bryan Murray deployed a young lineup in those days (imagine that?) and left Ogrodnick as a black ace despite having 12 points in 19 games. He took that as a nod to retire. Ogrodnick now serves as Vice President of Red Wings Alumni Association.
3. Mike Modano: When Modano signed with the Red Wings I was ecstatic and confused at the same time. My brain knew it was a very bad sign that a franchise reborn around him would willingly let him walk away but my heart said, OH! HE JUST WANTS TO COME HOME! YEAH!!! Um, no. I firmly believe to this day had Modano not suffered a wrist injury at the beginning of the season he would've been of legitimate bottom-six value to the Red Wings. Suffering a debilitating injury is going to prevent you from developing chemistry with your new team and hamper your already diminished ability. But it was clear Modano was that; diminished, and he was judged harshly by fans who never wanted him and fans who expected too much of him.
2. Dallas Drake: He started his career with the Red Wings in 1992 then came back in 2007-08 to finish it with them, winning a Stanley Cup. Drake is the redemptive story on this list. For most of his career his was a solid middle-six power forward that would drop the gloves but also developed a reputation of throwing a dirty hit, even to a Red Wing! He grabbed Wings fans ire while with the Phoenix Coyotes and St.Louis Blues a few times. A player you love to hate is usually one you'll take on your team at a reasonable contract playing manageable minutes. That's how Mike Babcock played him, rotating him in on the last and most curious incarnation of "The Grind Line". Drake was the first to be handed the Stanley Cup from captain Nick Lidstrom, capping off his career as a fan favorite in Detroit.
1. Daniel Alfredsson: It's a shame that Alferdsson's time as a Red Wing will likely be willfully erased from the minds of Ottawa Senators and Red Wings fans alike. I get the former, but I'll never understand the latter. Had Alfie stayed healthy, the 2014 Red Wings are a much stronger team going into the playoffs. They're probably still eliminated by the Boston Bruins but it wouldn't be the five game sweep that it was in reality. Alfredsson led the Red Wings in points and had 18 powerplay points in only 61 games. He put together an impressive season without Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for much of it despite his own back injury that eventually ended his career. Yet, similar to Modano, there are some fans who expected him to come to the Red Wings and be the elite player he was when he was 28. That was never realistic. Alfredsson met reasonable expectations in a Red Wings uniform, the circumstances just didn't work out.
(Author's note: Yes, I'm aware Alfredsson signed a one-day contract with the Senators and took warm-ups with them and officially retired with them. Don't get cute, we know what's real and what isn't.)