Detroit Red Wings’ Top 5 Defensemen of All Time Ranked


The Detroit Red Wings are about as embellished as an NHL franchise might be. While legendary forwards like Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman dominate the group’s document books, the Red Wings have additionally been residence to an unlimited assortment of gifted defensemen throughout the many years.

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Throughout this listing of gamers, there are quite a few Norris Trophy winners, All-Star choices, Hall-of-Fame inductees, and Stanley Cup champions. Likewise, a couple of embellished blueliners are lacking from the listing, however that’s the actuality of rankings. Without additional ado, allow us to check out the participant who slots into the fifth spot.

5. Vladimir Konstantinov

Reflecting on Vladimir Konstantinov’s profession all the time ignites bittersweet emotions. The Red Wings chosen the Russian rearguard with the 221st decide within the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, uncertain if the CSKA Moscow standout would have the ability to defect the Soviet Union.

In a situation that looks like it was out of a spy film, Red Wings’ administration managed to get Konstantinov into the United States by faking medical stories to get him discharged from the Russian military (from ‘How Vladimir Konstantinov faked cancer to join Detroit Red Wings,’ Detroit Free Press – 3/26/18.)

Vladimir Konstantinov Detroit Red Wings
Defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov of the Detroit Red Wings strikes down the ice throughout Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in opposition to the Philadelphia Flyers (Rick Stewart /Allsport)

The harrowing endeavor immediately paid dividends, because the 24-year-old was a member of the NHL’s All-Rookie Team throughout his first season in North America. He tallied 34 factors in 79 video games, however his bone-crushing physique checks and pugnacious play had been the primary traits that made him beloved by followers.

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Konstantinov continued his ascension over the following three seasons, combining dominant defensive play together with his patented aggressiveness, however his 1995-96 season was the place he really broke out. Across 81 video games, Konstantinov tallied 14 targets, 20 assists, 139 penalty minutes, and an eye-popping plus-60 ranking.

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The 1995-96 season was additionally the place Konstantinov turned immortalized as a member of the legendary Russian Five, and the Red Wings compiled a 62-13-7 document. Konstantinov’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the league. The rugged blueliner earned choice to the NHL’s Second All-Star group, completed fourth in Norris Trophy voting, and even earned himself a Hart Trophy vote.

In the 1996-97 season, he tallied 38 factors in 77 video games to associate with 151 penalty minutes, ending second in Norris Trophy voting. He performed a starring function all through the playoffs en path to the group’s first Stanley Cup championship in 42 years.

Alas, the championship celebration resulted in simply six days, because of a heartbreaking limousine accident that ended Konstantinov’s taking part in profession on the age of 29. A second that ought to have been pure pleasure changed into a tragic reminder of the fragility of the actual world.

Thankfully, Konstantinov’s whole taking part in model revolved round being a warrior, and his restoration from the accident was no completely different. He by no means performed hockey once more, however his love for the Red Wings remained. He attends a number of video games each season and has joined the team in alumni celebrations.

Despite having his profession lower upsettingly quick, Konstantinov is deserving of his rating at quantity 5. The group by no means missed the playoffs throughout his six-year profession, he was instrumental in a championship, and he was an elite defenseman at his peak. One can solely surprise how a lot increased he can be on this listing had fortune been on his aspect.

4. Niklas Kronwall

Anytime a fan base creates a verb to outline somebody’s model of play, chances are high that participant left a reasonably sizable legacy. For years, opposing gamers saved their heads up to make sure they didn’t get “Kronwalled” whereas crossing the blue line. While Niklas Kronwall by no means gained a person award, he gained the hearts of followers and teammates together with his on-ice management.

Detroit Red Wings Niklas Kronwall
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall exuded toughness all through his prolonged profession. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Kronwall was taken with the Twenty ninth-overall decide within the 2000 NHL Entry Draft after impressing scouts together with his play within the Swedish Elite League. There had been preliminary considerations about his lack of measurement, however his offensive skillset was simple.

The Swedish rearguard got here to North America within the 2003-04 season. During the NHL’s 2004-05 lockout, Kronwall excelled within the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He posted 10 targets, 43 assists, and 53 penalty minutes in 76 video games, solidifying himself a defensive constructing block for the franchise.

By the 2006-07 season, Kronwall was an NHL common. During the 2007-08 marketing campaign, he tallied 35 factors in 65 video games. While the manufacturing was spectacular, Kronwall turned even higher as soon as the Red Wings acquired defenseman Brad Stuart on the 2008 Trade Deadline.

Niklas Kronwall was an assistant captain for the Red Wings in eight of his 15 NHL seasons. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The duo blossomed right into a formidable shutdown pairing for the Red Wings heading into the playoffs. Buoyed by Stuart’s stay-at-home model, Kronwall posted 15 factors throughout 22 playoff video games and led all gamers with a plus-16 ranking. The Red Wings went on to win their eleventh Stanley Cup championship, and Kronwall’s efforts had been integral.

During the 2008-09 season, Kronwall posted the most effective statistical season of his profession. He netted 51 factors in 80 video games, once more serving to the Red Wings attain the Stanley Cup Final. He had additionally developed into one of the most effective open-ice hitters hockey has ever seen, punishing opponents with bone-crunching collisions.

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Despite the occasional accidents, Kronwall was a mannequin of consistency for a number of extra seasons. Between 2007-08 and 2014-15, he ranks twelfth amongst all defensemen in factors. Even because the Red Wings began to falter by the 2016-17 season, Kronwall remained steadfast in his function as a frontrunner.

Niklas Kronwall Dec 2018
Niklas Kronwall #55, Detroit Red Wings – December 18, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In phrases of his place within the franchise’s defensemen document books, Kronwall is third in factors, third in video games performed, third in power-play targets, third in playoff factors, and third in playoff video games performed.

He was additionally a dynamic worldwide participant for Team Sweden. He is a member of the distinguished Triple Gold Club, which means he has gained gold medals on the Olympics and World Championships, in addition to a Stanley Cup championship.

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Kronwall retired in 2019, as accidents continued to mount on his knees and again. He instantly joined the Red Wings’ entrance workplace employees, serving as an assistant to the final supervisor.

Kronwall was a bodily warrior, a fearless chief, and proudly wore the winged wheel on his chest for all 15 of his NHL seasons. There isn’t any denying his place among the many franchise’s all-time finest defensemen.

3. Marcel Pronovost

In phrases of underrated Red Wings’ legends, Marcel Pronovost could also be on the prime of the listing. He was the spine of the group’s protection core all through the Nineteen Fifties, which was one of probably the most profitable eras in franchise historical past.

Marcel Pronovost featured on a 1962 hockey card (Marcel Pronovost/THW Archives).

Pronovost starred for the Red Wings’ farm groups within the International Hockey League (IHL) and United States Hockey League (USHL) earlier than he joined the large membership. His NHL debut got here throughout the 1949-50 playoffs after an harm to Gordie Howe pressured some lineup shuffling.

Related: Marcel Pronovost – Red Wings’ Underrated Star

The younger blueliner slot in immediately, as his level-headed play helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup. He was a full-time NHL participant by the 1951-52 season, tallying 18 factors and 50 penalty minutes in 69 video games performed. Come playoff time, the 21-year-old’s regular defensive presence assisted in one more championship.

Marcel Pronovost was one of the early defensive icons for the Detroit Red Wings (Marcel Pronovost/THW Archives).

In 1953-54, he recorded 5 factors throughout 12 postseason video games en path to his third Stanley Cup championship. Likewise, in 1954-55, he recorded a career-high 34 factors within the common season because the Red Wings cruised to their second-consecutive title.

Between 1957-58 and 1960-61, Pronovost had earned his place among the many finest defensemen within the NHL. During that stretch, he was voted to the First NHL All-Star Team twice, the Second NHL All-Star Team twice, and completed within the prime 5 for Norris Trophy voting every season.

The smooth-skating Pronovost sits second all-time in video games performed by Red Wings’ defensemen, sixth in targets, seventh in factors, and second in playoff video games performed. He is one of simply 11 gamers in franchise historical past to win 4 Stanley Cups with the group.

While Kronwall might have had higher offensive manufacturing, Pronovost’s championship pedigree earns him the third spot on the listing. The French-Canadian rearguard was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978, cementing himself as one of the most effective defensemen in group historical past.

2. Red Kelly

When reminiscing on the celebrities of the Original Six period, Red Kelly’s identify will come up fairly ceaselessly. He was supremely gifted and possessed unbelievable versatility.

He started his NHL profession on the tender age of 20 and impressed Red Wings’ administration instantly. Kelly totaled 20 factors in 60 video games, incomes himself a third-place end within the Calder Trophy voting. Kelly helped the group attain the Stanley Cup Finals, however they fell in 4 video games to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Red Kelly, Punch Imlach
Red Kelly, pictured right here with Punch Ilmach, was one of the early defensive stars of the NHL (Red Kelly/THW Archives).

After a rocky sophomore season, Kelly was dominant within the 1949-50 marketing campaign. He led all defensemen in scoring with 40 factors in 70 video games whereas solely tallying 9 penalty minutes within the course of. He completed second in Lady Byng Trophy voting, tenth in Hart Trophy voting, and was voted to the Second NHL All-Star Team.

That spring, Kelly additionally captured his first Stanley Cup championship, after the Red Wings survived two grueling seven-game series to say the title. That yr began a dominant stretch of play for Kelly, as he recorded a minimum of 45 factors in every of the following six seasons.

During that point, Kelly captured three extra Stanley Cups, was voted to the First NHL All-Star Team 5 occasions, gained the first-ever James Norris Trophy, and gained three Lady Byng trophies. He was additionally named captain of the Red Wings forward of the 1955-56 season.

Kelly ultimately left the Red Wings within the 1959-60 season and went on to win 4 extra Stanley Cups as a ahead with the Maple Leafs, additional solidifying his already spectacular profession. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969, and the Red Wings retired his number in 2019.

While gamers like Howe and Ted Lindsay deservingly obtain a good quantity of reward for the success of the Red Wings throughout the Nineteen Fifties, Kelly was undeniably important to the group.

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He sits third in factors amongst defensemen in franchise historical past, third in targets, second in game-winning targets, fourth in video games performed, and fifth in playoff factors. His mixture of championships, manufacturing, and particular person trophies make him the plain alternative for the second spot on this listing.

1. Nicklas Lidstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom is one of probably the most embellished defensemen in NHL historical past. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI through Getty Images)

As if there was any doubt, the person nicknamed “The Perfect Human” by his teammates is definitely the highest defenseman in group historical past. Nicklas Lidstrom earns common reward from pundits, opponents, and followers alike, and it’s straightforward to know why when you have a look at his resume.

Individually, Lidstrom gained seven Norris Trophies and was the primary European to ever win a Conne Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. He was voted to the NHL’s year-end All-Star group 12 occasions.

Internationally, Lidstrom captured an Olympic gold medal in 2006, netting six factors in eight video games en path to the Olympic All-Star Team. He additionally gained a World Championship title in 1991.

Regarding group success, he was an integral half of 4 Stanley Cup championships. In 2007-08, he turned the first European-born-and-trained player to captain their group to a title. Throughout his 20-year profession, the Red Wings by no means missed the playoffs.

He leads Red Wings’ defensemen in virtually each main statistical class. Likewise, his regular-season statistics are some of the most effective the league has ever seen. He ranks sixth all-time amongst defensemen in NHL historical past with 1,142 factors, sixth all-time with 878 assists, sixth all-time with a plus-450 ranking, and sixth all-time with 1,564 video games performed.

Nicklas Lidstrom
DETROIT – JUNE 06: Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings holds up the Stanley Cup throughout a parade to have fun profitable the 2008 Stanley Cup on June 6, 2008, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Lidstrom’s exploits develop into much more spectacular once you have a look at his playoff numbers. He is second all-time amongst defensemen with 263 video games performed, second all-time with 183 factors, first all-time with 30 power-play targets, and first all-time with 111 power-play factors.

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He embodied class on and off the ice and captained the following technology of Red Wings for six years earlier than retiring in 2012. Realistically, the group’s blue line has nonetheless not recovered from the outlet that Lidstrom made when he left.

He shouldn’t be solely the best defenseman in Red Wings’ historical past, however he’s additionally one of the most effective gamers within the storied tapestry of the NHL. He was instrumental in modernizing the up-tempo, fast-transition model that groups all around the league at present use.

Nicklas Lidstrom Norris Trophy
Nicklas Lidstrom discussing logistics with Pavel Datsyuk (Icon SMI).

Lidstrom was a gentleman, a winner, and a profession Red Wing. His trophy case is overflowing, and his statistical prowess stacks up in opposition to some other defenseman in league historical past. There isn’t any denying his spot on the prime of this listing.

Final Word

It was tough to whittle the listing down to simply 5 guys, as sturdy gamers like Reed Larson, Chris Chelios, and Gary Bergman additionally deserve credit score for his or her stints with the group.

With so many potential defensemen to select from, pontificate within the feedback beneath on who your prime 5 Red Wings’ rearguards are.


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