As I’m sure most of you were also doing last night, I watched the NHL Network air the ABC/ESPN broadcast of the 2002 Stanley Cup Game 5 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Gary Thorne and Bill Clement kept reiterating the star power, and the to-be Hall of Fame players. That was a stacked team.
But it got me thinking: with the signing of Mike Modano, the Wings have really added some serious depth to the forward lineup through three lines, and the fourth is chock full of potential. We’ve been reading and speculating about what they’ll do to solve the glut of players in the system who could all feasibly play next season. Again, that’s an astonishing amount of depth when you can reunite the Eurotwins and then slate Mike Modano on the third line and call it a day. This immediately reminded me of having Igor Larionov and Luc Robitaille on the third line in 2002–Future Hall of Famers at the time who, while considered to be in the twilight of their careers, still contributed immensely regardless of being lower down the chart.
Similarly, Modano was clearly thought to be done by the Stars, who chose not to bring him back. Robitaille had 30 goals and 50 points in the 2002 season with the Wings, playing on the third line and the second unit power play, much like what Modano’s role sounds like it will be. Granted, Modano is a center, not a winger, and I have a feeling he’ll be dishing to Hudler and Cleary a decent amount. Still, if he can pop in 20 goals, I’ll be thrilled.
Sports Illustrated had an interesting preview for the 2002 playoffs, which is still online. Darren Eliot took a look at all four lines, plus first unit power play, and top three defensive pairings, and offered his analysis. As I was going through this, I kept thinking of how these line’s qualities and characteristics were visible in the current Red Wings’ lineup. And so I present my comparison of the 2002 team versus the potential lineup of the 2010-2011 Detroit Red Wings.
Today is only the forward lines. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at defensive pairings and the power play unit. And while Eliot didn’t offer any thoughts on the goalies, I’ll try to draw some comparisons Monday.
|2001-2002||Darren Eliot’s analysis||2010-2011||My comparison|
|“This collection of All Stars can do it all—score, check and lead by example. The complete games of Fedorov and Yzerman give the Wings amazing flexibility, with Yzerman sliding between wing and center, and Fedorov moving between lines based on coach Scotty Bowman’s wants and matchup needs.”||Zetterberg
|Think about it—Zetterberg and Datsyuk both switch between center and wing, and Babcock has the freedom to move them up and down to spread the scoring out if necessary. This line is definitely able to score, check, and lead by example as well. Pavel possesses a slickness not unlike Fedorov, and Zetterberg certainly has some Yzerman-esque qualities of determination and will. Holmstrom… well, he’s no Shanny, but he does just fine.|
|“This line has been a pleasant surprise throughout the second half of the season. Devereaux does the board work, Datsyuk distributes the puck and Hull pulls the trigger, as he is still one of the best ever at finding/creating open space in the offensive zone.”||Bertuzzi
|Franzen and Filppula are the Kids, and Bertuzzi can be the Goat on this line–a label I believe more than a few will be happy to label him with this season. Although, you could consider swapping Franzen and Bertuzzi in terms of their roles—it’s not out of the question to think that Mule will be doing more of the scoring than Bertuzzi. Similar to the first line, however, there’s a lot of flexibility here, given that both Franzen and Bertuzzi can (or in Bertuzzi’s case, at least should) throw their weight around while Filppula creates opportunities and dishes.|
|“A collection of specialists that comes together occasionally at even strength. They all see time on either the first or second power-play unit, but their real value is when they contribute at full strength, as they did in Game 7 against Colorado. Offensively, they create a mismatch against most third lines and third defensive pairings.”||Hudler
|This was the main point that inspired this whole comparison. With Modano as the pivot, this really brings the third line up to create that similar mismatch against other teams’ third lines. It’s basically an upgrade on the Hudler-Filppula-Cleary third line from 2008. Which in itself is a jump up from having Miller/Eaves-Helm-Cleary there. Cleary will take over the “crash and bang” role of Holmstrom, with Hudler playing the role of a (very) poor man’s Robitaille (they’re even close to the same size!) It’s also extremely likely that we’ll see these three on the second unit power play, Modano possibly at the point opposite Lidstrom on the first.|
|“Collectively, the “Grind Line” is an excellent energy unit, while individually, each of the players is capable in other roles. Draper kills penalties, Maltby is a low-zone antagonist and McCarty is a physical option who can score a little, as his four goals in the Western Conference finals attest.”||Miller/Maltby
|Hilariously, 2/3 of the line could potentially still be the same. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be completely unreasonable to almost make a straight swap of Helm for Draper and Abdelkader for Maltby. All of the younger options here are gritty, scrappy players who can also chip in a few goals. Not a bad replacement for the Grind Line…|
Edited to add: which do you think is the “better” team, looking at the depth and potential?