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The Red Wings 1995-97: From very good team to champions

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07-10-2011, 09:49 AM
  #1
TheMoreYouKnow
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The Red Wings 1995-97: From very good team to champions

The Wings lost the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals to New Jersey convincingly and rather embarrassingly. In the coming two years, the team was re-structured and of course in 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cups followed.

The Wings lost the Finals in 95 with these players

Forwards:
Ciccarelli
Fedorov
Sheppard
Yzerman
Primeau
Kozlov
Brown
Errey
Burr
McCarty
Draper
Grimson
Krushelnyski
Taylor
Lapointe

D-men:
Coffey
Howe
Konstantinov
Lidstrom
Fetisov
Ramsey
Rouse

Goalie:
Vernon

Changes towards and during 1995-96:

Howe and Krushelnyski retire in the summer. Shawn Burr is sent to Tampa for Marc Bergevin and a minor leaguer. In October, Sheppard is shipped off to San Jose for Larionov. Kirk Maltby is acquired from Edmonton in March 1996.

The Wings set a new regular season record with this team, but lose the WCF to Colorado in six games.

Changes toward and during 96-97: 35 year old Dino Ciccarelli is shipped off to Tampa Bay for a conditional pick after a disappointing season in which his decline became obvious. In October 96, the Wings acquire Shanahan for Coffey, Primeau and a 1st round pick in a major blockbuster deal . Stu Grimson leaves for Hartford via waivers, Detroit brings back Joey Kocur in December 96. January 97 sees Detroit acquire Tomas Sandstrom for Greg Johnson. Bob Errey leaves for SJ via waivers. At the trade deadline the Wings acquire Larry Murphy for future considerations. Aaron Ward joins the big club.

As an overview, between the loss to NJ and the Cup win the Wings exchanged the following parts:

OUT
Ciccarelli
Coffey
Primeau
Sheppard
Howe
Burr
Krushelnyski
Grimson
Errey
Johnson

IN
Shanahan
Larionov
Murphy
Sandstrom
Maltby
Ward
Kocur

With hindsight most of those moves were inspired, Ciccarelli and Coffey were fading, Sheppard never again got even near 50 goals. Primeau had found his sub-elite level and never became the Messier-type player that some people expected him to be. Shanahan was a huge factor in winning the Cup, Larionov and Murphy played much better than anticipated.

Yet at the time, that couldn't have all been so obvious. Sheppard for Larionov was a deal that at the time would have likely been considered a very good move for San Jose. In all truth, you look at the names IN and OUT and it's not a huge net improvement, is it? The Wings did lose HOFers in Coffey, Ciccarelli and Howe, all of course past their best but then HOFers Murphy and Larionov weren't spring chicken either at that point. Shanahan was in his prime, Primeau was in it too, Sheppard not too far removed from it. Sandstrom didn't work out at all.

Of course, the Wings managed to get rid of guys who weren't 100% on board with Bowman's agenda and that is a net win all in itself - but does anyone think "the Wings are primed to win the Cup now" when they finish with 94 points and well behind the Avs and Stars?

It's interesting that at a time the Wings were mocked for their failure to win, had their heart questioned etc. the Wings stuck with the "big two" in Yzerman and Fedorov - in spite of many helpful suggestions to trade one of them - but exchanged a lot of the remaining core. Guys like Coffey, Ciccarelli, Primeau and Sheppard were stars, after all. And it wasn't a youth movement at all either, those were clearly "win now" moves.

I guess the question is, do you think all those moves actually helped the Wings win the Cup? I find the idea of a sub-optimal move like Larionov for Sheppard still being a factor toward winning a Cup really quite intriguing, because it shows how subtle the whole process really can be.

Does anyone think San Jose's decision to stick with Thornton and Marleau whilst replacing the players around them, is at all informed by the way the Wings went about things?

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07-10-2011, 12:51 PM
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connellc
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The Wings improved for a couple of reasons. First beacause they actually gave their youth some playing time. Mccarty, Lapointe, Ward, Pushor all played a bigger role than before.

Additionally, they got a lot tougher and bigger to play against. Shanny, and the the youth group mentioned above in addition to "the grind line" made them not an easy team to play against. The trades they made were good but people like me and my friend (only 12 at the time) thought we paid a pretty big price for Shanny. Think about it. We were giving up a a future hhof d-man who scored 74 points, a first round pick, and Keith Primeau who was supposed to be a star in the future. Primeau had issues with Detroit though, and wanted to be a top guy. In addition to this, he performed horrible in the playoffs (only one empty net goal in 1996).

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07-10-2011, 01:10 PM
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That people coming over was a huge part of the winning. But even through 1996-97 season the team was missing something. And they found it on March 26th 1997. That BRAWL pulled that team together. Watching Vernon stand toe to toe with the much bigger Roy showed the team what heart he had and that team took off from that date. Oh I forgot, watching Lemiuex get the crap beat out of him was pretty awesome also.

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07-10-2011, 01:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1234hockey View Post
That people coming over was a huge part of the winning. But even through 1996-97 season the team was missing something. And they found it on March 26th 1997. That BRAWL pulled that team together. Watching Vernon stand toe to toe with the much bigger Roy showed the team what heart he had and that team took off from that date. Oh I forgot, watching Lemiuex get the crap beat out of him was pretty awesome also.
That's definitely true. That brawl was certainly a "turning point". But the question is, do we say this only with the hindsight knowledge of winning the Cup? At the time I think everyone was happy with Lemieux getting his but I don't think anyone thought "now the Wings are going to win it". I remember myself thinking Colorado or Philly are the main favorites.

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07-10-2011, 01:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMoreYouKnow View Post
That's definitely true. That brawl was certainly a "turning point". But the question is, do we say this only with the hindsight knowledge of winning the Cup? At the time I think everyone was happy with Lemieux getting his but I don't think anyone thought "now the Wings are going to win it". I remember myself thinking Colorado or Philly are the main favorites.
I remember that night Mickey Redmond saying this type of a thing that can pull a team together and push them over the top. I was sitting on my chair thinking maybe he's on to something?

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07-10-2011, 01:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMoreYouKnow View Post
That's definitely true. That brawl was certainly a "turning point". But the question is, do we say this only with the hindsight knowledge of winning the Cup? At the time I think everyone was happy with Lemieux getting his but I don't think anyone thought "now the Wings are going to win it". I remember myself thinking Colorado or Philly are the main favorites.
Very few in the media were picking Detroit at the time, that's for sure.

Most Wings fans I knew were very excited and optimistic that year, however - despite recent disappointment.

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07-10-2011, 02:20 PM
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TheDevilMadeMe
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Coffey, Sheppard, and Ciccarelli were all terrible defensive players, and Sheppard and Ciccarelli were slow skaters on top of it. Having those three players in the lineup really hindered the ability of the team to effectively play the Left Wing Lock in the playoffs.

Murphy, Shanahan, and Larionov were much better suited to play the conservative version of the left wing lock that Bowman was trying to implement.

In 1995, Yzerman hadn't completely bought into the defensive system, I don't think. By 1997, he had.

As others said, Shanahan's grit really helped in the playoffs.

Larionov helped get the most out of Konstantinov and Fetisov. Indeed, I don't think that Fetisov was a particularly effective NHL player until "the Russian 5" was put together (in 95-96, grant you).

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07-10-2011, 02:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
As others said, Shanahan's grit really helped in the playoffs.
This is important. Many people saw Shanahan as "the missing piece" that put Detroit over the top. In 1995 the Wings didn't have an answer for Scott Stevens; in 1996 it was Adam Foote. Shanahan was a guy who could take on huge, big-minute defenders in a seven game series.

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07-10-2011, 04:35 PM
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I found their transformation started with the pick ups of Murphy and Shanahan. That was the key right there. The brawl in March 1997 helped a lot of course and if anything it gave them the psychological edge over the Avs. Think about it, Roy got beat up, Forsberg was bloodied, Lemieux was embarassed and bloodied. Every Red Wing ont he ice beat up an Av. Within the realms of the dressing room I think this helped the Red Wings but no doubt about it the Avs and Flyers were still two very obvious threats to win the Cup.

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07-10-2011, 05:31 PM
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Wasn't Philadelphia the Favorite in that series? Either way They made all the right moves obviously, they did bring home two back to back stanley cups.

I found this. Thought it would be good for the thread.


I think this vid captures the effect Shanny had on the wings when he came.

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07-11-2011, 07:42 AM
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tony d
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I've always said that picking up Shanahan was what transformed Detroit from a great regular season team to a great playoff team. It's like he was their missing link.

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07-11-2011, 07:48 AM
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Don't forget the emergence of Marty Lapointe. Yzerman was always a huge disappointment in the playoffs, but guys like Shanahan, Fedorov, Lapointe brought it every night.

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07-11-2011, 08:47 AM
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You can look at the pieces that were subtracted and added individually but overall it just seemed to be a better mix. Even someone like Sandstrom, who didn't appear to play that well, was solid and committed to helping the team win. They were also better built for the physicality and grind of the playoffs with some bigger guys like Sandstrom, Shanahan and McCarty, Lapointe, Maltby and Ward played bigger roles.

In many interviews after they won that cup players would describe a quiet hunger they all felt. They all knew how much each guy wanted to finally win and get that monkey off their back and everything came together very nicely.

Shanahan gelled so well that he quickly became a huge part of that team, not only on the ice but in the room. All the core pieces stepped up and Bowman had a strong 4 line rotation going which helped them outlast their oponents.

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07-11-2011, 07:24 PM
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The other thing that changed between '95 and '97 was the Wings' balance. Bowman spent a few years grinding all semblance of ego from the team, and preaching a system that had the Grind Line playing damn near as many minutes as the Yzerman and Fedorov lines. Everyone was expected to be able to play with everyone, and everyone was expected to play against everyone.

And thus the Wings developed into a team that was just constantly coming at you. Every line (except the Grind Line) had its scorer(s), every line had its grit, and every line had defensively responsible players.

You also had Lidstrom and Konstantinov firmly establishing themselves as top 5 defensemen in the league.

None of this is to discount the impact of the Wings' additions during that time. But there are always a lot of factors which go into winning a Cup.

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07-11-2011, 09:17 PM
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tarheelhockey
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IMO, that period was maybe the most interesting storyline of the 1990s. You could clearly see the Wings transitioning from chokers to dynasty with each move.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Coffey, Sheppard, and Ciccarelli were all terrible defensive players, and Sheppard and Ciccarelli were slow skaters on top of it. Having those three players in the lineup really hindered the ability of the team to effectively play the Left Wing Lock in the playoffs.

Murphy, Shanahan, and Larionov were much better suited to play the conservative version of the left wing lock that Bowman was trying to implement.

In 1995, Yzerman hadn't completely bought into the defensive system, I don't think. By 1997, he had.

As others said, Shanahan's grit really helped in the playoffs.

Larionov helped get the most out of Konstantinov and Fetisov. Indeed, I don't think that Fetisov was a particularly effective NHL player until "the Russian 5" was put together (in 95-96, grant you).
This is all how I remember it. Guys like Sheppard and Primeau were not the sort of players to build a great team around. Shanahan and Larionov are that kind of player. It's kind of interesting to note in retrospect how each line was constructed over time.

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07-12-2011, 03:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overg View Post
The other thing that changed between '95 and '97 was the Wings' balance. Bowman spent a few years grinding all semblance of ego from the team, and preaching a system that had the Grind Line playing damn near as many minutes as the Yzerman and Fedorov lines. Everyone was expected to be able to play with everyone, and everyone was expected to play against everyone.

And thus the Wings developed into a team that was just constantly coming at you. Every line (except the Grind Line) had its scorer(s), every line had its grit, and every line had defensively responsible players.

You also had Lidstrom and Konstantinov firmly establishing themselves as top 5 defensemen in the league.

None of this is to discount the impact of the Wings' additions during that time. But there are always a lot of factors which go into winning a Cup.
Never more evident than having McCarty on the 1st PP unit.

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07-12-2011, 04:24 AM
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Off topic, but the Wings went into the 95 cup thinking they had already won. I got that feeling during the playoffs, they were cruising.

They were heavily favoured in 95 and walked in there and didn't play anywhere near their game. But the time they blinked it was to late against a hard working team like NJ.

I thhink more importantly was the moves they didn't make. Getting rid of Yzerman, Fedorov for starters.

Russian 5, prospects coming into their own like Lids and Vlad.

They went into the finals has the under dogs and were a hard working team. They can thank Shannahan for that.

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07-12-2011, 12:52 PM
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vadim sharifijanov
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what's interesting to me is if you look a little farther back, the red wings under jimmy devellano had been working on building this kind of team for a long time.

in the late 80s after the back-to-back division championships, they brought in paul maclean, who they then packaged with a young adam oates for bernie federko and tony mckegney. they also signed borje salming. so that far back they made an effort to surround their core guys with character vets like maclean and mckegney, and hall of famers near the end of their careers like salming and federko.

early 90s, howe and mccrimmon. guys who had been through playoff wars like rick green, brad marsh, doug crossman, and mike ramsey. and of course coffey, who was at times their best player. (they had the entire top four of those flyers teams that went to the two finals-- howe, mccrimmon, marsh, and crossman, though not all at the same time.) that's a great list of veteran d-man, and these are the guys lidstrom got to learn from-- plus, of course, fetisov and murphy.

it didn't work until they got shanahan, larionov, fetisov, and murphy. and partly that's because fedorov, lidstrom, and konstantinov are way better than ciccarelli, sheppard, and primeau-- and definitely leagues better than steve chiasson, joe murphy, gerard gallant. but the blueprint was always there.

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07-12-2011, 07:10 PM
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Don't forget the emergence of Marty Lapointe. Yzerman was always a huge disappointment in the playoffs, but guys like Shanahan, Fedorov, Lapointe brought it every night.
One of the greatest playoff performers of all time was huge disappointment?
I'll remember that when I re-wacth the 2002 playoffs

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07-12-2011, 07:35 PM
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Don't forget the emergence of Marty Lapointe. Yzerman was always a huge disappointment in the playoffs, but guys like Shanahan, Fedorov, Lapointe brought it every night.

That simply isn't true. He had 98 points in 93 playoff games going into the 96/97 season. Yzerman brought it every night.


I always thought the Red Wings during those seasons really had a top 9 feel, their top 3 scoring lines all had scoring, defense and grit on each. Plus the shut-down grind line. It was really just a solid group of forwards top to bottom that could mesh well with each other. A very strong group of versatile forwards that could all play with each other at any given time.

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07-12-2011, 07:50 PM
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One of the greatest playoff performers of all time was huge disappointment?
I'll remember that when I re-wacth the 2002 playoffs
he was joking relax

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07-12-2011, 08:10 PM
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I've always said that picking up Shanahan was what transformed Detroit from a great regular season team to a great playoff team. It's like he was their missing link.
Ironically, after his great run in '97 he was a pretty average postseason performer himself.

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07-12-2011, 08:51 PM
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It was all about team defense. I didn't fully understand it at the time, but the only move I really questioned was Sheppard for Larionov. I didn't know the professor well and I knew Sheppard had a 50 goal season. But as soon as I saw the Russian Five together it was immediately clear it was a great trade. The emergence of the grind line as well as the commitment to team defense was evident. There had been a lot of talk of us moving toward stronger team defense since we were swept in 1995. It was a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" type reaction to the trap. Why couldn't we do that and score more goals than the other team? Eventually this lead to the Left Wing Lock. And Shanny was the final piece in terms of that as well as having that power forward who could crash the net, take on the big opponents and give us a general swagger. Not to mention the guy scores 40 goals. I will say Murphy was a perfect acquisition and although Sandstrom didn't stick around or do anything prolific... the guy was a PK MONSTER that playoff and absolutely SHUT DOWN powerplays singlehandedly. I remember that distinctly since I was a big fan of his from NHL HOCKEY for the Genesis from back in '92 and I thought it was cool we acquired him... but watching him play, I was very impressed. If I'm not mistaken he also played on Yzerman's wing a lot that playoff.

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07-12-2011, 09:12 PM
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well first of all im a person who thinks that there isnt an exact correspondence between the best team and the cup winning team so in this case there isnt too much of a difference between the quality of the "very good" Wings of 95 and 96 to the "champions" of 97 and 98

a lot of the explanation for the failure of the former and the success of the latter is based on specific circumstances:
-key players not playing up to expected standards in 95 and 96
-other teams playing worse in 97 and 98
-more key injuries in 95 and 96
-better goaltending performances in 97 and 98

stylistically the 95-96 and 97-98 teams are very similar
balanced offensive attack based on speed
play a good defensive system
the 97 and 98 teams are a bit more gritty but a bit slower
that might be a factor but i dont think it is a big deal

now Shanahan and Murphy were both obviously HUGE parts of Detroit's success in 97 and 98
you could say Murphy wasnt an improvement over Coffey in 95 and 96 (although Murphy was a lot better than Coffey in 97) but i dont think the same is true of Shanahan with Ciccarelli and Primeau and Sheppard

getting rid of players like Ciccarelli, Coffey, Primeau, Sheppard worked out well because they were either aging and declining or not good fits for the team style and leaguewide changes towards more team D

but then again why did Bowman get rid of guys like Burr and Errey?
those guys were good hard-working checkers who had some offensive ability which is perfect for the team style but of course Scotty Bowman carries a lot of baggage with him and they were (unfair) victims of Bowman politics and their replacements were not improvements...

in fact you can go ahead and consider the 93 and 94 Wings
now these teams were obviously playing a different team style
always on the attack and much less emphasis on team D
so maybe you can chalk up the failure to that
then again in the early 90s that was a more suitable team style to have...

also the Wings of 99, 00, and 01 all lost early and somewhat easily
they playing the same style that won them two cups
different circumstances make big differences in results for similar teams

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07-13-2011, 11:38 PM
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vadim sharifijanov
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^ i always wondered myself why errey was let go. very clearly a bowman-type of player, and a guy he had already won two cups with in pittsburgh.

in retrospect though, it did look like his game fell off a cliff in '97, but i don't actually remember watching him play his last couple of years in the league.

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