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kipwinger

What Might Have Been: Gretzky to Detroit?

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I vaguely remember reading/hearing that Gretzky was looking to come to Detroit, but his wife absolutely hated the idea of coming here, so she pretty much eliminated that possibility. I might just be making this up, though, but if anyone else knows more about this, I'd love to hear the whole story.

Not only that, but I remember reading that Wayne talked to his dad Walter and they decided that LA would be a tougher place to win and if he went to the Wings he'd get easy Cups with the core that was already there. Paulina I believe was from LA prior as well.

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Sorry what? Stevie Y became captain in 1986…..

He's not speaking literally, he's speaking figuratively. When people nostalgically look back at Yzerman, they remember him how he was in the Bowman years and rarely remember the early part of his career. He wasn't a selfless, gutsy, two way, leader back then. He was a showy, one dimensional, goal scorer. At the time of the Gretzky trade, Yzerman wasn't the Stevie Y that we all remember as "The Captain", though he was in fact the captain of the team.

That's what he's saying.

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He's not speaking literally, he's speaking figuratively. When people nostalgically look back at Yzerman, they remember him how he was in the Bowman years and rarely remember the early part of his career. He wasn't a selfless, gutsy, two way, leader back then. He was a showy, one dimensional, goal scorer. At the time of the Gretzky trade, Yzerman wasn't the Stevie Y that we all remember as "The Captain", though he was in fact the captain of the team.

That's what he's saying.

Ah. Gotcha. I stand corrected.

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As a person who BECAME a Gretzky fan because of the 1993 playoffs (still shocked when I see that was Lidstrom on ice for the GWG against) and eliminating TO to get to the Finals, I can tell you that:

No way in HELL was Gretzky anywhere near Yzerman in defense - ever.

No way does Gretzky do what Stevie Y does in 97 and especially 98

And we STILL had Yzerman do some great things in the 2002 playoffs.

Now if we got Gretzky for Gallant and some OTHER picks, we have something, but Yzerman? No effing way.

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Don't get me wrong, I love Yzerman as much as the next guy. But I don't even think twice about that trade. You take the same teams as we had in 97, 98, and 2002 and swap Yzerman for Gretzky and we're WAY better.

I'll take a somewhat injured Yzerman over a retired Gretzky easily for 2002.

Also, in 97-98 Yzerman was scoring almost as much as Gretzky but also provided world class defense. I don't see at all how an old Gretzky in his final 2 seasons as a player makes us "WAY" better than Yzerman in his 2-way prime.

In fact, it is not even possible to do any better than back to back cups in a two year stretch.

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I'll take a somewhat injured Yzerman over a retired Gretzky easily for 2002.

Also, in 97-98 Yzerman was scoring almost as much as Gretzky but also provided world class defense. I don't see at all how an old Gretzky in his final 2 seasons as a player makes us "WAY" better than Yzerman in his 2-way prime.

In fact, it is not even possible to do any better than back to back cups in a two year stretch.

Because Gretzky was putting up more points on significantly worse teams. At every single stage of their respective careers Wayne Gretzky was a superior player. I know that it's become fashionable over the years to downplay just how good this guy was, but the truth is, he's not universally considered the greatest hockey player in the history of the game because he was actually worse than Steve Yzerman.

Again, this is just a case of hometown nostalgia. As I've already said, it's like saying you wouldn't trade Ray Bourque for Bobby Orr (I know, same team) just because Bourque was really good too.

Given their respective careers up to that point, you'd be a complete and total fool to not trade Yzerman for Gretzky in 1988.

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No one is saying that Gretzky wasn't a better hockey player than Yzerman. Everyone knows that Gretzky was the best player ever to lace up a pair of skates. There is no argument there. So yes, it absolutely comes down to hometown nostalgia. Is that wrong? I don't think so at all. That is why myself as well as a lot of other die hards would never hack it as an NHL GM. Unless of course, I took over as general manager of the Panthers or Hurricanes or whatever other s*** team that I have no emotional connection to. I would turn them into contenders within a year... ;)

Yzerman is my favorite hockey player ever, so no I would not have made that trade in 1988, nor would I be regretting my decision today. I think things worked out quite well with "The Captain".

It just blows my mind that people would actually go back and make that trade. It also blows my mind when people say they would trade away guys we drafted 15+ years ago like Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Why? Because they're slowing down and going to retire in a few years? So what? Let them retire as Red Wings! These same people would have probably traded Lidstrom away a few years ago too.

I guess I follow all these players from being drafted, right through their careers so I get attached and I would never want to see some of them get traded. Sentimental Idiot...

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Because Gretzky was putting up more points on significantly worse teams. At every single stage of their respective careers Wayne Gretzky was a superior player. I know that it's become fashionable over the years to downplay just how good this guy was, but the truth is, he's not universally considered the greatest hockey player in the history of the game because he was actually worse than Steve Yzerman.

Again, this is just a case of hometown nostalgia. As I've already said, it's like saying you wouldn't trade Ray Bourque for Bobby Orr (I know, same team) just because Bourque was really good too.

Given their respective careers up to that point, you'd be a complete and total fool to not trade Yzerman for Gretzky in 1988.

You're twisting his words. I think Hoon had a very valid point.

He refuted your statement..

"You take the same teams as we had in 97, 98, and 2002 and swap Yzerman for Gretzky and we're WAY better."

...by addressing the fact that Gretzky was nearing retirement for 97/98 and actually in retirement for 2002 and in comparison, Yzerman was in his 2-way prime.

A very valid point.

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As a person who BECAME a Gretzky fan because of the 1993 playoffs (still shocked when I see that was Lidstrom on ice for the GWG against) and eliminating TO to get to the Finals, I can tell you that:

No way in HELL was Gretzky anywhere near Yzerman in defense - ever.

No way does Gretzky do what Stevie Y does in 97 and especially 98

And we STILL had Yzerman do some great things in the 2002 playoffs.

Now if we got Gretzky for Gallant and some OTHER picks, we have something, but Yzerman? No effing way.

What did Yzerman do in those playoffs that Gretzky couldn't have done? Wayne was still more than a point per game player those years, despite being older than Yzerman.

If you're talking about leadership, then Gretzky was an underrated leader. In his prime, he worked harder than anyone else to get to loose pucks and he didn't take nights off. You don't score that many points and take nights off. When I think of a leader, I think of a guy that works hard and doesn't take nights off. Gretzky fits the bill. Late in his career, Wayne was still scoring a bunch, but his teams weren't good enough to make any noise.

Defensively, Yzerman was better, but the Wings had no lack of defensive forwards then. Gretzky's job was never to be a shut down center.

LOL at Gretzky being traded for Gallant and some picks. Pocklington would have been forced to commit harakiri if he made that trade.

I'm actually really surprised about the people that would have been willing to trade Yzerman for Gretzky. I wouldn't have even considered trading them straight up, let alone the other pieces that would have had to be involved to get that deal done. Yzerman was my favorite player back then and the sole reason I am a Red Wings fan today. To be quite honest, if Yzerman would have been traded back then, I would probably be an Oilers fan today... Scary... :shocking:

I'm definitely glad that Holland and Jimmy D are much more loyal to this team and players than most fans would be...

How many people would trade Zetterberg and pieces to Pittsburgh for Crosby? I know there are definitely quite a few that would but I definitely would not. Hank is our captain and I wouldn't want to lose him, even if it meant getting the best player in the world for him. Even knowing that Zetterberg may only have another 5 solid years left and Crosby has another 15, I still wouldn't do it. Crazy? Probably, but that's my opinion...

Yzerman hadn't reached God status in Detroit yet in 1988. Most Wings fans would have made that trade in a heartbeat considering what Wayne was doing during the 1980's. I don't think anyone would have rioted.

I hate Crosby, but I root for the Wings, not one particular player. If Detroit made that trade, I'd have to root for Crosby.

I'll take a somewhat injured Yzerman over a retired Gretzky easily for 2002.

Also, in 97-98 Yzerman was scoring almost as much as Gretzky but also provided world class defense. I don't see at all how an old Gretzky in his final 2 seasons as a player makes us "WAY" better than Yzerman in his 2-way prime.

In fact, it is not even possible to do any better than back to back cups in a two year stretch.

It's hard to predict what would and wouldn't have happened. What kind of free agents, trades, etc the Wings would have made with Gretzky.

It is possible, that Detroit would have won some Cups in the early to mid 90's with Gretzky on the team. You don't know.

Edited by GMRwings1983

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It's hard to predict what would and wouldn't have happened. What kind of free agents, trades, etc the Wings would have made with Gretzky.

It is possible, that Detroit would have won some Cups in the early to mid 90's with Gretzky on the team. You don't know.

Well of course we don't know and that's possible...that's why people are speculating... but that's not even what Hoon was talking about...

He was addressing the effect that trade would have on the cup winning teams(97,98,02) and how it might not be as positive as some stated...which is a legitimate concern for those years.

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills...

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Well of course we don't know and that's possible...that's why people are speculating... but that's not even what Hoon was talking about...

He was addressing the effect that trade would have on the cup winning teams(97,98,02) and how it might not be as positive as some stated...which is a legitimate concern for those years.

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills...

No, I get your point (and Hoon's). My position is that you'd be nuts not to make the trade in 1988. And when you did, you'd still have had a better team in 1997 and 1998 to win the Cup...if not some sooner.

Those teams didn't win back to back years because of Steve Yzerman's defense. They won because they were the best team assembled since the 1991 and 1992 Pens. Gretzky's defensive shortcomings (which are overblown) would have been more than made up for by the fact that he was (even as an old man) a MUCH better offensive player than Yzerman, and would have only been more so if put on a dynasty team with the likes of Shanny, Fedorov, Larionov, Lidstrom, Konstantinov, etc. etc. etc.

I guess my main point is that when you look at their respective stats, it looks like Stevie wasn't all that far behind Gretzky in 97 and 98. But that's because everybody on those Detroit teams had MASSIVELY inflated numbers because of just how good the team was. Put Gretzky on those teams and instead of 97 and 90 pts. he probably has 125-130 both years. Sure Stevie played better defense, but who cares? We had some of the best defensive teams in the history of the game with or without Yzerman's defense.

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No, I get your point (and Hoon's). My position is that you'd be nuts not to make the trade in 1988. And when you did, you'd still have had a better team in 1997 and 1998 to win the Cup...if not some sooner.

Those teams didn't win back to back years because of Steve Yzerman's defense. They won because they were the best team assembled since the 1991 and 1992 Pens. Gretzky's defensive shortcomings (which are overblown) would have been more than made up for by the fact that he was (even as an old man) a MUCH better offensive player than Yzerman, and would have only been more so if put on a dynasty team with the likes of Shanny, Fedorov, Larionov, Lidstrom, Konstantinov, etc. etc. etc.

I guess my main point is that when you look at their respective stats, it looks like Stevie wasn't all that far behind Gretzky in 97 and 98. But that's because everybody on those Detroit teams had MASSIVELY inflated numbers because of just how good the team was. Put Gretzky on those teams and instead of 97 and 90 pts. he probably has 125-130 both years. Sure Stevie played better defense, but who cares? We had some of the best defensive teams in the history of the game with or without Yzerman's defense.

But you said it yourself.. Those teams are stacked offensively. So much that they inflate numbers considerably. So I don't see how sacrificing defence for MORE offence makes us "WAY" better.

For the record, I do agree with you that mostly anyone would make that trade in '88 and that it would make us a better team leading up to those cups.

I just disagree that it would have made the difference that you were implying for those later cup years.

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But you said it yourself.. Those teams are stacked offensively. So much that they inflate numbers considerably. So I don't see how sacrificing defence for MORE offence makes us "WAY" better.

Well it's all hypothetical anyway isn't it, because they were already much better than anyone else either way? Hence the two Cups.

The whole point of the thread though (hence the title "What Might Have Been"), is what would have happened if Gretzky had come here in a trade in 1988. I contend that we'd have still won the Cups in 1997 and 1998...and perhaps more along the way. Gretzky was that good of a possession player. Yzerman had only one clear advantage over Gretzky and that was defense, and Yzerman's defense (puck possession team) wasn't really a game changer in those series.

Gretzky's additional offensive acumen, I argue, might have been. Tell me the additional offense wouldn't have been useful in the 7 games series' in 91 , 93, 94, or the 6 game series in 96 as well?

Gretzky was SO much better than everyone offensively, that the team would be better overall than with Yzerman's. Why? Because Gretzky massively drove possession to such a degree that on a puck possession team like Detroit, it would lead to huge overall net gains. Both for the offense (where his ability to control the puck would lead to more zone time and increased production for everyone), along with the defense (which would be better by virtue of never having to actually play in their own zone).

In short, Gretzky is the ultimate possession player, and the Detroit Red Wings of the late 90's where one of the ultimate possession teams. Of course they'd be better.

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Gretzky would have helped and made this team better up till the mid 90s. No doubt. Past that in into the cup years....I have my doubts.

In regards to the later years, once Yzerman developed his defence and Wayne started to slow (a bit), I think our viewpoints basically come down to this...

Both: Detroit was the best puck possession team. No one else was close.

Kip: Gretzky, the best possession player of all time, would thrive in our system because of this and make us even stronger despite sacrificing Yzerman's defensive game.

SOW: We were already top of the league for possession...by far. Why sacrifice other areas to further strengthen that area even further? The difference in outcome would be negligible.

Fun to think about...

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Gretzky would have helped and made this team better up till the mid 90s. No doubt. Past that in into the cup years....I have my doubts.

In regards to the later years, once Yzerman developed his defence and Wayne started to slow (a bit), I think our viewpoints basically come down to this...

Both: Detroit was the best puck possession team. No one else was close.

Kip: Gretzky, the best possession player of all time, would thrive in our system because of this and make us even stronger despite sacrificing Yzerman's defensive game.

SOW: We were already top of the league for possession...by far. Why sacrifice other areas to further strengthen that area even further? The difference in outcome would be negligible.

Fun to think about...

I'd add that in getting Gretzky you wouldn't sacrifice team defense, only individual defense. Individually he's worse than Yzerman, no doubt. But he's so much better of a possession player that your team defense would improve simply by virtue of having to play in the defensive zone so much less.

But other than that, I agree with most of what you've said above.

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He's not speaking literally, he's speaking figuratively. When people nostalgically look back at Yzerman, they remember him how he was in the Bowman years and rarely remember the early part of his career. He wasn't a selfless, gutsy, two way, leader back then. He was a showy, one dimensional, goal scorer. At the time of the Gretzky trade, Yzerman wasn't the Stevie Y that we all remember as "The Captain", though he was in fact the captain of the team.

That's what he's saying.

You read not only my post, but also my mind.. Thanks.

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Guest Playmaker

It's impossible to plug one players stats in and say that's what he would have done on this team or that team.

If the Wings would have acquired Gretzky it also would have lead to other deals and signings that wouldn't have happened. Would the Wings have tried so hard to get Fedorov to defect with already having Yzerman and Gretzky, and maybe still Oates? Had they won a Cup in the mid-90s there would have been no Scotty Bowman, no grind line, no Russian 5, no Brendan Shanahan. I'll take the reality that actually happened, which has been pretty darned good.

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Guest Playmaker

While Yzerman has reached legendary status in Detroit, he was always humble, never showy and in the late 80's there wasn't really such a thing as a "two way forward." Star players weren't killing penalties and back checking. You were either a scorer or a defensive specialist. I don't know what team some of you were watching in 1988, but Yzerman was definitely a star then.

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While Yzerman has reached legendary status in Detroit, he was always humble, never showy and in the late 80's there wasn't really such a thing as a "two way forward." Star players weren't killing penalties and back checking. You were either a scorer or a defensive specialist. I don't know what team some of you were watching in 1988, but Yzerman was definitely a star then.

Nobody said he wasn't a star. Many people, however, have suggested (rightly) that he wasn't considered the untouchable, legendary, captain of a dynasty franchise until much later.

He was obviously a star. He was scoring 100+ points a season at that point.

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Guest Playmaker

I don't really agree. He lead the Wings out of the "Dead Wings" era to the Conference finals, was the first draft pick of the Ilitch era and was an established star behind Gretzky and Lemieux, and was universally respected around the league. I thought of him as an untouchable then.

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I'd add that in getting Gretzky you wouldn't sacrifice team defense, only individual defense. Individually he's worse than Yzerman, no doubt. But he's so much better of a possession player that your team defense would improve simply by virtue of having to play in the defensive zone so much less.

But other than that, I agree with most of what you've said above.

His plus/minus would imply otherwise. The guy was a consistent minus player throughout the last decade of his career (ie the 90s), which at the most fundamental level tells me that the strength of his possession game wasn't enough to keep the puck out of his own zone, nor out of his own net. The opposition consistently outscored his line. And I know +/- is a team stat and blah blah blah, but you'd think for someone who holds almost every offensive record in the books, and continued to produce at an elite level up until his retirement, he would have been able to have at the very least a decent plus minus for half those seasons, especially because that negative +/- was pretty consistent over three different teams (and who knows how many linemates) in the 90s.

The guy was an offensive god, but his defense was little to non existent. The real question is had the Wings acquired him, would he have been Bowman's example for the Wings to adapt a two-way game as Yzerman did, or would he have continued to do what made him famous? The last part is why in retrospect, I would have stuck with Yzerman (although in 1989 I would have made the trade 10 times out of 10).

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