Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman brought up an interesting point during his latest written installment of 32 Thoughts. It involved former Detroit Red Wings stars Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov, and shows just how good they were.
When looking at the playoff load that Connor McDavid is carrying for Edmonton, it’s significant. Friedman listed the players who have logged beyond or around the 22:28 average ice time that McDavid has logged so far. It’s a who’s who of stars, from Rod Brind’Amour (23:52 in 2006 at age 35) to Mike Modano (24:40 in 1999 at age 28).
Yzerman and Fedorov? The Captain (age 33) skated an average of 22:41 in 1998, the season the Red Wings won their second consecutive Cup. Yzerman would also snag the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Fedorov (age 32) averaged 22:20 in 2002, the same year Yzerman was limited by a knee injury. The Red Wings won the Cup that season as well.
Detroit’s Championship Teams Relied Heavily on Yzerman and Fedorov
During the season where Yzerman was hobbled by a bad knee, he still logged 21:22 of average ice time. Looking back at his lack of mobility, it’s incredible to think he was essentially skating on one knee through the duration of the playoffs. It’s also an effort that any hockey fan appreciates–Red Wings or not.
When looking at Fedorov’s average ice time and how heavily Detroit relied upon him during their championship years, it’s staggering. In the season where Detroit bowed out to Anaheim in four games, Fedorov led all Red Wings forwards with 22:07 of average ice time. What’s more stunning in all of it is that Fedorov’s number still isn’t retired.
To expound further, the league was far more physical than it is now. Open ice checking as well as vicious shots were encouraged. Clutching and grabbing ruled the game, making goals and dazzling highlights all that more impressive.
This isn’t to take away from what McDavid has been tasked with. He’s in a much faster, even more skill based league that is exhausting in its own right.
The ice time logged by any of the players, regardless of generation, is impressive.
What if the Red Wings Take the Next Step Season?
Bringing it to the current day, which Red Wings forwards seem likely to have high minutes? Dylan Larkin seems a foregone conclusion, his motor one that is similar to that of Yzerman’s. Tyler Bertuzzi would be right behind him, a player whose type of play is the kind needed in the playoffs. Rough and tumble and disruptive, Bertuzzi logging big minutes would be a thorn in the side of most teams.
Finally, Lucas Raymond seems a likely candidate. In his first NHL season, he logged an average of 18:08 and seemed to always be making some type of contribution on the ice, be it offensive or defensive. He’s the type of player, especially as he gets older, that a coach would lean on heavily.
Watching McDavid has certainly been something to behold this playoff season. It’s sweet for Red Wings fans to see the comparison to legends like Yzerman and Fedorov.
It’ll be sweeter when the current roster’s rising stars are the ones logging the minutes in a future playoff run.