It's a debate that's raged on for years now, and has been reignited with the announcement of Red Kelly's jersey retirement. Should the Detroit Red Wings retire Sergei Fedorov's jersey number? If you ask me, the answer is a resounding “yes”.
Let's go over the reasons why.
Fedorov is in the top ten of multiple all-time Red Wings records
There's no question that Fedorov was a skilled player. In the 1993-94 season with the Red Wings, he posted 56 goals and 64 assists for an astounding 120 points in 82 games. Those are some beyond all-star numbers. He was an integral part of Detroit's offense for almost his entire time on the team. Let's take a look at his career scoring with Detroit (this is most definitely a list, so bear with me):
- 4th in goals scored (400)
- 7th in assists (554)
- 6th in points (954)
- 5th in goals created (365.7)
- 2nd in career plus-minus (plus-276)
- 5th in even-strength goals (252)
- 5th in power play goals (117)
- 2nd in shorthanded goals (31)
- 3rd in game-winning goals (79)
- 5th in shots (3148)
- T-7th in hat tricks (6)
- 8th in goals per game (0.44)
- 5th in assists per game (0.61)
- 4th in points per game (1.05)
- 7th in goals created per game (0.40)
Impressive, no? Fedorov was an offense machine, but don't take that to mean he was a one-dimensional player. Sergei was just as good without the puck as he was with. In fact, as an offensive forward, he had the ability to play the defense position as well because his two-way play was so good. He could basically do it all.
Fedorov made the players around him better by being there
With an NHL career total of 696 assists (554 with Detroit), we know Fedorov wasn't super stingy with the puck. He set up many a goal in his career.
Some nice dishes by #91. On top of his assists, his great defensive play allowed him to cover up his teammates' mistakes. When you're responsible with and without the puck, you're going to generate chances on all areas of the ice. His two-way play was almost second to none, and great defense helps you win championships. Which leads us to our final point:
He helped the Red Wings to three Stanley Cup Championships in six years
42 years. Before the 1996-97 Red Wings team, it was 42 years since their last Cup. The Red Wings' Cup drought was literally middle-aged. No wonder they were christened with the nickname “Dead Wings”.
The three main keys to Detroit's '97 Cup win were goaltender Mike Vernon, captain Steve Yzerman, and, you guessed it, the two-way play and high-octane scoring of Sergei Fedorov. He lead all players in the playoffs that year with eight goals and 20 points in 20 postseason games. This included three power play goals and four game-winning goals. Fedorov put on a clinic in 1997.
This high-speed Red Wings team took this momentum into the following season and pulled off a Cup repeat; the first time since the 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins, and their first time since 1954 and 1955. They'd acquire their third Cup in six years in 2002; arguably the best Red Wings team, and one of the best NHL teams ever assembled.
Federov repeated his 20-point performance in the 1998 playoffs, with 10 goals and 10 assists in 22 postseason games. And even with his regular season stats declining with his age, he had a late-career year in the postseason in 2002. He put up five goals among 19 points in 23 postseason games. Needless to say, without Fedorov in the lineup, the Red Wings would have gone without at least one of those three Cups. Sergi finished his time with the Red Wings with 163 postseason points in 162 games.
Sergei Fedorov was one of the greatest Red Wings of the 1990's, arguably behind only Yzerman. He was one of those players that embodied the spirit of the game of hockey, and we as Detroit fans were lucky to have him for the time that we did. He should most definitely have his jersey number retired by the Red Wings.