For those Detroit Red Wings fans who had the chance to experience it, the 2001 offseason was like no other. The Red Wings were stunned by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2001 Western Conference quarterfinal, losing a 2-0 lead in the series and losing four in a row, the last game a stab in overtime. The Red Wings, who won back-to-back Cups in 1997 and 1998, had suddenly hit the proverbial wall.
Anyone could guess how GM Ken Holland would react. But it wasn’t a Salary Cap league yet. Owner Mike Ilitch has spent lavishly on his hockey club, and the 2001 offseason would certainly set the standard for years to come.
Twenty years ago, the Red Wings were doing their own fireworks a few days before July 4th.
Red Wings acquire Dominik Hasek through trade
Before free agency could even begin, the Red Wings made a successful trade to acquire Buffalo goaltender Dominik Hasek on June 30, 2001. Hasek was considered one of the best, if not. the best goalies of his generation. The trade has stunned everyone. Detroit gave up a first-round pick and winger Vyacheslav Kozlov in the affair.
For the record, Kozlov was a clutch scorer for Detroit during their playoff successes. He scored the winner of the game against Chicago in 1995 to win the Western Conference Finals, one of many important goals he would have in the next playoffs.
But the acquisition of Hasek turned the league upside down. Ilyich wasn’t going to sit and watch Colorado, New Jersey and Dallas lead the table. Detroit reloaded – and wasn’t.
Red Wings add Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull
Before Wings fans could even catch their breath, Holland followed just two days later by signing Robitaille to a two-year contract. Robitaille was part of the Kings squad that sent Detroit in six games that spring, and the addition of a lethal scorer – in the days of the dead puck – was another boon for Detroit.
Suddenly, a team overflowing with talent made up of Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan is now proud of Robitaille.
But they still weren’t done.
In August, they signed Brett Hull to a multi-year contract, adding the future Hall of Fame’s total to what would be Ten players on the list.
Oh, and that was Pavel Datsyuk’s rookie season too.
Moves paid off with Stanley Cup championship
The 2001-02 Red Wings were absolutely talented and would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season, even after a few tough times, including a four-game trade to Vancouver, a back-to-back dominant shutout from Hasek in Games Six and Seven. against Colorado and then a thrilling triple overtime victory over Carolina in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Each of these additions – Hasek, Robitaille and Hull – played a defining role in these respective games and series. While it certainly came with its fair share of doubt (who can forget the fans who threw Hasek jerseys on the ice after a Game 2 loss to Vancouver to put them in a 0-2 hole), the all-star roster and the future Hall of Fame won the Cup at home at Joe Louis Arena.
The season itself was amazing. But the magical offseason acquiring star after star was a moment fans are still talking about to this day – and perhaps never will be matched again.