Kris Draper’s announcement of retirement on Tuesday makes the third such landmark resignation by in the past 2 months. While I was a big fan of Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski, there’s something about Drapes’s retirement that stands out. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why…
I loved watching Draper play. No offense to Drew Miller or Patrick Eaves, but a Red Wings game seemed a little more exciting when #33 was selected to suit up. He was vocal, he was aggressive, he was FAST! Draper’s best goal of this year came against the Edmonton Oilers on January 4. A streaking give-and-go from one end of the ice to the other. The Oilers' defense never stood a chance. You’d never know he was 39 years old.
In the rich tradition of Red Wings hockey, there seem to be a number of eras that have pronounced themselves through the years. By no means are the boundaries definitive, and you can never really determine where one ends and another begins. Every fan sees his own markers, but even Wikipedia lists out the highlights…
The “Gordie Howe” Era of the 1950s,
The “Dead Wings” Era in the 70’s and early 80s.
The “Early Yzerman” Era of the late 80s
The “Russian Five” in the mid-90s
Superstar Acquisitions of the early 2000s
And the New Detroit Era at present
With Draper’s retirement, it seems we’ve seen an end to one of those eras. He’s, of course, the last member of the beloved Grind Line with Kirk Maltby, Joe Kocur and Darren McCartey. The Grind Line represented the Wings hard-driving, third offensive line, known as the shut-down kings of the league. They turned Philadelphia’s Legion of Doom into the Legion of Doomed in the 1997 Cup Finals. The Grind Line era hearkens back to the mid-1990s which reminds us all of the triumphant return of the Stanley Cup to Detroit, and the christening of Hockeytown.
So we bid farewell to the Grind Line era, and in the coming years we’ll speak of Kris Draper not in the present tense, but the past tense. He’ll join his colleagues in the hallowed sanctities of admiration…names like Scotty Bowman, Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Larry Murphy, Mike Vernon, Brendan Shanahan, and Vladimir Konstantinov.
But as I say, the margins of Red Wings eras are undefined. Have we entered into a new paradigm on July 26, 2011 at 11:00 am? I doubt it. We’ve seen marked success of late with the Red Wings, and we look to these newer players, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Darren Helm, Johan Franzen , Valtteri Filppula, Danny Cleary, and Jimmy Howard. We rattle off these names in the same breath as our discussions about the future of the organization. But if you look closely, you’ll see they are just as grizzled and battle-hardened as Draper & Company when the Flyers came to town. We’re well consumed into this new age.
It is said that Kris Draper will be offered a new position within the organization. Some joke that he ought to be given the job of Strength and Conditioning Coach, given his propensity for the gym. Others speculate he could become a lead scout, alongside Maltby. Personally, I believe whatever position he’s offered, he should have a regular place in the locker room. He’s a true motivator and a kindred spirit among the other players. And it seems unlikely that anyone is willing to carry on the tradition of The Birthday Bandit…
Indeed the End of an Era!