For those Detroit Red Wings fans who were lucky enough to experience it, the offseason of 2001 was like no other. The Red Wings were stunned by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2001 Western Conference Quarterfinal, blowing a 2-0 series lead and losing four straight, the final game a dagger in overtime. The Red Wings winning consecutive Cups in 1997 and ’98, had suddenly hit the proverbial wall.
It was anyone’s guess as to how then general manager Ken Holland would respond. But this wasn’t a Salary Cap league yet. Owner Mike Ilitch spent lavishly on his hockey club, and the offseason of 2001 would certainly set the standard for years to come.
It was twenty years ago that the Red Wings would make fireworks of their own just days before the fourth of July.
Red Wings Acquire Dominik Hasek via Trade
Before free agency could even commence, the Red Wings made a blockbuster trade to acquire goalie Dominik Hasek from Buffalo on June 30, 2001. Hasek was considered one of the best–if not the best–goalies of his generation. The trade stunned everyone. Detroit gave up a first round pick and winger Vyacheslav Kozlov in the deal.
For the record, Kozlov was a clutch scorer for Detroit during their playoff successes. He scored the game winner against Chicago in 1995 to clinch the Western Conference Final–just one of many big goals he would have during the next few playoff runs.
But the Hasek acquisition turned the league on its head. Ilitch was not about to sit by and watch Colorado, New Jersey, and Dallas run the table. Detroit reloaded–and wasn’t done.
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 deal. Robitaille was on the Kings team that dispatched Detroit in six games that spring, and adding a lethal scorer–in what was the dead puck era–was another boon for Detroit.
Suddenly, a lineup brimming with talent in Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, and Brendan Shanahan now boasted Robitaille.
But they still weren’t finished.
In August, they inked Brett Hull to a multi-year deal, adding the future hall of fame total to what would be ten players on the roster.
Oh, and it was also Pavel Datsyuk’s rookie season.
The Moves Paid off with a Stanley Cup Championship
The 2001-02 Red Wings were absolutely loaded with talent, and would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season–even after some tenuous moments which included a four game rally against Vancouver, a dominant back-to-back shutout performance by Hasek in Games six and seven versus Colorado, and then a thrilling triple overtime victory against Carolina in game three of the Stanley Cup Final.
Each one of those additions–Hasek, Robitaille, and Hull–were instrumental in those games and respective series. Though it certainly came with its fair share of doubt (who can forget fans throwing Hasek jerseys on the ice after a Game 2 loss to Vancouver to put them in an 0-2 hole), the roster of all-stars and future hall of famers came through, clinching the Cup on home ice at the Joe Louis Arena.
The season itself was amazing. But the magical offseason acquiring one star after another was a moment fans still talk about to this day–and may never be matched again.