With the Detroit Red Wings missing the playoffs this season, Red Wings fans will have to sit through another postseason without their favourite team. Watching the playoffs without any kind of emotional investment is not the same, but you would be hard-pressed to find a hockey fan who fully supports the practice of bandwagon jumping. Bandwagon fans are the fans who join the fanbase when things are going their best, avoiding the whole pesky “losing” thing that most fans must suffer through. Such hockey fans would be looking at this year’s playoff bracket and deciding to cheer for the Colorado Avalanche or perhaps the Florida Panthers.
I’m not here to bash bandwagon fans (seriously, do whatever you want so that you enjoy playoff hockey as much as possible), but I do want to offer an alternative: cheering for your favourite team’s former players.
I was feeling especially apathetic towards the playoffs this year, so I began to search through the remaining teams’ rosters for some former Red Wings players to cheer for. Today I’m going to be describing eight such playoff teams that have former members on their rosters. Obviously, former players who played less than a season in Detroit are not all that exciting to cheer for, so teams that boast a former fan favourite or a former Red Wing that played a significant amount of games in Detroit may be more fun to cheer for. A few of these teams also have multiple former players on their squad which tends to help with name recognition. First off, I’ll start with a few players who barely played for them but still technically count.
- Boston Bruins – Tomas Nosek (1 Point in 17 Games with Detroit)
- Edmonton Oilers – Brendan Perlini (4 Points in 39 Games with Detroit)
- Minnesota Wild – Jonathon Merrill (5 Points in 36 Games with Detroit)
New York Rangers
Patrik Nemeth (17 points in 103 games in Detroit)
Nemeth’s tenure with the Red Wings was respectable if a bit underwhelming. He averaged roughly 20 minutes of ice time per game as one of the more trusted defenders on the Red Wings’ left side before he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for their fourth-round pick in the 2022 Draft. He has been serviceable as the sixth or seventh defenceman on a deep D-corps with the New York Rangers this season.
Nemeth would be easy enough to cheer for, but it would only be really enjoyable to the few who really gravitated toward him during his relatively brief tenure in Detroit.
St. Louis Blues
Nick Leddy (16 points in 55 games)
This one goes out to all those fans who can hardly remember the names of the players on their team currently, let alone players who haven’t played in Detroit for a few years. Nick Leddy was on this team as recently as six weeks ago. He was brought in to be the second most important defender on the team behind rookie sensation Moritz Seider before being traded at the trade deadline in March for Oskar Sundqvist, Jake Walman and a second-round pick. Considering how well both Sundqvist and Walman played down the stretch, Red Wings fans may want to cheer Leddy on as a thank-you for the excellent return that he fetched on the trade market.
Leddy was a bit of a disappointment in Detroit (considering how high some people’s expectations were for him), but he was still good and you could cheer for him and dream of what Yzerman will turn that second-round pick into.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek (if he returns from injury) (72 wins in 6 seasons with Detroit)
Alex Biega (6 points in 62 games with Detroit)
The first team on this list to boast not one but two former Red Wings is the Toronto Maple Leafs who might win over some Red Wings fans for that feat while simultaneously losing a ton of others for simply being the Maple Leafs. As the fans of any team that is in Canada or the Eastern Conference (so basically like 60 percent of the league) can attest, the Leafs are difficult to cheer for as a bandwagon fan of any kind. However, Mrazek and Biega make them tolerable at least. Mrazek is currently out with a groin injury but seems poised for a return any day now, and Biega is a well-respected depth defender usually lining up as the seventh or eighth defender on his team.
The Maple Leafs are a difficult team to cheer for if you are a fan of any other team, but if Mrazek comes back from injury soon, it would be a treat to watch him win some playoff games.
Brendan Smith (67 points in 291 games with Detroit)
Brendan Smith was a solid depth player who played parts of six seasons as a Red Wing. He nearly played 300 games in Detroit and has earned a certain amount of respect from the fanbase. Also, if you’re interested in cheering for someone because they were traded for a piece of Detroit’s future, then Smith is your guy. One of the picks that he was traded for was used to select Jonatan Berggren, who recently broke the record for most points in a season by a rookie on the Grand Rapids Griffins (the Red Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate) with 64. Berggren will hope to make an impact on the Red Wings as soon as next fall and Wings fans have Smith to thank for that.
Smith is playing for a very good Hurricanes team so if you’re looking for a former Red Wing who has a real shot at going on a deep playoff run, then this is one of your best bets.
Luke Glendening (126 points in 554 games with Detroit)
After spending his first eight NHL seasons in Detroit, Luke Glendening joined the Dallas Stars last offseason. He is a rather important player for the Stars who have a very top-heavy offense. In 554 games as a Red Wing, he scored 126 points, nothing crazy, but he was a consistent presence and a respected veteran player on the team.
Glendening is easy to cheer for after playing over 500 games for the Red Wings. Plus, the Stars have Jason Robertson who is one of the most enjoyable young players to watch in the NHL right now so it wouldn’t hurt to see him a bit more.
Los Angeles Kings
Andreas Athanasiou (154 points in 294 games with Detroit)
If name recognition is your thing, then the Los Angeles Kings might be the team for you since they have three former Red Wings on their roster this season. Andreas Athanasiou had a promising start to his career but hasn’t quite lived up to his potential yet. He scored 154 points in 294 games in Detroit and was a big part of the youth movement at the beginning of the rebuild alongside Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin.
Martin Frk (31 points in 98 games with Detroit)
Martin Frk is worth cheering for not only because he was a Red Wing but also because he has the hardest slap shot around. Seriously, this guy hit a slap shot at 109.2 miles-per-hour at the AHL All-Star Skills Competition in 2020, harder than Zdeno Chara’s record of 108.8.
Troy Stecher (13 points in 60 games with Detroit)
Last is Troy Stecher (AKA Tony Stretcher) who was one of my favourite players from the moment he joined the Red Wings at the start of the 2020-21 season. He was a solid addition to the right side of Detroit’s defence before being traded to the Kings at the trade deadline this season. The Kings are an easy team to cheer for with a good variety of enjoyable former Red Wings all playing depth roles.
Anthony Mantha (195 points in 302 games with Detroit)
Anthony Mantha was one of the best players on Detroit during some of the darkest years in franchise history. Similar to Athanasiou, he never quite reached his potential and was ultimately traded away to the Washington Capitals for Jakub Vrana and Washington’s first-round pick in 2021 and their second-round pick in 2022. Aside from being yet another example of why you don’t trade with Steve Yzerman, this trade provided the Capitals with a top-six forward and provided Detroit with some excellent pieces for their future.
You can either cheer for Mantha and hope for the best or you can hate-watch him and mutter to yourself about how much better Vrana is whenever Mantha makes a mistake. Your call.
Darren Helm (251 points in 744 games with Detroit)
Now I know this one will be controversial amongst Red Wings fans, as the Avalanche – Red Wings rivalry of the 90s and 2000s is still imprinted on many of us, even if we were too young to watch those two legendary teams battle it out. However, Darren Helm is by far the most enjoyable former Red Wing in the playoffs this year and it would be great to watch him win another Stanley Cup, even with Colorado. Also, the success of this Avalanche team gives me some hope for the future of the Red Wings by setting an example of how to win your way out of a rebuild through excellent drafting and trading.
If you are able to ignore the team that he’s on, Helm is the best former Red Wings player still fighting in the playoffs. If you can’t do that, then good luck cheering for the Nashville Predators to pull out the reverse-sweep in the first round.
What About You?
The playoffs are the most exciting time of the NHL’s season and deciding which former Red Wings player you would most like to see win the Stanley Cup can help you ultimately decide which team you will cheer for this year. If someone has to win that isn’t Detroit, you may as well find a reason to be satisfied with the outcome.
Who will you be cheering for in this year’s playoffs? Can you overlook the Avalanche rivalry and cheer for Helm or will you disown him in hopes that Colorado loses? Sound off in the comments below!
Logan is a sports writer for the Detroit Red Wings as a member of The Hockey Writers team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing. Logan also writes about more general hockey topics on his blog https://www.crashthecrease.blog.