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Lessons From the 1983 NHL Draft

by Stu Grimson / Nashville Predators

The NHL Draft has changed a lot since 1983, my first year of eligibility. Back then, the Draft consisted of 12 rounds and only the players that were ranked in the world’s top half would typically attend in person. Are you shocked that I didn’t get an invite to the event?

There’s nothing noteworthy about the fact that the Detroit Red Wings took me in the 10th round that year, other than to put a little historical context on the importance of that particular draft year for Detroit. The Wings take away that year consisted of Steve Yzerman, Petr Klima, Bob Probert, Lane Lambert (yes, former Nashville Predators Assistant Coach Lane Lambert) and Joey Kocur, in addition to myself and others. These (named) players were key in turning the "Dead Wings” of the 70s and 80s into, again, one of the most respected franchises in the game. The 1983 Draft was a key block in the rebuild; Yzerman was the sort of player and person upon whom you could pin your hopes.

Later in the summer of 1983, Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch flew each and every draft choice to Detroit to welcome us to the organization and show us around the city. As we assembled in the lobby of the Pontchartrain Hotel on our first day in town, it became fairly clear that the Wings had a specific theme in mind as they approached the Draft of 1983. They were done getting a lot of sand kicked in their face. In fact, the cast of characters filling the hotel lobby on this day looked more like the post-draft take-home for the NFL's Detroit Lions than it did the Detroit Red Wings. Probert went 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, while Joey Kocur was just 6-foot-0, but weighed 220 pounds and had a right hand that hit like a mule kicks. I was the biggest skater taken that year at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, but 1983 Wings Draft picks Craig Butz and Jeff Frank, both 6-foot-2, 225 lbs, were plus-sized guys also. It’s worth making the point that these guys weren't known for their deceptive toe drags or their wicked saucer passes. These guys had other “skills.”

Detroit did not get immediately better, but they did quickly command more respect than they had enjoyed prior to the 1983 Draft. That new regard from the rest of the pack, a host of other successful Drafts and additional key transactions would ultimately allow the franchise to revisit the form of its Original Six roots.

So, I’m not trying to imply that the Predators will select a half dozen “enforcers” at the 2015 NHL Draft in roughly a week. But perhaps my story does go to show that a team can promptly and dramatically change their makeup based on the prospects they pick, and who knows, maybe the next Steve Yzerman will be sitting in the stands at BB&T Center during that final weekend in June.

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