A look at the Original Six: Detroit and Chicago

The Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks all get off to record-setting starts. Three of the top four scorers this season play in -- of all places -- here. Fans for the most part are coming back to the arenas.

These are all good things for a league still distancing itself from the lockout.

But what about the Original Six franchises? The Red Wings, Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Rangers and Bruins are the most recognized names and logos in the game, but how do they stack up in the new NHL.

This is my look at them, starting with Detroit and Chicago. Next up will be Canada's oldest clubs, Toronto and Montreal followed by New York and Boston.

DETROIT RED WINGS: This season was one of great change for the Red Wings with the retirement of longtime star Steve Yzerman after 22 seasons of wearing the winged wheel, and the loss of Brendan Shanahan as a free agent to the New York Rangers.

Like the assembly lines of old, Detroit keeps rolling out the wins. Heading into play Friday night, the Red Wings can set a franchise record with its 10th consecutive victory if they can beat the Calgary Flames.

Detroit has had five straight first-place finishes in the Central Division under three coaches -- Scotty Bowman, Dave Lewis and current bench boss Mike Babcock. The Red Wings won three Stanley Cups in a six-season span from 1996-2002 under Bowman and, on paper anyway, seemed to be the prohibitive favorite for a fourth when they recorded a franchise-record 124 points last season.

Instead, they were ousted in six games in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers, who eventually went on to the Western Conference championship.

Still, the fans in Hockeytown remain loyal. The Red Wings' average home attendance of 20,066 is second in the league behind Montreal. Including their road dates, the Red Wings are fifth in the league drawing 18,085 per game.

Owned by Little Caesar's pizza magnate Mike Ilitch since 1992, the Red Wings have had a solid foundation to build off of, and should be successful for years to come. Part of that success comes from scouting and development. Here are some of the Detroit's draft-day gems in recent years under Ilitch's watch:

Tomas Holmstrom (selected 257th overall, 1994): A sniper on the power play, he's scored 58 of his 129 career goals with the man advantage. Now 33 years old, Holmstrom may be blossoming late after setting career highs with 29 goals and 59 points last season.

Pavel Datsyuk (selected 171st overall, 1998): Has seen his points total rise in each of his first four seasons, including a career-best 87 in 2005-06. One knock against Datsyuk, though, is he seems to disappear in the postseason -- he's had just nine assists in his last 21 playoff games.

Henrik Zetterberg (selected 210th overall, 1999): Had a breakthrough season in 2005-06. Setting career-bests in goals (39), assists (46) and points (85), Zetterberg nearly matched his output from his first two seasons combined.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: It's been 45 years since there has been a Stanley Cup parade in the Windy City and that streak doesn't look like it will end anytime soon.

Before the Blackhawks can set their sights on ending the league's longest championship drought, they need to become relevant again, both to the fans and the media. As Steve Rosenbloom of ESPN 1000 and the Chicago Tribune has put it so eloquently in his blog, "The Hawks leave Chicago for the circus road trip. In the meantime, the city will vote on whether to allow them to come back."

The problem with the Blackhawks starts at the top with owner Bill Wirtz, who may rank right there with Charles Comiskey of 1919 Black Sox infamy for the worst sports franchise owner in city history. In the STATS newsroom a few nights back, some of us were surprised to see a home game being broadcast on television.

The Blackhawks have had a long-standing -- and pretty damned silly -- policy of NOT broadcasting home games. They may be easing off that, somewhat, as last Friday's 3-0 loss to Anaheim was the first of five games from the United Center this season.

"The last time we had more was when HawkVision was in operation in the mid-1980s," Jim Corno, senior vice president and general manager of Comcast SportsNet told the Chicago Sun-Times. "This is the most we've done in about 20 years."

Then there is this from the Nov. 9 Forbes.com article, which ranked the Blackhawks 12th in value among NHL franchises at $168 million.

The Chicago Blackhawks, which have been owned by the Wirtz family for over 50 years, are the most undervalued franchise in sports because of shoddy management. One of the NHL's original six franchises and owner of one of the most recognizable team logos in sports, the Blackhawks would be worth tens of millions of dollars more in the right hands.

Adding to all that, the Blackhawks have made many poor draft-day decisions.

How bad? Consider in 1987, goaltender Jimmy Waite was selected by Chicago eighth overall. Seven picks later, the Quebec Nordiques took future 1,500-point scorer and Hall of Famer Joe Sakic.

Three years later, defenseman Karl Dykhius was taken with the 16th selection ... and four picks before the New Jersey Devils took three-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Martin Brodeur, who eventaully will pass Patrick Roy on the all-time wins list.

In 2000, the Hawks had the ninth and 10th picks, using them on Mikhail Yakubov and Pavel Vorobiev. Some names that were bypassed include Alexander Frolov, Lubomir Visnovsky and John-Michael Liles.

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