I will not argue against players having their numbers retired after succumbing to a disasterous injury or even death. To honour gentleman such as Bill Barilko, Keith Magnuson,
Bill Masterton, Barry Ashbee, Michel Briere or Bob Gassoff is perfectly fine by me. These guys were average, or slightly above average players who were cut down in their prime and should be remembered as such.
In my mind, in order for a player to truly deserve the honour of jersey retirement, he should also be in the Hall of Fame. As flawed as the Hall selections can be at times, I feel it would provide a good framework on which to base jersey retirements.
I understand that some teams have few if any true alltime greats in their past, but must they retire a number just for the sake of doing it? Fine, Naslund and Linden were among the greatest Canucks ever I just don't see how number retirement should celebrate alltime "goodness" and not greatness. In New Jersey Scott Stevens is a fine choice, but Daneyko as well? All he did was last along time and provide solid defense, is that really number retiring material?
Anyways, that brings me to the case of Detroit's first ever retired jersey Larry Aurie.
His number six was retired after the 37/38 season by Wings owner James Norris after an eleven year career that produced 148 goals and 277 points in 489 games. Aurie even led the NHL in goals in 36/37 and helped the Wings win two Cups.
It was not the custom of the time to hang a jersey in the rafters. When Mike Ilitch bought the team from Norris' son Bruce in 1982 he hung the numbers of Howe, Delvecchio, Lindsay, Sawchuk and Abel. He neglected to hang Larry Aurie's number six from the rafters of Joe Louis Arena. The company line from GM Jim Devellano was they didn't honour him was because he was not in the Hall. Ilitch even went as far as having Aurie's number removed from the Wings list of honoured numbers in the NHL Guide.
Now, I'm not condoning the "striking from the records" of a great player from the distant past as in the case of Larry Aurie. I do feel that current teams should not continue questionable selections for number retirement.