Detroit Red Wings: The Worst Kept Secret In The NHL

By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)

Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press

On Tuesday, the Detroit Red Wings announced superstar forward Henrik Zetterberg as the team’s third captain in 28 years. Zetterberg will take over for retired legend Nicklas Lidstrom and former mentor, nearby locker mate, and legend Steve Yzerman.

Zetterberg certainly has big shoes to fill, but the 32-year-old is ready. Zetterberg told the Detroit Free Press, “More than anything, this is a very big responsibility, to represent the Wings in everything. You look back at some of the former captains… it is very big shoes to fill. But I read a quote from Stevie Y when he became captain in ’86. He said it made it a lot easier by having a locker full of leaders. That’s the same for me now.”

Zetterberg was drafted by Detroit 210th overall in the seventh round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. He made his debut with the Red Wings in the 2002-2003 season, scoring 22 goals and adding 22 assists on a line with current alternate captain Pavel Datsyuk. He finished second in the voting for Calder Trophy awarded to the rookie of the year.

Zetterberg has contributed 252 goals and 372 assists in 668 NHL regular season games over nine seasons with Detroit. Zetterberg has added 51 goals and 51 assists in 109 playoff games in that same period of time. Zetterberg scored 13 goals and added 14 assists in 22 games when the team won its last Stanley Cup in 2008. Despite the superior offensive output, he is best remembered for his unrivaled defensive play that shut down current superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin among others.

Zetterberg has known that he would succeed Lidstrom since the summer when general manager Ken Holland approached Zetterberg after a round of golf to ask if he would serve as captain. Holland bragged to the Detroit Free Press that he shot his best round of the year that day.

Zetterberg’s mentor Yzerman offered this take: “Henrik is a natural leader, intelligent, confident. He’s a complete player who can also be counted on no matter the situation. He will be an outstanding leader for the Red Wings.”

If the future first ballot Hall-of-Famer Yzerman, known to many Detroit fans as “The Captain,” vouches for Zetterberg, the Red Wings have made another brilliant decision in a history steeped in smart, crafty changes during the Ilitch family’s ownership of the team.

Zetterberg, Datsyuk, are two of the many players Detroit drafted in later rounds that helped to establish the team’s drafting mystique, which makes the team choice to make Zetterberg the new captain even more appropriate.  Like Datsyuk, Detroit’s 2000 NHL Entry Draft first round draft pick and newly-anointed top defenseman Niklas Kronwall will also continue to serve as the other alternate captain.

Statistics and other information obtained at www.nhl.com, www.freep.com, and www.hockeydb.com.       

Share your thoughts about the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq.  He can be reached via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com.  Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys.

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