Detroit Red Wings Name Zetterberg Captain: 5 Reasons Why He Is the Right Heir
This, after all, is what the Wings do. They replace greatness with greatness, even when onlookers and pundits believe it to be all but impossible. For your consideration: the turn over in Detroit following the previous lockout in 2005.
Steve Yzerman played for one season after the lost year and retired afterwards.
Within the same year after the '05 lockout, the Wings lost Yzerman and Brett Hull (to retirement, kind of) while Brendan Shanahan and Darren McCarty bolted for the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames as free agents, respectfully. Ray Whitney and Curtis Joseph both also left town.
Losing several key cogs on a team that just won 58 games and complied a whopping 124 points shouldn't be easy, but Detroit made it look like it was the following season, winning a respectable 50 games.
Rolling with the punches—and the losses—now seems to be part of the team DNA in Detroit.
So with that in mind, the 2013 version of the Red Wings send off arguably the greatest defender in the history of the NHL, and they will attempt to do seamlessly.
The odds are against them. Then again, everyone is always quick on the trigger to say "this is the year Detroit doesn't make the playoffs." If captain Zetterberg has anything to say about it, this will be just another bright chapter in Red Wings history.
I can't imagine there was very much hesitation, before naming Z the heir to Lidstrom's throne. There are several reasons why.
His English Is Better Than Pavel Datskuk's
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If you have a few minutes, watch this interview from 2008. Henrik Zetterberg answers the first question. The following few are directed at Pavel Datsyuk, who had just picked apart the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
After listening to two minutes of Pav speak, I feel like Datsukian shouldn't only be the name for his deakes. It should be the name of his English-Russian language as well.
I'm obviously just giving the Russian phenom a hard time, as I can't imagine how hard it is to learn a second language on the fly solely to chat with reporters (and perhaps occasionally talking smack with Corey Perry). However, communication is a big part of what a captain must do.
I'll assume that Datsyuk is perfectly fine with the assistant captain position, only dealing with refs when Zetterberg isn't on the ice as well. Which, lucky for the refs, isn't too often.
Zetterberg Has Been Raised Within the Organization to Do This
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There was a time when Martin Lapointe was considered the heir apparent to the C once Steve Yzerman finally decided to hang up his skates. Why else would the two share stalls next to one another, even when Lapointe was a rookie?
Fast forward to July of 2001, the Boston Bruins offer Lapointe a ridiculous 3 year deal worth $5.2 million a year. Or a 320 percent raise over his contract in Detroit. He obviously accepted the deal, and the rest is history.
Enter stage left, Henrik Zetterberg.
After Lapointe left town, Z took the solitary stall next to the great captain Yzerman. Obviously the Wings thought that somewhere down the line this kid from Sweden could be the next captain.
And now he is, and that isn't a coincidence.
He Can Lead by Statistics
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Since breaking out for 85 points in the 2005-2006 season, Zetterberg has been among the team leaders in goals, assists and points.
He's been an integral part of the teams power play, and he shoots the puck a lot. Z is a central cog in Detroit's offense, and he can be one of the most offensively creative forwards in the league.
In short, he can lead the Red Wings on the score sheet and via other equally important methods.
And He Can Lead by Example
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While Pavel Datsyuk is known more for his puck stealing skills and defensive acumen, Zetterberg is no slouch in that department.
Few players in the NHL are as talented with the puck as they are dogged in its pursuit as Zetterberg. He forechecks with the best of them, forces turnovers and skates his tank to empty on every single shift. He has all the traits that you look for in a captain.
That never say die, "that's my puck not yours" attitude is infectious within games and inside of locker rooms. The Red Wings know that Zetterberg is the embodiment of these qualities. He will eventually see a decline in numbers as he ages, but he'll still embody the precise player that Detroit wants other guys on the team to emulate.
Just like Lidstrom, and just like Yzerman before him.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
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Since 2007-2008, Zetterberg hasn't missed more than seven games in a season, and over the last two years he has only missed two games total. While he might not be quite as durable as Lidstrom the immaculate, he's still consistent enough to take over as captain.
Along with not missing much time on a yearly basis, he puts up rock solid numbers on the very balanced Red Wings, who don't need him to do all of the heavy lifting on a nightly basis.
Most importantly, Zetterberg is only 32 years old. Since he is wearing a Red Wings sweater, that makes him an ancient afterthought (instead of a veteran leader—like he would be called if he played elsewhere). But he still has plenty of hockey left in him.
Zetterberg is signed through the 2020-2021 season. He'd be getting up there quite a bit at the end of that contract, but there is no reason to believe he won't be a steady presence as the Wings captain for as long as Lidstrom was.
That means more than a half-decade and hopefully several chances at becoming the third European captain to ever hoist the Stanley Cup.
Franklin Steele is a hockey analyst for the Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for entertaining hockey media from around the web, and for random musings about the sport, or like him on Facebook.