Detroit Red Wings: 'Post-Lidstrom Era' Is Being Redefined as 'Zetterberg Era'

Matt HutterAnalyst IFebruary 2, 2013

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 25: Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates a second period goal while playing the Minnesota Wild at Joe Louis Arena on January 25, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It was, to be honest, the worst-kept secret in Detroit.

Upon the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom last May, nearly everyone who followed the Detroit Red Wings and most anyone who followed the NHL knew that Henrik Zetterberg would assume the team's captaincy.

It was, after all, the role he had been groomed for since he first stepped foot in Detroit.

From being placed next to Steve Yzerman in the locker room, to being named an alternate captain under Nicklas Lidstrom, to signing a massive, 11-year "lifer" contract, everyone knew that someday, Henrik Zetterberg would have a "C" stitched on his jersey.

Though that day was long-delayed (courtesy of one of the dumbest labor disputes in American history), it finally came to pass on January 15.

As that puts us just a little more than two weeks into his captaincy, one might argue it is far too soon to assess just how well he's wearing that "C."

Horse feathers. 

Think of it this way: If Zetterberg had no goals, two assists, was a minus-four and struggled to put shots on net, would now be too soon a time to think that he might not have been the best choice to lead the Detroit Red Wings?

As it stands, Zetterberg has five goals, seven assists, is a plus-six and leads the team in shots with 33.

Zetterberg also leads all forwards in ice time with an average of 20:21 per game and continues to play on both the power play and penalty kill.

Zetterberg is officially "Mr. Everything" for the Detroit Red Wings, and that role seems to be suiting him just fine.

While it is true he has long been one of the Wings' most valuable players, continuing on in that capacity is sometimes a lot tougher once one takes the helm of his team's ship.

Though his promotion was nearly guaranteed for years, there was no guarantee that it would prove to be the right choice.

After all, replacing a legend is hardly an easy task—and with so much focus on this season being the "post-Lidstrom Era" in Detroit, the pressure to turn this into the "Zetterberg Era" was going to weigh heavily upon the shoulders of No. 40 in red.

Add to that pressure the fact that many around the NHL don't expect this team to go very far and even expect this to be the first time in 22 seasons Detroit's hockey team fails to make the postseason, and suddenly being the captain of the 2012-13 Red Wings starts to look pretty damn tough.

Being just seven games into a 48-game season might be too early to know just how well Zetterberg's team will fare this year, but it appears all too clear that Zetterberg was the perfect choice to lead that team.

Setting aside his five-point performance on Friday night that led the Wings to their redemptive victory over the powerhouse St. Louis Blues, who humiliated his team on opening night, Zetterberg's captaincy is validated by a team that is clearly following his lead.

Zetterberg was admittedly flat and ineffective that first game, yet he has improved in each game since.

He's put more shots on net, finished more checks, battled harder and skated faster with each passing game—and it seems to be no coincidence that his team has followed in near lockstep with him.

The lead-by-example philosophy of leadership passed on to him by Yzerman and Lidstrom has obviously not been taken lightly.

Ten years ago, Steve Yzerman was the undisputed leader in Detroit.

One year ago, that same status was allotted to Nicklas Lidstrom.

Today, just a little over two weeks into the "Zetterberg Era," there is no question which man is leading this team on the ice.

If one wants to go as far as to say, "As goes Zetterberg, so go the Red Wings," that should be just fine with his team.

With Zetterberg leading them, the Detroit Red Wings might just go a bit farther than many thought they would.