The Best Attribute of the Detroit Red Wings' Top 4 Stars
The Detroit Red Wings have been a successful franchise over the past two decades thanks largely in part to the star-caliber players that they have had on their roster over that period of time.
Of course, the Red Wings' incredible depth has helped them achieve four Stanley Cups since 1997. But there is no mistaking the fact that the star players have carried the load during the Stanley Cup wins.
The current 2013-14 Red Wings are a little bit less star-studded than the franchise was in 2002 for example, but Detroit still relies on star players to drive the bus in the regular season and playoffs.
Here is the best attribute of each of the Red Wings' top four "star" players.
Note: "Best attribute" in this sense is defined as the attribute that is most important to a Detroit win.
Pavel Datsyuk: Puck Possession
The Detroit Red Wings have a difficult time generating offense without Pavel Datsyuk. The Russian center is one of the best (if not the best) in the NHL for puck possession.
The Red Wings offense simply doesn't look the same when No. 13 isn't on the ice, as he carves through defenses with ease, setting up scoring chances in the process.
Simply put, Datsyuk's ability to hang onto the puck for prolonged periods of time gives Detroit the time to come into the zone and set up shop. He had 49 points in 47 games last season, with the bulk of those points coming off of plays where he hung onto the puck.
Honorable Mention: Takeaway Ability
Datsyuk is a thief and his ability to take the puck away and hound other team's top offensive players cannot be understated.
But despite Datsyuk being known as an elite two-way forward, his offensive abilities are far more important to the Red Wings' success than his defensive abilities. Even if Datsyuk lost his ability to play defense as well, he would still be a top-10 NHL forward.
Henrik Zetterberg: Shots on Goal
When watching the Red Wings play hockey, there is a tendency as a Detroit fan to get angry about how "perfect" the shots they take have to be.
A pass here and a pass there and suddenly, the opportunity is gone.
Henrik Zetterberg is not like that at all. "Z" has been in the top six NHL players in shots on goal for four out of the last five years, and that's no coincidence.
Zetterberg has taken an active role in making sure that if the Red Wings offense isn't scoring, the offense is at least getting opportunities in shots on goal.
Honorable Mention: Shutdown Forward
Zetterberg is another excellent two-way forward and although he hasn't won a Selke Trophy like Datsyuk has, the Red Wings captain is extremely aggressive on the back check. Another way that Zetterberg slows down opponents is that he is very skilled at denying opponents a free passage to the net.
If Zetterberg focused less on defense, he could likely return to annual 30-goal seasons, but the Red Wings would obviously struggle more on defense.
Johan Franzen: Ability to Get to the Net (When He Wants To)
The thing about Johan Franzen is that while he can dominate a game, he also goes for long stretches of time where he looks invisible.
But regardless of whether or not Franzen himself factors into the scoring on any particular Red Wings goal, "The Mule" always seems to be able to get his massive body to the net.
When he does get to the net, Franzen can establish himself as a screen.
While he doesn't have the ability to tip the puck out of the air like Tomas Holmstrom did, Franzen usually seems to be effective at getting to rebounds and loose pucks. When he does this, teams must account for him because he is deadly when he has the puck in close to the net.
Honorable Mention: Franzen's Shot
Franzen has had a rough go of things since Holmstrom hung up his skates. Franzen has been depended on to provide a screen in front of the net, meaning that he isn't able to roam free in the offensive zone.
One of the drawbacks to having Franzen use his body to screen the goalie is that he doesn't have the freedom to let his shot go whenever he wants.
Franzen has one of the best wrist shots on the team, and when he has the freedom to let it go, goaltenders have a very difficult time stopping it.
Niklas Kronwall: Durability
Niklas Kronwall went from a No. 3 defenseman to a No. 1 defenseman in just two short offseasons. Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom retired in consecutive offseasons to put the Red Wings in a bind in terms of quality of players on defense.
Kronwall now must log top-tier minutes, meaning he must play a substantial amount of time on the penalty kill as well as the power play.
He played some big minutes in the lockout-shortened season, averaging 24:21 of ice time in the regular season, with 3:42 of that coming on the power play and 2:38 on the penalty kill.
Kronwall's durability means that he is able to play more minutes in exchange for keeping younger more inexperienced and mistake-prone defensemen off of the ice in key situations. This allows Detroit to ensure that it has the right players on the ice when necessary.
Honorable Mention: Big Hits
Kronwall has been known to throw some huge hits. These hits have actually been made into several YouTube compilations.
The Red Wings assistant captain has the ability to fake as if he is going to sag off, lulling the opposing forward into a false sense of security. Kronwall then races up and slams the opponent with his rear end, stunning the forward on multiple occasions.
Unfortunately, though Kronwall is great at these hits, they often take him out of position and lead to some big-time scoring plays the other way.
All statistics via NHL.com.