I wouldn’t expect a ton more detailed information on this story, but it is official – there won’t be any games played by Red Wings’ captain Henrik Zetterberg at this month’s World Cup of Hockey.
The Team Sweden press release is describing Zetterberg as “injured” and made the speedy decision to replace his roster spot with Calgary’s Mikael Backlund. Backlund is 27 years old and has represented Sweden multiple times at the World Juniors and at World Championships, but wasn’t chosen for Sweden for the Sochi Olympics team that won silver in 2014.
For the record, I’m told there isn’t any “smoking gun” where Zetterberg has aggravated a previous injury — but Red Wings GM Ken Holland noting a “knee injury” during training is a pretty standard explanation, given there may have been a tweak to one of Zetterberg’s knees, but it isn’t anything that would keep him out of a Stanley Cup playoff game. We can all agree the World Cup of Hockey tournament isn’t equal in importance to that, I think.
The Zetterberg news may be a bit jarring for Red Wings fans given Zetterberg did dress for all 82 games in last year’s regular season, one of only three Red Wings to do so (Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader were the others). That said, I’m told it’s something coming strictly from Zetterberg and has more to do with the 36-year old Red Wings captain wrestling all off-season (which I don’t to remind you began in April again) with the concept of playing in such a highly-competitive tournament without the benefit of a training camp, or many “friendly” games before Sweden’s first tournament game against the Russians two weeks from this coming Sunday on the 18th.
If you’ll recall, Sweden was dealt a severe blow in Sochi after their opening 4-2 win over the Czech Republic, in which Zetterberg scored a goal, when he was subsequently ruled out of the entire rest of the tournament two days later with a herniated disk. To say the injury was legitimate was an understatement — Zetterberg didn’t appear again in the regular season, and only re-surfaced for Games 4 and 5 of their first-round elimination at the hands of the Boston Bruins, scoring a goal and assist in just over 19 minutes play in the Game 5 elimination at TD Garden.
Truth be told, Red Wings brass, including both Ken Holland and Jeff Blashill, have to be a little bit relieved that the focus for Zetterberg is strictly on preparation for the regular season, and given there are no preseason games until late September for the Red Wings, with Zetterberg’s recent injury history, despite back-to-back healthy seasons, they’d never say it publicly, but this is preferable to him playing in this tournament at his advanced age and stature.
Zetterberg can’t be counted on for the 70+ point seasons he used to have no issue accumulating, but there’s little question with this being the first “post-Datsyuk” season of Zetterberg’s career, that he can’t miss long segments of time in 2016-17, unless the Red Wings plan to continue being a playoff team ends up being altered heading into the second half of the season, and the Wings get clearer vision of the need to rely on younger players in key roles, something which has eluded them the past few seasons.