To some he is their fearless leader. To others he is potentially the fearless leader of the Las Vegas (insert) Knights. Regardless of your opinion, Zetterberg is still captain of the Detroit Red Wings and likely to place high again on team scoring. Take that as you will.
With still five years (!!) left on a $6M contract that will take him up to his 40th birthday, Z has been showing some signs of wear. But that’s not to say he still can’t do what he’s there to do. He played a full 82 games last season for the first time since 2012 but will miss at least training camp this season with an off-ice injury that kept him out of the World Cup of Hockey (thankfully):
#RedWings Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall won’t be ready for start of camp but Ken Holland expects both to be ready for season opener.
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) September 16, 2016
LAST YEARS STATS
While Zetterberg may have led the team in points last season with 50, it was a career worst points-per-game total for him and both his lowest goal and assist totals to date. He was also a career worst -15, but that had a lot to do with carrying two of the weakest line mates he’s had yet to date. Despite Larkin putting together a great rookie season, it’s still difficult for a guy like Z, who is used to playing with Datsyuk, to carry both Abdelkader and the new kid. A lot more focus had to be put on what he was doing in his own end and less so on the offence he’s typically accustomed to generating.
His CORSI was flat at mere decimal points above 50% at 5v5, his goals for/against was basically even there as well, as were scoring chances and his face-off percentage. He was rather stable and for the most part could at least break even among the leagues toughest top lines, but on a team that lacked secondary scoring it just wasn’t enough. A lot of these hits in the stats were due to an absolutely atrocious power play where Zetterberg usually cleans up. Deployment and usage of a lot of the teams other players really effected his game this past year.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, because every now and then he still pulls out one like this:
Welcome to the Senators, Dion.
At least contract-wise, Zetterberg is part of the group that helped cause lockouts and will no doubt cause headaches for this team further down the line. Comparables are Mike Richards and Marian Hossa’s 12-year deals and Jeff Carter’s 11-year contract. Now, he may be better off than Richards but I would bet most would take Jeff Carter at this point and for $800K less.
Purely in terms of play, you would likely find Zetterberg in the bottom half of the league when it comes to the 1C position but again, you’re paying for what the player has done at this point. A Stanley Cup, a Conn-Smythe, another finals appearance and multiple accolades internationally are nothing to gawk at but critics can still point to the “what have you done for me lately” factor and the inevitable restricting nature of his contract down the line.
THIS YEAR’S PROJECTION
Certainly adjustments have to be made with Datsyuk’s departure but it’s really not up to Z to pull that slack. Ideally, he moves to the wing with Larkin coming back to centre and furthermore not worry so much about the defensive side with Frans Nielsen coming in. If he could spend more time on a second-line sort of role, we may see that points-per-game total bounce back. The team will for sure be working long and hard on getting that power play back on point which will also benefit Zertterberg greatly. He still is the leader, he’s still the voice in the room and he still contributes value to this team, his role could just use some tweaking.
A lot of what we see from Zetterberg is out of his hands once again. Will his line mates improve? Will the secondary scoring come to prominence and reduce the minutes he needs to spend against top lines? If there is worry already about what he’s going to be able to do in three years, the last thing you’d want to see is him grinding another 82 games against team’s best lines.
While you may be able to count on Zetterberg to lead the team in most categories come years end, that at times can be more of a knock to those surrounding him than it is praises of his skill.
Also in this series: