“When I was first drafted, I was just happy that any team wanted to take me, but it was the Red Wings, and that made it better.”
This quote from Henrik Zetterberg truly exemplifies the legacy he has left on the franchise. His path to greatness started all the way at the bottom. He walked into a locker room with the likes of Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull, Igor Larionov, Nick Lidstrom, Luc Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman, coming off a third Stanley Cup in six years. He wasn’t the most talented in the room (that title belonged to some awkward Russian kid), he wasn’t the biggest in the room, and yet, he stood out despite being surrounded by legends. He fought his way from being fifty-two picks away from going undrafted, to a Detroit icon. In a league now accustomed to speed and youth, he’s once again found a way to stand out surrounded by much better players.
As he’s done his whole career, he beats you with his smarts, determination and passion. This isn’t something you can see visually when someone is handling the puck. We often bring our attention to the more sexy options. Who couldn’t stop talking about the 4th overall selection Yzerman, or the flash and dash of Fedorov. All while this no-name from Sweden battled his way into our hearts.
Which leads me to ask… where does Hank rank among all-time Red Wings?
Mr. Hockey sits on a pedestal at the top all by himself. I think we can all agree on that.
Then we get into the other names hanging from the rafters. There’s no doubt Zetterberg will see his jersey retired one day, but is it fair to put him in the same breath as Yzerman, Lidstrom and Ted Lindsay? Or is he in more of a class with Fedorov, Pavel Datsyuk and Terry Sawchuk? I lean more towards the former.
As a first thought, it may be difficult to fathom that, but the impact he has left on two different eras of the team suggest otherwise. Now playing for a mediocre team, he still finds a way to be a consistent performer, but most importantly be the team leader. To give 110% the way he does at this stage of his career is remarkable. In the prime of his career he gave us long-lasting memories, but his dedication throughout his career defines his legacy.
His career began on a defending Stanley Cup championship team loaded with Hall-of-famers, and will most likely end on a rebuilding team. He’s still not the most talented, he’s still not the biggest, but he still has the dedication and passion that he’s had since day one.
From his first NHL goal, to his 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy, to his OT playoff heroics against the Anaheim Ducks, he’s ceraintly has left a legacy up there with the very best the Red Wings have ever offered.
One thing is for sure. Best beard in Red Wings history!