Sitting at just 40 points away from 1,000 in his career, number 40 might not reach the coveted milestone. With reports surfacing that Henrik Zetterberg may have played his last game with the Red Wings due to a lingering back injury, the organization has prepared for an early retirement from their captain (although the belief is he’ll play next season). His health is the determining factor, as it should be. At any point during the harsh regular season he could call it quits. I think we can all agree the last thing we want to see is the captain playing through intense pain.
The potential loss of Zetterberg could be far greater than many think. So much so that his exit could be the difference from fringe competitiveness to Jack Hughes. But not in the way some would hope. This collapse would be closer to the Ottawa Senators than the Buffalo Sabres.
My biggest fear is of what would happen off-ice. During the post games, in the locker-room, at practice; this team is on the verge of disaster without Hank. He brings the composure and calming manner to a team hoping to shift to a younger core. He’s the glue keeping the team together.
Jeff Blashill essentially lost the locker-room after the ten goal game against Montreal. Things seemed to keep getting worse under him. Between Zetterberg and Blashill, whose voice do you think settled the tension?
The club has shown their desire to preserve culture, and while they have assembled a somewhat over sized group of veterans, it’s hard to believe they can garner the same respect as Zetterberg from the younger players. Justin Abdelkader seems like a great guy, but I doubt he could settle down angered teammates. The one in particular I remember was the brawl between Tyler Bertuzzi and Nick Jensen at the Wings’ 2013 development camp:
And trust me, there will be angered teammates after the many losses that are coming.
Where does that leave capacity? Niklas Kronwall for a year? Is Dylan Larkin ready to handle that kind of pressure? No captain at all doesn’t seem to fit the “preserve the culture” mantra. The post-game interviews, while depressing, were always handle perfectly with Z.
His on-ice impact will be greatly missed as well. Including the playoffs, he has played in 258 consecutive games – which is remarkable. His 56 points last season weren’t tpo shabby. But his mentorship to the kids carries the most importance. Larkin benefited from playing with the future hall-of-famer by learning how to play the game the right way. Wouldn’t that be great for a Flip Zadina or Michael Rasmussen?
An early Zetterberg retirement before this upcoming season could be the beginning of the end for Detroit.