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Red Wings Season Preview: Datsyuk/Zetterberg

Today we wrap up our season player preview series with the most complete hockey-playing duo in the NHL today: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.  The Eurotwins enter their eighth season together with the news that head coach Mike Babcock wants to try to keep them together more often this season as the situation allows.  Pavel Datsyuk is 5'11", 194 pounds, and 32 years old.  As announcers will be sure to remind you all year, he was the Red Wings 6th round pick in 1998.  He stayed in Russia for three years after being drafted and entered the NHL in the 2001-02 season where he picked up 35 points on the Wings' fourth line and won first of his two Stanley Cups.  Datsyuk is in year four of a seven-year deal that earns him $6.7 million a season.  Henrik Zetterberg, the likely successor to the Nicklas Lidstrom's Red Wings captaincy is 5'11", 195 pounds, 31 years old, and recently married to this.  A seventh-round pick in 1999, Zetterberg made the jump to the NHL for the 2002-03 season where he shared minutes with Datsyuk and Brett Hull in the Two Kids and an Old Goat Line, barely missing out on the Calder trophy to St. Louis resident Cro Magnon Barrett Jackman.  Henrik enters year two of a 12-year, $73 million dollar contract. 

Last Year's Benchmark: Last year, both missed minor time with injuries.  Their 164-game pace would have landed the pair with 53 goals, 96 assists, and a +31 rating while averaging 20:12 of ice time with 3:13 on the power play and 0:53 on the PK.  This 149-point pace is very low compared to the actual 170 points they put up the prior year and 189 from the 2007-08 cup-winning squad (interestingly, the last time they both played together for most of the season).  Injuries to themselves and the loss of scoring depth helped greatly to cause this numbers decline, but the matching 70-point seasons is just not good enough for the two guys expected to carry this team.  Follow us after the jump to look at each individually.

Pavel Datsyuk

#13 / Center / Detroit Red Wings



Jul 20, 1978


 2009-2010 Stats











Datsyuk is a traditionally slow starter who was hampered by the entire team's slow start.  During the Wings' early season struggles while paired with Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi, Datsyuk often tried to do too much and for the first time in his career, looked like he really wasn't having fun playing hockey.  The team eventually rebounded and Datsyuk finished strong, winning his third straight Selke trophy for best defensive forward and placed 2nd in voting for the Lady Byng for sportsmanship.  His goals-to-assists ratio last year was at it's highest since he scored 30/38 in the 2003-04 campaign and shows that this traditional playmaker was trying to do more to help his team win as necessity dictated.

Strengths: Datsyuk is the sickest stick-handler on the ice whenever he's out there.  If you can watch a game where Datsyuk doesn't wow you at one point or at least make you chuckle at his creativity, then you're either dead or just mad that he's not playing for your favorite team.  He has incredible core strength and usually gets the better of much bigger guys when they try to take advantage of the size differential.  He's mastered the ability to sense a hit coming and to deliver it first, often catching guys off-balance.  For on-ice awareness, Nick Lidstrom is the only player better than he is at knowing where everybody is on the ice at all times.  If a player is open, Datsyuk will find him and can usually thread a pass right to his stick.

Weaknesses: As I said earlier, Datsyuk is a slow starter.  It can take him a while to start putting up points, which can hurt early in the season if the entire team is struggling.  When his linemates struggle, like they did, he'll often try to take too much of the responsibility into his own hands.  Too often last November did fans see him carry the puck into the zone and lose it to a triple-team on the half boards.

Expectations:  Datsyuk's 70 points will have to go up.  He'll likely keep his top-line, top power play unit minutes and play the occasional late penalty kill or 3-on-5 shorthanded situation.  Playing on a line with Zetterberg and Holmstrom will give him the opportunity to go back to being a playmaker where he's most comfortable.  I expect a return to the 31.5 goal / 65.5 assist average over the seasons ending in 2008 and 2009, except slightly higher because I want Datsyuk to finally break 100 points.  I'll call for 34 goals and 66 assists as well as leading the league in takeaways by at least a 30% margin again.

Henrik Zetterberg

#40 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings



Oct 09, 1980


 2009-2010 Stats











Zetterberg has been slowed by injuries in every one of his seasons with the Red Wings.  Last year was no exception, as he missed time due to a shoulder injury.  Late last year he went on an absolute tear and was the Wings' best player going into the playoffs.  He says he's physically healthy and mentally recharged going into this season after playing so much hockey over the last several seasons.  The 2008 Conn Smythe trophy winner and heir apparent to the Red Wings' captaincy will look to have a bounce-back year while somehow still miraculously staying under a lot of people's radar.

Strengths:  Zetterberg may be the strongest player with the puck on the team, even in front of Datsyuk (who is better at taking it away).  His wrist shot is dangerous and he makes it very hard for goalies to tell when it's coming.  As defensively responsible as they come, Zetterberg happily takes on the assignment of shutting down the oppositions' top guys and does so incredibly effectively (remember Sidney Crosby in the 2009 Finals?  Well, neither does anybody else.  That's a lot of Zetterberg's doing.)

Weaknesses:  He says he's healthy, but will his various body parts hold up to his sometimes-reckless style?  I sincerely hope the answer to this is yes.  Aside from that, I guess he can sometimes be distracted when he randomly sprouts a full playoff beard during the first intermission of every game.

Expectations: Being back together with Datsyuk for long periods will bring Zetterberg back to the land of 40 goals, which he last scored in 2007-08. Combine that with the 50 or so assists he'll add, we're looking at one of the league's most dangerous top lines. Zetterberg will continue to be overlooked in favor of the flashier Pavel Datsyuk, but will end up back on the Selke trophy ballot and will even get Hart consideration from some of the writers who stay up late enough to watch games that take place in the Central time zone.  It's going to be a good year to be a Red Wings fan.