If we're giving out grades for players like this is a school, today we're talking about the two alpha dogs. These are the guys you compare yourself to when you want to do better and they're the guys you compare yourself to when you want to feel worse. Between the two of them, they captained three hockey teams over the course of this season and almost certainly would have captained two more had they gone to play at the IIHF World Championships in Belarus.
So how did the face and the hands of the franchise fare this year?
#40 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings
Oct 09, 1980
Hank started the season on a tear, putting up 29 points in the first 28 games of the season before the first bite from the injury bug slowed him down. He went on to play 16 more, putting up an additional 19 points in that time, but the damage had been done. Zetterberg went from a player who might have been a Selke front-runner on December 1st to a distant memory by the post-Olympic run to the playoffs.
With Zetterberg in the lineup, the Wings went 23-13-9, outscoring their opponents 126-116. Without him, they managed 16-15-6 and a 94-109 goals for/against count. He played the toughest minutes among Red Wings' forwards and came out well ahead in both possession and production. His PDO was pretty high for the 45 games he played, so it's possible that he would have fallen off his scoring pace regardless of what possession continued to tell us, but there are also reasons to believe that players of his caliber will naturally sit higher on single-season PDO rankings as a factor of his skill.
Sadly, as we're judging what these players did right alongside talking about what they are, Zetterberg's attendance grade this year was awful. 45 games and 41 points is a wonderful pace, but it's an 82-game season, and the loss of the other 33+ points he should have put up was a real loss.
#13 / Center / Detroit Red Wings
Jul 20, 1978
Pavel Datsyuk is the single most-exciting player to watch in hockey. This is why it's bad for hockey when Pavel Datsyuk gets into only 45 out of 82 games.
Datsyuk's injuries were a little more spread out than Zetterberg's; Pavel played the first 24 games of the season, putting up 23 points in that span, then put up 14 more points in the final 21. Also like Z, Pavel put up huge possession numbers. He didn't get as lucky in the PDO department thanks to a lower save percentage behind him, but he moved the puck the right direction all season.
Strangely enough, the Wings performed better without Datsyuk in the lineup, improving from 19-14-12 to 20-13-4 in that span and going from a team with a 113-125 goal differential to one with a 107-100 scoring pace. However, Pavel played through times of slightly worse injury problems for the Wings. Also, I believe that the lingering problems of his injuries slowed him down throughout much of the last 21 games he played. Despite this, he still managed to put up a point per game during the team's first round series.
I could just copy the paragraph above about how 45 games of dominance is impressive, but it's just not good enough. Instead I'll be lazy and tell you to go back and reread it yourself. Freeloader.
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It's really too bad that injury problems slowed these two down, because I the Wings would have earned a much more-beneficial first round matchup with Datsyuk and Zetterberg playing more games. Next season will be a challenge for the Wings to get more out of them.