Born: 10/9/80 (35 years old)
Birthplace: Njurunda, Sweden
Acquired: Seventh round (210th overall) 1999
Contract Status: Signed through 2020-21 season, $6,083,333 million cap hit.
I don't believe that anybody expected anything unrealistic and/or superhuman out of 35 year-old Henrik Zetterberg heading into the 2015-16 NHL season. As much as we would all love to see Hank put up 92 points like he did during the 2007-08 regular-season, those days and point totals are long (and sadly) gone. This is by no means a slight against Z, it is merely just a fact that all aging athletes and their fans must face. Both time and wear and tear catches up with us all.
As fans of the Red Wings, all we wanted was for Zetterberg to continue to lead a Detroit team that is currently in a transition phase, remain healthy, and put up decent stats while sporting the best beard in the NHL (sorry Brent Burns). Henrik Zetterberg is our captain, and that is simply what we expected and expect him to be.
With young guns like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist expected to carry most of the offensive/goal-scoring load in Hockeytown these days, the pressure to put up big numbers in the stats department was supposed to be lessened on Henrik Zetterberg during the 2015-16 season. But as we all know, goal-scoring and offensive production wasn't exactly the Red Wings' forte last year.
Despite centering Detroit's top-line alongside team-leading goal-scorer, Dylan Larkin, for much of the season, Zetterberg produced his lowest career goal total in a full 82 game regular-season with 13 total goals. Just for the sake of comparison, Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks, who also played in all 82 regular-season games last year, scored 19 total goals, and "Jumbo Joe" is just a little more than one year older than Hank.
Along with his 13 total goals, Henrik managed to accumulate 37 assists and 50 total points during 2015-16, both good enough for first place on the Red Wings. Zetterberg's final 2015-16 rating of a -15 was also another personal worst, again, not a statistic that can be placed fully on the shoulders of Henrik. He also finished second on the Wings (second to Larkin) in shots on goal with 214, so it certainly wasn't for lack of effort.
However, there were several times last season that Zetterberg went through several point and/or goal droughts:
|11/815 - 12/5/15||14||0||6|
|2/20/16 - 3/15/16||12||0||2|
|3/19/16 - 4/15/16||13||0||6|
Even though Zetterberg wasn't scoring many goals during these rough patches, he was for the most part still contributing in the assist column. It was both a bit concerning and frustrating to see Henrik slump like this, especially during the second-half of the season when the entire team was struggling to battle for a playoff spot.
What He Did vs. Expectations:
As I mentioned earlier, nobody was expecting Zetterberg to lead the team in goals, and he did not. Between all the miles logged, the surgically-repaired back, and the advancement in age, the 20 and 30 plus goal-scoring Henrik Zetterberg of yore is sadly gone, and that's completely digestible. Hank can still move, carry, and protect the puck with the best of them, while still assisting the young kids to find the back of the net.
We expected him to lead, and for the most part, he did. Zetterberg isn't a very vocal or emotional captain, but he understands the responsibility that comes with wearing the "C" for the Detroit Red Wings. Once again in 2015-2016, as the Red Wings found themselves struggling to claw into a playoff position late in the season, Hank held a player's only meeting and said what needed to be said. Granted, the Red Wings owe much of their 25th consecutive playoff appearance to the crumbling of the Boston Bruins, but Zetterberg at least tried to rally his troops.
I don't think many people expected or preferred Henrik to play the center position as much as he did last season. Perhaps playing center to Dylan Larkin's wing helped the younger Larkin to develop and succeed as well as he did, it may have also hindered Zetterberg's production also. When Jeff Blashill did try and shake things up by pairing Zetterberg with longtime teammate, Pavel Datsyuk, it was clear that magic of the "Euro-Twins" had lost much of it's former greatness.
Final Grade: B-
No true hockey fan wants to give their captain a bad grade, unless they absolutely deserve it. Henrik Zetterberg doesn't deserve a bad bad grade, I could see the argument for a "C" rating (pun not intended), but a bad grade? No. With the loss of Pavel Datsyuk, and with Henrik approaching age 36, I think his role for the Red Wings may need to be fine-tuned a little bit next season. Perhaps putting Hank back on the wing, moving him down a line or two, or cutting his minutes a little bit, or any combination of the above, would aid both Henrik and the Red Wings as a whole.