Today the Red Wings players got together for an informal “Captain’s Practice” at the Joe to start getting ready for training camp starting in 11 days. The practice had to be informal because there’s an entire CBA article dedicated to how training camp works and about how the team isn’t even allowed to hold voluntary practices right now, but there’s nothing in it about allowing informal skates, and that’s just what they did.
While Johan Franzen helped run drills, team captain Henrik Zetterberg was on hand, though not skating due to the knee injury which forced him to back out of the World Cup of Hockey for Team Sweden. After it was over, Zetterberg spoke with the press there and we’ve since gotten a number of video/audio clips of Hank talking to Mlive, Freep, and The Detroit News.
Here are the highlights:
- Zetterberg’s knee injury was “just a fluke” according to the star, who says it happened doing something he’s done plenty of times before. While I guess this could be a little alarming to find out that Zetterberg’s age makes him more susceptible to injury, it doesn’t really change things.
- Hank won’t promise that he’ll be ready to skate by the time camp starts, saying that he has to wait until it’s pain-free off the ice before he can get back on. He reiterated that he expects to be good to go. The tone of how he said it did indicate he pretty well knows the timeline and just didn’t want to give too much detail because there’s really no point in making promises at this point.
- Other than that, you can hear on the Freep piece that Zetterberg is very familiar with Frans Nielsen and thinks that was a very good signing.
The more interesting piece from Zetterberg wasn’t in the audio/video clips shared by the sites, but what’s in the Freep piece:
To that point, Zetterberg, who turns 36 in October, was asked whether his role needs to change. He has been a workhorse for a decade but has been disappointed in how he has dropped off during the second half of the last two seasons. He’s hoping to change that by figuring out how to better manage his time off of the ice.
“Find different ways to be fresh,” Zetterberg said. “That's what's gotten me the last two years, I ran out of gas. You can't play hockey in this level when you run out of gas. So that's one thing we're going to play around with.”
We’ve already heard from Ken Holland that they’d like to move Zetterberg to wing full-time and this isn’t much new, but as far as I know, this is Zetterberg’s first real admission about running out of gas at the end of last season.
This is kind of a part where Mike Babcock’s words about Zetterberg being like another coach is going to echo, because as the captain and as a guy who got that kind of endorsement, you have to assume Hank’s pull in the locker room is greater, so he’s got more responsibility to know his own limits than pretty much everybody else. When asked about handing over time to some of the kids, the conversation went very much towards coach-speak:
“As a player, as soon as you hear 'less minutes,' you're not happy,” Zetterberg said. “I don't think I will go and tell Coach I need less minutes. But if he decides that I need to play less or get some rest dates, I'm open to listen to that.
“We want to see the younger guys take steps and kind of take minutes from the older guys. But I won't give it away, they have to earn it. That's part of the transition. I went through it when I came in and started to play more. But you have to earn it.”
This is pretty much exactly what you’d want the team captain to say in this specific instance. There’s not a better way for Zetterberg to have stayed on the platitudinous line that players have to toe while still being proud and trying to challenge the younger players.
As a fan, I don’t necessarily want to hear “I’m open to listen to that” when talking about a coach making decisions on his ice time, but while Zetterberg wears the C, it’s not inappropriate for him to treat such considerations as a dialogue rather than a series of commands.
All-in-all, Henrik Zetterberg still has quite a bit of good hockey in front of him, but he’s not going to be able to carry the team like he used to. He’s still in a situation where carrying the team falls more on him than anybody else by nature of his captaincy and it’s going to be his job to give quotes like this to the press. We’ll find out more later about how well his knee is healing and his readiness to start the season, but until then it’s a waiting game.