What didn’t Henrik Zetterberg do during the 2016-17 NHL season? Detroit’s captain carried the burden of the Red Wings’ most disappointing season in over twenty-plus years on his shoulders while defying the physical limitations of his 36-year-old body.
Zetterberg led his team in assists (51), points (68), and plus/minus (plus-15). He also tied for third in goals scored (17) along with Frans Nielsen, Anthony Mantha, and Dylan Larkin. “Hank” also appeared in all 82 regular season games for a consecutive year.
One of Zetterberg’s most endearing qualities is his unselfishness with the puck, thus allowing those around him to shine. Take this beautiful tic-tac-toe goal that he set up with Mantha and Tomas Tatar in a game last February:
What stood out the most to me about Zetterberg’s 2016-17 season was how he handled the media after many of the Red Wings’ tough losses last year. He would often put the blame on himself, even when he was not required to do so. It was clear to see the frustration on his face as he faced the reporter’s questions in the locker room, yet like a true captain he weathered the barrage of queries.
Looking Ahead to 2017-18
Zetterberg dropped some sad but not surprising news last month when he announced his plans to not finish out his contract with the Red Wings. It’s not hard to understand his desire to return to his native Sweden to raise his family with his wife Emma. Zetterberg has done it all, he has nothing left to prove. As fans, all we can do is thank him for the memories and enjoy the final two years he intends to play in Hockeytown.
What should we expect from our bearded captain in the 2017-18 season? I don’t believe it’s unreasonable for Zetterberg to produce near the level that he did in 2016-17, as long as he remains healthy. At the same time, I wouldn’t be shocked if his play regressed slightly. Let’s be honest, he will turn 37 one week into the season, any decline in point production shouldn’t be that shocking.
Whatever fate holds for the Red Wings during their inaugural season at Little Caesars Arena remains to be seen but what can be assured is that Zetterberg will be there to lead the team, both on and off of the ice. You can also bet on the captain to give all that his body will allow him to give.
Zetterberg’s leadership will once again prove invaluable to the Wings as the team will need to rely on some of their younger players to begin carrying the torch for the club. It would be in the best interest of players like Larkin and Mantha to sponge up all they can possibly learn from Zetterberg while he’s still there to teach them.
Ultimately, if he can stay healthy, put up 15-20 goals and 30-50 assists, I’d call it a successful season for Zetterberg. It’ll be intriguing to see how much gas he has left in the tank after his herculean effort last year. With the pressure of continuing the playoff streak finally over, perhaps Zetterberg may take to the foot off the pedal slightly. Or perhaps, he might push the pedal down a little bit harder.