On Sunday, August 26th, Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill addressed the media about Zetterberg’s ability to play this season. The quotes he gave were concerning, to say the least.
Here are some tweets from Red Wings writers conveying what Blashill said:
Blashill said Zetterberg has not been able to train. All signs are that it will be difficult for him to be cleared.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) August 26, 2018
Blashill said if Zetterberg is not cleared, he would not expect him to be cleared later. The Red Wings have Plan A and Plan B. If Zetterberg can’t play, Athanasiou moves to center.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) August 26, 2018
Jeff Blashill says in conversations with Henrik Zetterberg, Zetterberg said he’s gotten very little training in this summer because of back. Blashill concedes that’s it’d be all but impossible for Zetterberg to play this season without the proper off-season prep.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) August 26, 2018
Obviously, this is easily the most negative information we’ve seen thus far about the Red Wings captain’s ability to play this upcoming season.
While the idea that the reports thus far about Zetterberg’s ability to play are to help establish an excuse when he goes on permanent LTIR in the future have made logical sense up until this point, it’s this writer’s opinion that these latest comments indicate that it’s more likely we have seen the last NHL game Zetterberg has played.
While obviously the lead here is about the Red Wings seeming likely to lose the on-ice services of a great leader (and still a very good NHL player), we have to consider how this will affect Detroit’s lineup.
Blashill said what he is currently thinking if Zetterberg cannot play:
#RedWings Blashill said if Zetterberg doesn’t play he’ll move Andreas Athanasiou to 3rd line center, behind Dylan Larkin and Frans Nielsen, with Luke Glendening centering fourth line. Darren Helm will play wing.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) August 26, 2018
I would rather have Athanasiou at wing, but I’m willing to see how this works. The good news is that Detroit has several players (such as Darren Helm) who can play center if Athanasiou at center doesn’t work out.
These comments are easily the most disappointing this summer in terms of fans (like me) who hope Zetterberg has at least one more season in him.
But, at this point, the Occam’s Razor answer that Zetterberg is done playing in the NHL seems the most likely.
While it seems cruel (to me at least) to look at this development in terms of the financial impact for Detroit, it’s an aspect that cannot be ignored. Zetterberg going on LTIR solves Detroit’s cap crunch situation, without requiring the team to make any additional roster moves. A high price to pay to solve that issue, to be sure.
Looking back, today’s comments make me think that Holland knew there was a very good chance that Zetterberg would not play this year, which makes the Mike Green and Thomas Vanek contracts make more sense in retrospect.
In terms of the roster makeup, I think this makes it much more likely that Filip Zadina starts the season in Detroit as opposed to Grand Rapids.
I feel that Detroit will find itself in a similar situation at forward as they have been at defense recently, with Larkin and Nielsen both playing one line up from what would be optimal for them. I’d rather have Athanasiou at wing than center, but I’d love to be wrong about that and to see him develop into a solid 3C.
We will have more analysis of what this potential news will mean to the Red Wings on multiple fronts in the days to come.
Kyle is going to be doing a Facebook Live at 7:30 PM ET tonight with reaction to this news, so set your timers and go participate in that.