Red Wings' Zetterberg Still has Something to Prove
By all counts, Henrik Zetterberg is probably having a really great summer. The birth of Hanks' son this August is probably 95% of what might make this the best summer for him since he married his now wife in the summer of 2010 (which was probably the best summer since Zetterberg owned the Conn Smythe and got to spend a day hanging out with the Stanley Cup in 2008).
The other 5 percent? Well that probably has something to do with Zetterberg being free of Mike Babcock.
From what Zetterberg told MLive's Ansar Khan this week, the team's captain echoes the same stance we've read from many of the Wings' players who have spoken about the coaching change: that the Red Wings were ready to see Mike Babcock move on. More than that though, while we've heard a lot of diplomatic walking around the topic from players like Tomas Jurco, Jonathan Ericsson, and Tomas Tatar, Zetterberg's words tend to stand out.
"I want to thank Mike for the time he had here, but I think both him and us probably decided it was time," Zetterberg said.
That's not just talk about Babcock being a hardass or excitement over a "fresh voice." That's the team captain saying his group wanted the coach gone.
And so, what we have in Detroit for the first time since Steve Yzerman reinvented himself as a two-way forward is a team that truly belongs to its captain. This is now Henrik Zetterberg's team, and what happens this year is very likely to define Zetterberg's captaincy with the Wings for better or worse.
Yes, I realize that what I'm saying is that for the six years Nick Lidstrom captained the Wings, there wasn't a defining season that made the Wings "his team", but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Lidstrom's captaincy was an understated success highlighted by Lidstrom becoming the first European captain to lift the Stanley Cup in the NHL's history. He probably should have won another one, but Lidstrom's captaincy is a good part of a masterful career.
Henrik Zetterberg doesn't need another accolade to cement a good career; he's already got one. While his Hall of Fame case is questionable at best, Zetterberg has been a huge part of the Red Wings' core since they transitioned out of the Yzerman era. His Conn Smythe in 2008 may not have come while he was captain, but it's a big part of the reason he was the obvious choice for the gig once Lidstrom retired.
But Zetterberg needs something else if he's going to be a great captain, a Hall of Famer, or the kind of player who should have his jersey retired at the end of his career. A great captaincy would do that. So far though, his team hasn't escaped the 2nd round, suffering two game-seven losses in that time. Fortunately, as far as narratives go, we've got a fresh start to work off of now.
I'm not saying Zetterberg's captaincy will be spoiled if the Wings don't win a cup this year. In fact, I think there are a lot of situations where the Wings fall short and the reflection on Hank's legacy will simply be ok. I do think that going all the way this season cements him as one of the greats, but a disastrous season immediately after Zetterberg dropped the gauntlet about his team being ready for their coach to move on would be hard to recover from.