Yesterday Red Wings’ fans got the news we all feared. Henrik Zetterberg will be out for at least two months as he had to undergo surgery on Friday to remove part of a disc in his back that had been rubbing against, and irritating, a nearby nerve.
The current time table will have Zetterberg reevaluated in 8 weeks. The same week the regular season will end. So, a return before the regular season ends is highly unlikely.
Now the question is how will the Detroit Red Wings move on without their captain?
Multiple Wings have to step up if Detroit has any chance of making it into the playoffs once again because Hank can’t be (easily) replaced. Not only will his absence leave a gaping hole in the offense, but his leadership in the locker room can’t be overlooked either.
New unsung leaders and heroes are needed. The candidates for the job opening are:
Top Tier: Ready for Action
Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, Nikolas Kronwall
These are a group of players that know how to lead and are prepared for the long struggle ahead. Datsyuk, Captain Russia, looked back in form at the Olympics. The real test will be to carry that over to the smaller, more compact NHL ice rinks.
Alfredsson, Captain Ottawa, also looked great in Sochi and he knows a thing or two after being the captain in Ottawa for 14 seasons. Veteran experience has helped the Red Wings get through before, why should it be any different this time around?
Kronwall, Captain Sweden, rather new to the role but he has lead Team Sweden to the gold medal game after taking over for Zetterberg. A strong back line starts with Kronwall and without a credible defense finding more offensive power won’t even matter.
Middle Tier: Given the Right Circumstances
Jimmy Howard, Gustav Nyquist, Johan Franzen
Not captains per say but these guys have the capability to make a huge difference. How much offense is needed on any given night will rely heavily on Howard. A hot goaltender makes scoring goals a lot easier.
Speaking of hot, Nyquist went into the Olympic break on fire (9 goals, 4 assists, in his last 10 games) but has since cooled off during Olympic play, even seeing his ice time get drastically cut. Watch out if Gus gets going again because it’s that kind of spark the Wings need moving forward.
Then there is Johan Franzen. The lumbering forward is expected to be back for the Red Wings next game in Montreal on February 26th. Although plagued with headaches and dizziness for the past month, Franzen still has the credentials as a streaky goal scorer.
Low Tier: Flash in the Pan
Tomas Tatar, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Tomas Jurco
The speed and skills group can shift the course of the game in a blink of the eye. However, changing the outcome of a few games isn’t going to be enough. Changing the course of the rest of the season will take consistency between the four players. Something we have rarely seen all season.
Mystery Tier: Where have you been?
Joakim Andersson, Stephen Weiss, Todd Bertuzzi
The “it can’t get much worse” group has underachieved and struggled to live up to expectations. So, what better time to prove yourself as a valuable asset to the team then now? The opportunity to prove their worth is staring them directly in the face. Will they capture it, or let it slip? – Eminem.
The pride and joy of Detroit sports is hanging in the balance because without Henrik Zetterberg the record breaking playoff streak is in more jeopardy than it has ever been. In order to keep the tradition alive the Detroit Red Wings need to display a strong sense of team unity in the face of adversity.
We can only hope there is enough leadership, experience, and talent to make that possible.
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