Before we get in to today's post, some congratulations are in order. We have received word that George Malik has joined Kukla's Korner as another blogger. If you're not familiar with George, shame on you; long before I discovered all of the different Wing blogs, I was reading George for updates on MLive.com. He will be a welcome addition to KK, and we look forward to his frequent posts about everything that's happening in the Red Wing universe.
Having said that, man am I getting tired of the lack of news. What is a blogger to do? It's too early for season previews, and I just don't care where Tomas Kaberle ends up, as long as it is somewhere where they have eyebrow tweezers on sale for cheap. Luckily for me, I am continuing my series, and this week will mark numbers 5 through 1. I'm going to bet there will be absolutely no surprises this week, but it will be fun to talk about them anyway. So let's start with #5.
Pertinent Stats: 506 GP, 206 G, 269 A, 475 P, +131
Awards: Conn Smythe - 2008
Stanley Cups: 1 - 2008
I really considered doing a "5A" and "5B" for Datsyuk and Zetterberg, because they are so close together in terms of their abilities and achievements. However, I put Hank at #5 because I think he's done just a tiny bit more than Datsyuk. He's also my current favourite player on the team, so that helps as well.
Zetterberg was yet another of the late-round draft picks that turned into a superstar. In his case, he was picked 210th overall in 1999 in what was deemed to be a throwaway pick. He joined the team in 2002-03 as a rookie the year after the Wings won the Cup, and enjoyed immediate success. He tallied 22 goals and 44 points that year, impressive totals for a rookie, but had the Calder stolen from him by Barret Jackman (as an aside, what is it with impressive Wing rookies losing the Calder? Yzerman to Barrasso; Zetterberg to Jackman and Howard to Myers? Seems to be a bit of a conspiracy if you ask me). The next season saw him miss time due to a broken leg, but after the lockout Zetterberg seemed poised to make the jump to become one of the leaders of the team. Since the lockout, he and Datsyuk have been the go-to guys in terms of scoring, and together form one of the most dynamic and dangerous lines in hockey.
There is no question in mine or anyone else's mind that Zetterberg is the next captain of the Red Wings. A lot of people thought he might get named after Stevie retired, but I think Hank was still a little young, and he needed time to grow into his role. However, once Lidstrom does end up hanging up the skates, I don't think it will be long before there's a press conference announcing the passing on of the "C" to Zetterberg. Really, who else on the team would be a good fit for captain? The only other person I could think of would be Datsyuk, but it seems to me that Zetterberg is more of a "leader" of the team than Dats is; perhaps that is due to Pavel's quiet nature or the fact he is not as media friendly as Hank is; either way, Zetterberg as captain seems right and natural, and I think he'll be a good ambassador and representative of the franchise, as every captain has been in the past.
Where Zetterberg is slightly ahead of Datsyuk is in his playoff performances. In 2005-06, through the tears, it was obvious to me that Hank was probably the best forward on the ice for the Wings that year, racking up 6 goals in 6 games and being the only Wing that could score with any regularity. Since then, he's been a better-than-a-point-per-game player for the Wings, including 15 points in 12 games last year. However, by far his best performance was in 2007-8 when he racked up 27 points in 22 games, including the Cup-winning goal off Fleury's butt in Game 6. His point totals combined with his strong two-way play got him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. However, his defining moment wasn't any of his goals or assists; it was the excellent work he did on the 5-on-3 in Game 4 with the Wings clinging to a one-goal lead. That kill was the turning point of the series, as it kept the Pens from tying the game (and possibly the series) headed back to the Joe for Game 5. Want to relive that shift? I know I did:
Like Datsyuk, Zetterberg is known throughout the league for his two-way play. I've often told people that Hank and Pavel are essentially the same player, but Pavel is just a little "flashier" in terms of the things he can do. But I've asked myself the question of who is more "important" to the team between the two of them and my brain keeps telling me that it is Zetterberg. I just feel that if the team lost Datsyuk for an extended period of time, the Wings would be in deep trouble, but if they lost Zetterberg for the same amount of time, it would be even worse. Am I wrong in thinking that? I still believe that Lidstrom is more important to the team than either one, but I just get the sense that the team has a better chance of competing if they have Zetterberg instead of Datsyuk. I look no further than the Finals in 2009: Zetterberg's dominance of Crosby should have led to a repeat championship except for Max F------ Talbot. While he was assigned the duty to cover Crosby and Malkin when possible, he was able to keep them relatively in check while kicking in 3 points. After Game 4, it was quite obvious that he was probably exhausted, yet he never let that on and never complained.
I guess Zetterberg gets this high on the list not only for what he has done in his relatively short career with the Wings, but also for the potential greatness that has yet to occur. I can't think of another player on the Wings right now that seems like he is going to impact the franchise as much as Hank will. I have no doubts that when his career is over, we will speak of him with the same reverence that we do for Yzerman and Lidstrom; as one of the true "greats" of the franchise. He continues to be not only one of the best players on the team, but in the NHL itself. Like I said earlier, he's my current favourite player, so that bumps him up on the list. I love what he brings to the team, and the fact that he is a guy that the Wings can count on to produce in the playoffs. Sure, his wedding photo was a little weird; but any guy who can frustrate The Face of the NHL so much that he does the following is ok in my books.
The 4 guys ahead of him were all amazing, and if I update this in 5 or 10 years, he might end up higher. But for now, he will have to be happy knowing he is #5 on the list of the Greatest Red Wings of My Time.