The Detroit News - - Sports - BY TED KULFAN | The Detroit News

Tra­verse City ven with an aching back and not be­ing able to prac­tice, Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg was of­ten the Red Wings’ best player the last two sea­sons.

His lead­er­ship in the locker room, his abil­ity on the ice, it’s all go­ing to be missed, as Zet­ter­berg an­nounced the end of his play­ing ca­reer Fri­day due to that trou­ble­some back.

How much will Zet­ter­berg be missed? The Red Wings will de­ter­mine that in the weeks and months ahead by how they play.

But it’s not go­ing to be easy.

Epo­ten­tial to feel that loss,” said coach Jeff Blashill, who called Zet­ter­berg one of the best “war­riors” he’s been around, and one of the best play­ers. “How much you feel it to­tally de­pends on how ready the other guys are to fill those roles.”

Not hav­ing Zet­ter­berg means this team be­longs that much more to the likes of Dy­lan Larkin, Anthony Man­tha, An­dreas Athana­siou, Tyler Ber­tuzzi, and all those young­sters com­ing up this sea­son (Michael Ras­mussen, Filip Zad­ina) and, in the

not too dis­tant fu­ture (Den­nis Cholowski, Filip Hronek, Evgeny Svech­nikov, Joe Ve­leno, Gi­vani Smith, or so many oth­ers).

There are op­por­tu­ni­ties for the young play­ers to take this team up­ward.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity for some­one else to step up and grab those min­utes,” de­fense­man Nik­las Kron­wall said. “We need younger guys to push for those min­utes.”

It’s an old sports ax­iom that when a player gets hurt, all it means is it’s an op­por­tu­nity for an­other player, usu­ally much younger, and prob­a­bly very hun­gry.

The Red Wings are hop­ing that oc­curs in this sit­u­a­tion.

Still, los­ing Zet­ter­berg, and all he did for this ros­ter, is go­ing to be a mon­u­men­tal loss.

“Whether you needed a goal or shut it down, he was on the ice and he made it hap­pen,” Kron­wall said. “That’s what stands out among the great play­ers. Steve (Yz­er­man) was the same way, Nick (Lid­strom) was the same way. When it mat­tered, they were on top of the game.”

Here are sev­eral ways the loss of Zet­ter­berg will af­fect the Red Wings:

Who will re­place Zet­ter­berg as cap­tain? Blashill and Hol­land both said that will be de­ter­mined be­fore Open­ing Night on Oct. 4.

“It’s some­thing we’ll keep dis­cussing in­ter­nally,” Blashill said. “By Game 1 we’ll have that de­ci­sion made. But it’s not some­thing I want to com­ment on. We’ll dis­cuss it in­ter­nally and de­cide what is the best av­enue for us.”

It wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing to see an­other as­sis­tant cap­tain named along­side Kron­wall and Justin Ab­delka­der.

A steady, low-key vet­eran such as Frans Nielsen would ap­pear to be a good pos­si­bil­ity to wear an “A,” or maybe Dy­lan Larkin, who just signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion and is des­tined to one day be the Wings’ cap­tain.

But prob­a­bly just not yet. Larkin is only 22 and it might be too much pres­sure to wear the

“C” at this point.

Larkin took on a larger role last sea­son on and off the ice, and in­tends to do more this sea­son.

“I don’t think you need to wear a let­ter to be a leader and I tried last year to take a step for­ward in my third sea­son,” Larkin said. “I thought it was time to be a leader, be an im­pact player on this team. I have the same men­tal­ity for this year. Is wear­ing a let­ter ev­ery­thing? No. It’s do­ing the right things, con­tribut­ing to the team and win­ning games.

“We’re go­ing to need solid lead­er­ship and I want to pro­vide that.”

Zet­ter­berg be­lieves the lead­er­ship is fine.

“The lead­er­ship group we have is strong,” Zet­ter­berg said. “The as­sis­tant cap­tains (Ab­delka­der,















Kron­wall), we have some young guys that have been here for a while. One player has the “C” on his jersey, but we have a lot of lead­ers.”

How will the salary cap be af­fected? Zet­ter­berg has three years re­main­ing on his con­tract at a hit of $6.083 mil­lion on the salary cap.

The Wings will place Zet­ter­berg on long-term in­jured re­serve when the reg­u­lar sea­son be­gins.

How much salary-cap re­lief the Wings re­ceive will de­pend on who makes the Open­ing Night ros­ter (and how close to the ceil­ing of the cap they are).

Re­gard­less, gen­eral manager Ken Hol­land has said on sev­eral oc­ca­sions the Wings will not go look­ing for a re­place­ment for Zet­ter­berg.

“There are a lot of op­tions,” he said, not­ing Larkin, Nielsen, Athana­siou, Dar­ren Helm, Luke Glen­den­ing, Ras­mussen and Do­minic Tur­geon all play cen­ter. “It’s an op­por­tu­nity for other play­ers to show what they can do.”

How will min­utes and roles in the lineup be af­fected?

Larkin moves into the role of No. 1 cen­ter, some­thing that was likely to hap­pen with or with­out Zet­ter­berg.

“Play­ing with him my first year on a line, I spent a lot of time with him and learned a lot ev­ery day,” Larkin said. “Just watch­ing him, the good times and the bad. Ev­ery day there was a new les­son I learned from him.”

Nielsen and Athana­siou (or maybe Helm) will be­come the sec­ond- or third-line cen­ters, with Glen­den­ing, likely the fourth cen­ter.

There’s also Zet­ter­berg’s spot on the power play, which Nielsen could claim.

The re­tire­ment of cap­tain Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg will change the look of the Red Wings nextsea­son in a num­ber of ways.

Pho­tos by David Guralnick/Detroit News

De­fense­man Nik­las Kron­wall will as­sume a greater role in the vet­eran lead­er­ship depart­ment with Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg out of the pic­ture.

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