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Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg’s leadership was Hall of Fame-worthy

Former Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg’s leadership is worthy of enshrinement in Toronto

There is no shortage of great players throughout the illustrious history of the Detroit Red Wings, and we as fans were beyond fortunate enough to be able to experience it firsthand. But while names like Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, and plenty of others often draw the lion’s share of fan attention, the Red Wings became famous for their pipeline to Sweden that produced the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, and of course, 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Henrik Zetterberg.

Henrik Zetterberg's leadership

His career took off immediately upon his entrance into the NHL

It must have been somewhat of a daunting task for Zetterberg to join the Detroit Red Wings prior to 2002-23. The Swedish forward, whom Detroit drafted with the 210th overall pick in 1999, was a rookie fighting for a spot on the team that not only were the defending Stanley Cup champions but also featured nine future Hall of Fame players on the roster.

Not only did Zetterberg make the team, but he would quickly enter himself into the discussion for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie, making an impact immediately off the bat.

It wasn’t long before Zetterberg would quickly elevate himself to one of the top two-way players in the National Hockey League, culminating in helping the Red Wings to the 2008 Stanley Cup championship and earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in the process.

Henrik Zetterberg’s leadership made him a natural choice for the Detroit Red Wings captaincy

Upon the retirement of fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom in 2012, Zetterberg was the obvious choice to succeed him as captain. And as you know, it was Lidstrom who succeeded Yzerman upon the latter’s retirement in 2006 after a two-decade run of wearing the “C” on his jersey.

The transition for Zetterberg into the role wasn’t anything that he backed down from or felt underprepared for. After all, as he put it, he learned from some of the best.

“Just playing with Nick for my whole career here, just to see how he prepares himself, how he handled himself on and off the ice, and just lead by example and that’s what he did,” Zetterberg said. “I played with many good leaders since I got here and not just Stevie and Nick. There was [Kris] Draper, [Chris] Chelios — there are so many guys that I played with that you learn from. So you try to take bits and pieces from all the guys that you play with, and they really formed the player who I am now.”

By the time it was all said and done at the end of Zetterberg’s playing career in 2018, he’d appeared in 1,082 career games and registered 960 points (337 goals, 623 assists). And upon his retirement, the Red Wings declined to name an immediate successor for the captaincy.

“He’s one of the greatest Red Wings players in our history,” former GM Ken Holland said. “He and Pavel Datsyuk carried the torch for this franchise for another decade (after Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom).”

TL;DR (too long didn’t read)

  1. Henrik Zetterberg burst onto the scene as a rookie for the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and quickly became one of the top two-way forwards in the National Hockey League.
  2. Zetterberg assumed the captaincy upon the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and continued to carry the torch for the Original 6 franchise with class.
  3. Henrik Zetterberg’s leadership as well as his key two-way play and personal accolades are Hall of Fame worthy.

Bottom Line: Zetterberg’s career deserves enshrinement in Toronto

Though Zetterberg was snubbed in the most recent 2023 Hockey Hall of Fame class, there are few who would argue against the Swedish great not having his name included for the rest of time in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. And the great thing about it is that when his time does come, he’ll be able to say that he spent his entire career with one team – just like Yzerman and Lidstrom before him.

“I’m not sure I saw myself lasting so long when I got drafted as a seventh-round pick,” Zetterberg said. “Being in one organization for the whole time is something special.”

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