The Detroit Red Wings are a franchise with a rich history of captains, and since 2013 the man that has held that title is Henrik Zetterberg. Now, recent reports have Wings fans worried that the team could enter next season without its beloved captain.
In an interview this week with Swedish hockey publication Hockeybladet, Zetterberg’s agent Gunnar Svensson said the 37-year-old is undecided on whether or not he will be returning to the Red Wings this year. Zetterberg is recovering from back surgery and has had a history of back problems throughout his 15 year NHL career. According to The Detroit News, Wings GM Ken Holland says he fully expects the captain to appear at training camp but is still unsure about his status for the upcoming season.
Even though the possibility of Zetterberg calling it quits so suddenly seems pretty slim, it still brings up some interesting questions concerning the legacy of Red Wings captains. Could the Wings benefit from spending time without a captain? Who will the next Detroit captain be?
The Detroit Red Wings are a team in the midst of a massive rebuild. The glory days of the last two decades are gone and the time to tear down and create a new future is here. In many ways, Henrik Zetterberg represents the last of the golden age of the Red Wings. He made his NHL debut in 2002 and played alongside previous captains and Detroit greats Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom. Henrik is the last remaining piece of that era, and now his time seems to be coming to an end. Appearing in all 82 games for Detroit in 2017-18, Zetterberg tallied 11 goals and was second on the team with 45 assists, which is not too bad for the aging captain. Nagging back problems and father time seem to be what is putting his career in jeopardy.
Right now, seven NHL teams do not have a captain. If Zetterberg does decide to walk away from hockey, Detroit would become the eighth captainless team in the league. With the current state of the Red Wings, it would not be a bad idea to wait on naming a new captain. On a team with young rising stars, holding out on naming a captain could be very beneficial. It creates an incentive for the young guys to step up and show leadership on and off the ice and could cause everyone to bring their game up to see who can rise into that spot as the new leader.
Of those young stars, a couple stand out as potential future Detroit Red Wings captains. The obvious one would be Dylan Larkin. At just 21 years old, Larkin led the Wings in points last year with 63 and has earned himself the role of poster boy for a new breed of Hockeytown stars. A Michigan native, Larkin has spent his entire hockey career in the state, going from the USA Hockey NTDP to the University of Michigan and now with Detroit. Larkin’s background makes him naturally appealing to a fanbase that loves tradition.
The other young star that could possibly wear the “C” for Detroit is Anthony Mantha. In his third season with the Wings, Mantha led the team in goals with 24 and was third in points. Though he may not have the same “face of the franchise” appeal as Larkin, Mantha has proven himself to be a natural goalscorer in his young career and could become the center of Detroit’s revamping offense. In hockey, your captain does not always have to be your top goalscorer, but Mantha could find himself controlling the Wings’ offense, which could qualify him to take over the helm.
As of now, nobody knows whether or not Henrik Zetterberg will be back to captain the Red Wings this year. With things in Detroit changing so rapidly, it’s only a matter of time before a changing of the guard does occur. Only time will tell who will carry on the tradition of Detroit Red Wings captains, but in times like these that responsibility means even more.