The Athletic’s Craig Custance examines what might happen if Henrik Zetterberg is unable to play this season. Custance addresses Zetterberg’s absence as it would affect the Wings’ captaincy, the team’s salary cap situation, and the loss of Zetterberg’s on-ice presence.
As Custance notes, the Wings’ lack of depth at center would be exposed if Zetterberg is unable to play:
This is where it could get ugly for the Red Wings. The key to winning consistently in the NHL is to have a distinct advantage on the ice over your opponent in different areas of the game. Where a player slots in the lineup is a huge part of that. For example, if you have Phil Kessel as your top-line winger, your team might be pretty good. If you have Phil Kessel as your third-line winger, you’re going to win multiple Stanley Cups. That becomes a legitimate competitive advantage.
Even at this point in his career, Zetterberg can play other top lines and hold his own. That allowed Larkin to grow into the second-line center role last season and Frans Nielsen to slot in at No. 3, which is where he should be at this point in his career. It wasn’t necessarily a competitive advantage but it also wasn’t a huge mismatch against the Red Wings.
Now, remove Zetterberg and move everybody up a spot, and it becomes a real disadvantage down the middle.
Custance continues (paywall)