The “Stars and Stripes Showdown” at USA Hockey Arena was a tremendously optimistic event, with over 21 first-round picks paying tribute to the memory of Jim Johannsson over the course of an action-packed game…
And the aftermath was a combination of positive in the players and coaches recounting their time with “J.J.,” and negative in Dylan Larkin, Justin Abdelkader and especially coach Jeff Blashill speaking as guardedly about Henrik Zetterberg as I’ve ever heard them speak.
Things do not sound very good for Zetterberg, especially given coach Blashill’s remarks regarding Zetterberg’s inability to fully train this summer, and while the Wings are going to go through the business that is speaking with their captain and then addressing his medical concerns as completely as possible, I would not bet a cent on the prospect of Zetterberg playing this upcoming season.
The USA Hockey media department was tasked with an impossibility in bringing out a cavalcade of guests to speak with the media one-at-a-time…So they brought people out in groups. As a result, Dylan Larkin’s interview is preceded by a bit of Auston Matthews speaking with the media, including TSN and Sportsnet, which were on hand to snag quotes from the Leafs’ captain.
Larkin was more focused on the event as it came to fruition instead of his tremendous role in organizing the gathering, and whatever happens with Zetterberg, Larkin has “taken a step” this summer in the leadership department, that’s for sure:
Justin Abdelkader had a good chuckle about being out-numbered by so many Michigan players, but as a USA Hockey alum, he had a lot to say about Johansson’s legacy, the weekend’s charitable events and yes, Zetterberg’s future, though he hasn’t spoken with Z:
After his usual, “Hi, George, how was your summer?” that the coach greets me with each fall, coach Blashill got down to both the business of discussing a game in which there wasn’t much coaching, celebrating the legacy of a dear friend gone too soon in Johannsson, and at the prodding of the well-assembled media corps, addressing Zetterberg’s status in some detail.
According to Blashill, who has spoken with Zetterberg, Z hasn’t been able to train as he would like (just as Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom has reported), and it sounds like the team is going to let Zetterberg take his physical and let the chips fall where they may.
According to Blashill, the team has made plans for both a team with Zetterberg in the lineup and a team without Zetterberg in the lineup, which would likely shift Andreas Athanasiou to center, and Blashill does not believe that if Zetterberg was unable to train this summer, that he’d have any chance of making the team later in the season.
Blashill also said that Mike Green was on track to be cleared for contact play during training camp, and otherwise, he didn’t believe that anyone was injured, though he noted that now that the players are about to hit the ice at LCA for a couple of weeks’ worth of pre-training camp “Captain’s Skates,” there may be some dings here and there come September 12th.
Blashill also said that the players will probably take their physicals the morning of the team golf outing on the 13th, but some veterans may take them early, so there is that unknown as well.
That’s what I’ve got for you right now. I’ll try to cover the rest of the media stuff this evening.