Updated repeatedly at 6:39 PM: Here are the stories available regarding Henrik Zetterberg’s decision to step away from hockey, on a source-by-source basis:
1. Dana Wakiji wrote an article about Zetterberg’s inability to continue playing:
“For me, I’ve kind of been living this for a while,” Zetterberg said. “Starting in January last year I knew something was not quite right. I found a way to play through that season but kind of mid-summer here when we hoped it was going to get a little bit better and it kind of wasn’t. I went to see Dr. Camissa last week and got the final result and nothing really had changed, so that’s kind of when it kicked in.
“Obviously, it is emotional. It’s been 15 years here. Even though I knew I was on my last couple years, I wish that I could have played a little bit longer.”
Because the condition is degenerative, general manager Ken Holland said that there is no solution that would have allowed Zetterberg to safely continue to play.
“Part of the degenerative condition is significant arthritis,” Holland said. “Nothing can be done, no back surgery, no rehab, no more time off is going to have any positive impact. Obviously if he plays professional hockey, it’s going to accelerate the degeneration and if he does get a bad hit or something, then he’s risking a significant back surgery. Henrik has decided that his quality of life is more important than taking the risk of back surgery.”
Wakiji continues, and the Red Wings posted videos of Holland and Zetterberg’s pressers, as well as comments from Dylan Larkin and Niklas Kronwall:
It will probably take a while for it to sink in for the Red Wings that their captain is not going to be on the ice with them anymore.
As recently as a week ago, the players were holding out hope that Henrik Zetterberg would talk to the doctors and they could find a solution to help his ailing back.
Now they know that will not happen after finding out on the first day of training camp in Traverse City that Zetterberg’s back has a degenerative condition that cannot be fixed.
“It’s going to be weird, to be honest with you,” said Niklas Kronwall, Zetterberg’s longtime teammate. “It’s going to be tough to wrap your head around it. Sure, we found out the news now, but knowing the reality, and seeing how he works every day, without him in the locker room it’s going to be weird. He’s been there all these years, ever since I got here. He’s always been the backbone of the team and now you’re losing a guy like that.
“It’s going to be different, no doubt, but again, it’s going to be an opportunity for someone else.”
- Ansar Khan penned an initial report regarding Zetterberg’s career ending…
“Obviously, it is emotional,” Zetterberg said while addressing media at Centre I.C.E. during the first day of training camp. “It’s been 15 years here. Even though I knew I was on my last couple years, I wish that I could have played a little bit longer.”
Zetterberg appeared in 1,082 games and ranks fifth on the club’s all-time list in goals (337), assists (623) and points (960).
He won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in 2008, when the Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup championship.
Zetterberg appeared in all 82 games in each of the past three seasons but has been dealing with back problems for several years. He had major surgery in 2014, when he was forced out of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It was performed by Camissa.
“I kind of been living this for a while,” Zetterberg said. “Starting in January (this) year I knew something was not quite right. I found a way to play through that season, but kind of in mid-summer when we hoped it was going to get a little bit better and it (didn’t). I went to see Dr. Camissa last week and got the final result and nothing really had changed, so that’s kind of when it kicked in.”
2. Mike Mulholland examined Zetterberg’s career in picture form;
3. Khan noted the mixed emotions that both Zetterberg and his teammates feel about what’s happened…
“Detroit Red Wings have been such a big part of our lives,” he said. “We’ve been spending basically our grown-up life over here. We have an American son. But she has seen me go through what I’ve gone through. I think she’s happy I don’t have to do that, but in the same way also she knows I want to play and so she probably wanted me to play, too.”
Holland said he and coach Jeff Blashill will decide before the season whether to name a captain or go with three alternate captains this season.
Zetterberg played in all 82 games in each of the past three seasons but began experiencing issues in January that prevented him from practicing.
“When you talk to retired guys, not a lot of guys walk away (on their own term), except Nick (Lidstrom),” Zetterberg said. “Most of the guys have injuries and that’s kind of the reason they have to stop playing. I got to know my body the last couple of years, when it’s bad. I don’t have that many more solutions to do with my back, so it’s time.”
He doesn’t expect to experience any quality of life issues.
“It I keep doing the right things, hopefully I will feel pretty good,” Zetterberg said. “When you have nerves involved that kind of shuts down some of your muscles, that kind of gets iffy sometimes when you’re on the ice but walking around normal life I’m pretty decent.”
4. And Khan discussed the hole that Zetterberg leaves in the lineup:
“He’s one of the best warriors I’ve been around,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Obviously, there’s potential to feel that loss. How much you feel it totally depends on how ready other guys are to fill those roles, both on the ice and from a leadership standpoint.”
Who’ll be the next captain? General manager Ken Holland and Blashill said they will decide over the next three weeks whether anyone will wear the ‘C’ this season. It seems more likely that they’ll go with three alternate captains.
Dylan Larkin appears destined to be the next captain. But he’s only 22, so perhaps they’ll give him an ‘A’ this season and allow him to transition into the role either in 2019-20 or later. Veteran Frans Nielsen also is a candidate for an ‘A.’
“I think the leadership group we have is strong,” Zetterberg said. “The assistant captains (Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader), we have some younger guys that have been here for a while. One player has the ‘C’ on their jersey, but we have a lot of leaders.”
Update: 5. Here’s more on Zetterberg from Khan:
“He was always at his best when needed him,” longtime teammate Niklas Kronwall said. “Regardless of the state of the game, if you needed a goal or needed to shut it down, he was on the ice. That’s what stands out amongst the great players. Stevie was the same way and Nick was the same way. Whenever it matters, they were always on top of the game.”
Zetterberg maximized his abilities. What he lacked in athleticism he compensated for with a hockey IQ Thomas Vanek described as “off the charts.”
“His last two years, to me, he was still one of the best players, the way he protects the puck, the way he makes linemates better,” Vanek, Zetterberg’s teammate for much of the 2016-17 season, said. “That is a sign of a very good hockey player, if you can make players around you better.”
During his prime, he was the slump-buster. Whenever a player was experiencing a scoring drought, then-coach Mike Babcock put him on Zetterberg’s line to get him going.
“In a perfect world you would have four Henrik Zetterbergs on the team and everyone gets a chance to play with him,” Kronwall said. “Guys like that don’t come around too often.”
Dylan Larkin, likely the team’s next captain, whether it’s this season or in the future, benefited from playing on Zetterberg’s line as a rookie in 2015-16.
“What makes him so good? His poise,” Larkin said. “I don’t think there’s a more poised player. From playing with him, when he’s passing to you, it’s going to land on your stick and you better be ready to shoot it. I don’t think there’s many players like that left. His vision, you don’t even have to call for the puck, you know it’s coming. He knows where you are at all times. He’s a field general, someone who controls the pace of the game. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of players who can do that anymore.”
C. Detroit Free Press:
1. Helene St. James filed an article regarding Zetterberg’s decision to step away…
“I didn’t see myself last this long when I got drafted back in ‘99,” Zetterberg said. “I’ve been through all the good things, and some low things, during my career. Being in one organization for the whole time, being named the captain for this organization, I think that’s something special.
“It’s kind of surreal standing here and talking about that, that I’m done playing. I’ve played with some great teammates. Had some great teams throughout the years. In ’08, winning the Cup is probably the highlight.”
Zetterberg, who turns 38 on Oct. 9, last practiced in January. Four years after he underwent back surgery, the wear and tear became too much. Zetterberg powered through playing all 82 games for a third straight season, but as the clock ticked on the last game of 2017-18, Zetterberg paused.
I thought it would be a pretty good chance it would be the last one,” Zetterberg said.
Zetterberg said he planned to meet with general manager Ken Holland about “what’s next.” Zetterberg has three years left on his contract, but the Wings will place him on long-term injured reserve to gain salary cap relief.
For Zetterberg, his immediate future is to spend more time with his family. He said they plan to remain in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
2. St. James wondered what’s next for the Wings…
“On the one hand, it’s a massive downer,” general manager Ken Holland said. “But on the other hand, as we move forward, there is an opportunity for somebody in that locker room from a leadership standpoint and from time on the ice.”
As far as the ‘C,’ goes, the Wings are expected to go with three alternate captains for a stretch, with a new player joining Justin Abdelkader and Niklas Kronwall in wearing an “A.” Frans Nielsen is the leading candidate – he was an alternate captain with the New York Islanders, and possesses the same kind of quiet leadership quality as Zetterberg. Like Zetterberg, Nielsen does everything right on and off the ice.
“I’ve talked to Jeff Blashill a little bit about it,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We’re going to go through training camp and we will make the decision as to what we do in terms of letters before the season starts.I’m not sure if we will have a captain or go with all assistants. We’re going to make that decision over the next three weeks.”
3. Ryan Ford penned a list of six options for the Wings’ leadership group:
Four NHL teams played last season without an official captain: The Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights. Those teams had multiple alternate captains, who relayed discussions between referees and the bench. This could be a season in which the Wings go strictly with alternate captains such as Justin Abdelkader, Niklas Kronwall and Dylan Larkin. Then again, the Wings have had a captain every season since their inaugural season in 1926-27. So they might go the route of …
The Wings last had co-captains during the 1980-81 season, when Errol Thompson and Reed Larson shared the duties before Thompson was traded to Pittsburgh midseason. Larson was a solo captain after that and for all of the 1981-82 season before handing the reins over to Danny Gare. The Wings could go this route, especially with respected veterans such as Abdelkader, Mike Green and Frans Nielsen on the roster. Of course, similar to how the Wings transitioned smoothly from Steve Yzerman to Nicklas Lidstrom to Henrik Zetterberg, Jeff Blashill could just hand the job to one of those vets right away, such as…
4. St. James discussed Zetterberg as he affects the Wings’ cap situation…
Assistant general manager Ryan Martin said the Wings will place Zetterberg on LTIR when they need relief. Zetterberg has an annual salary cap hit of $6.083 million. How much relief the Wings get depends on how close they are to the upper limit of the salary cap. So for example, if they are within $2 million of the $79.5 million upper limit, they’d gain $4.083 million in cap relief.
Zetterberg will continue to draw his actual salary: $3.35 million in 2018-19, then $1 million each of the following two seasons.
5. And St. James noted coach Blashill’s take on how the team will have to replace Zetterberg:
“Henrik has been a great player for us, a great leader,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Last year I thought there were a lot of nights he was still one of our best players. Certainly an outstanding leader on a day-to-day basis. He’s one of the best warriors I’ve been around. There’s potential to feel that loss.
“Now, how much you feel it totally 100 percent depends on how ready other guys are to fill those roles? How ready are those guys to step into those roles, both on the ice and from a leadership standpoint. I don’t have that answer. We’ll prove that answer on a day-to-day basis. I think we have a bunch of guys who are in a spot that I believe they are ready to fill those roles, but what I believe doesn’t matter. What we go out and prove is what matters.”
Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou are three of the top forwards who will see their roles expand with Zetterberg gone. Larkin and Nielsen will center the top two lines, and Athanasiou is likely to find a home centering the third line. Nielsen is likely to take over Zetterberg’s power-play role.
As far as leadership goes, look for the Wings to name a third alternate captain, joining Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader. Nielsen is a natural choice, having worn an ‘A’ while playing for the Islanders. He’s also very much in the mold of being a quiet locker room guy who does everything right, just as Zetterberg did.
One thing is clear: It will take a team effort to offset Zetterberg.
6. St. James posted a clip of coach Blashill’s remarks as well:
He and Pavel Datsyuk outplayed Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin during the Cup run. And, for a time, there wasn‘t a better two-way player in the game.
Except for Datsyuk.
That was the other shadow Zetterberg had to navigate … the shine of his own teammate, along with the memory of all those Hall of Famers he followed.
On the surface, he leaves the game with a Hall-of-Fame case himself. But he’s not a lock.
What we can’t quibble with is the legacy he’s left in Hockeytown.
At his best, he was a pro’s pro, a savvy, instinctive all-ice player who played stronger than his frame and whose understanding of the game’s rhythms and angles helped him thrive in ways that weren’t always obvious.
Or, as Holland said Friday morning, Zetterberg helped carry “this franchise for a decade.”
Even when we didn’t always notice him doing it.
D. Detroit News:
1. Ted Kulfan penned an article about Zetterberg’s decision to step away:
“Starting in January, something was not quite right,” Zetterberg said. “I found a way to play through the season, and in the summer hoped to get a little bit better. I went to see Dr. (Frank) Camissa (in New York) last week and the final results, nothing had really changed.”
It was Camissa who operated on Zetterberg’s back in 2014 after Zetterberg couldn’t complete the Olympics because of severe back pain. His strong ties to the organization made the decision not to play difficult.
“Detroit and the Red Wings have been such a big part of our life,” Zetterberg said. “We’ve (he and his wife Emma) have spent our grown up life here and we have an American son. She knows what I’ve gone through and I think she’s happy I don’t have to do that. But at the same time, she also knows I want to play.”
Zetterberg has been the Wings’ captain since 2012-13. Holland said there has been no decision on whether to name a new captain, or simply have three assistant captains for the forseeable future.
“I’ve talked to Blash (coach Jeff Blashill) a little bit about it and we’re going to go through training camp and make decisions to what we will do in terms of letters before the season starts,” Holland said. “We wanted to get everyone into camp and get going here. We’re not sure if we’ll have captains or all just assistants. We’ll make decision over the next three weeks.”
2. Kulfan surveyed Zetterberg’s teammates as well:
“He’s not coming back,” said Niklas Kronwall, Zetterberg’s longtime teammate and friend. “His back is not in great shape. I guess we all had some type of hope maybe he could get through this, but it is what it is. It’ll be different. It’ll be weird, even.”
Kronwall saw the pain Zetterberg was going through, specifically when Zetterberg stopped practicing the second half of last season so he could save himself for games.
“I don’t think people realize what he’s gone through to still play,” Kronwall said. “It really is incredible.”
Thomas Vanek remembers playing against, and with, Zetterberg.
“What stands out is he’s not the fastest, but his hockey IQ is off the charts,” said Vanek, whose playing style is similar to Zetterberg’s. “His last two seasons, he was still one of the best players. The way he protected the puck and made his linemates better, to me that’s the sign of a very good player if you can make players around you better.
“Z did that with many, many guys next to him. In his prime, in my era the last 14 years I’ve played, he was one of the best. He was still playing at a very high level and I’m sure he’d be playing at a high level this year.”
Update: 3. Kulfan then weighed in on the magnitude of Zetterberg’s absence:
“There’s potential 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.”
E. The Athletic’s Craig Custance weighed in via asking Zetterberg’s rivals about playing against him…
“Nothing about Henrik Zetterberg jumped out at you as being — he wasn’t super fast or powerful or big but he was smart, he was just smooth, he always made the right decision,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews told The Athletic. “The plays he ended up making half the time, it was ‘How did he do that?’ He wasn’t turning on dimes and still sometimes he would undress guys, kind of like Datsyuk, but he did it in a different way.”
They watched him. Closely. And they learned from him.
The Chicago Blackhawks might not have been the Chicago Blackhawks if it weren’t for the Zetterberg-era Red Wings. In 2009, on their way to advancing to a Stanley Cup finals rematch against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Red Wings played a young Blackhawks team that fast-forwarded their growth all the way to the Western Conference finals.
It took only five games for the Red Wings to eliminate the impressionable Blackhawks but three games in the series went to overtime. After the Blackhawks won their first game of the series, Game 3 in overtime, Zetterberg scored twice in a Game 4 blowout to put the series back on track for Detroit. It was all part of the learning process for the Blackhawks. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, they were watching closely.
“One of the biggest things that stood out when I got to play against guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg was how much they competed, how much they got in your way, how much they made life a living hell for you as a centerman to get in your zone and score,” Toews said. “He was that old-school-type player who was so great at getting to the right areas on the ice and keeping possession of the puck. He was just tough, not only to take it away from but also to know what he was doing. He was thinking the game so well at all times.”
Update: Here’s The Athletic’s Max Bultman on the situation:
As he walked into the center of the media scrum, he was asked if he’d like to give a statement or just start with the questions. Questions, he quickly decided.
The reality was, Zetterberg had been living this for a while now. He found a way to fight through the end of last season, even when he wasn’t practicing, and he hoped time away might help. By midsummer, that still hadn’t happened.
He went to New York last week to consult with Dr. Frank Camissa, who performed his back surgery in 2014. That’s when it set in for Zetterberg. When he was drafted in seventh-round in 1999, he hadn’t expected his career to last this long.
Now it was over.
“It’s kind of surreal standing here and talking about that I’m done playing,” he said. “But I’ve obviously been through a lot, played with some great teammates, had some great teams throughout the years.”
- NHL.com also canvassed the rest of the league via Tracey Myers, Dave Hogg and Sean Farrell…
“I wasn’t sure if he was going to try to battle through or how bad it hurts,” said Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Tatar, Zetterberg’s teammate for seven seasons in Detroit, including last season. “He’s a legend, he played there for a really, really long time. He taught me a lot of things so I have a lot of respect for that guy and he made me become a better person, that’s for sure.
“He is a really good centerman. … He’s been a great leader, a great guy in the locker room, and obviously it’s a tough loss and that’s just the way sometimes hockey goes. You’re losing a player but health always goes first and you just have to deal with it.”
Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, “I’ve got a lot of respect for Henrik and what he meant to the Red Wings, to the game, to the sport. … He’s one of those players, his intelligence was off the charts. He could protect the puck as well as anybody and did a lot of things for the Red Wings organization. I wish him nothing but the best and I wish him good health.”
2. And NHL.com’s Nicholas J. Cotsonika discussed the “end of an era” for the Wings:
“I didn’t really understand how good of a playmaker he was, how he knew where everyone was on the ice,” Larkin said. “Playing with him, you don’t even need to call for the puck. You know it’s coming. He’s going to find a way to get it to you. You’re on a 2-on-1 or you’re … there’s a stick in the lane or there’s a couple guys there, he’s going to get the pass through, which is, I think, amazing.”
Now the Red Wings will have to play without him. In a team meeting Thursday, Holland told the players it looked like the Red Wings would be without Zetterberg for a longer period and this was an opportunity.
“Obviously we’re leaning on the youth,” Holland said. “The youth has got to be up to the challenge. … We want to be as competitive as we can be, not only for the franchise but in terms of player development. You need to have an environment where you’re competitive.”
Larkin will be the No. 1 center and will have to take more of a leadership role, whether or not he becomes the captain. Forwards like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou need to take another step. Prospects like Michael Rasmussen, the No. 9 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, and Filip Zadina, the No. 6 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, need to grow into stars.
If anyone knows the lineage they follow, it’s Larkin, the kid from the Detroit suburbs, the Zetterberg fan.
“You look at the legends of the Detroit Red Wings, and they live on,” Larkin said. “The fans are so passionate, and one thing that those guys have done is win. They’ve won Stanley Cups for the fans and for themselves and for their legacy. It’s something I want to bring to our fan base.”
1. David Bartkowiak Jr. wondered aloud what option the Wings will take regarding their captain’s “C”:
With Zetterberg announcing his decision to end his career, the Red Wings are in a place they haven’t been in more than 30 years: There is no clear successor to the captaincy.
Or is there? Many would argue Michigan native Dylan Larkin, 22, is the obvious choice to wear the “C.” However, the team could decide to go with a more veteran player such as Justin Abdelkader, or even Niklas Kronwall, although Kronwall is likely to be following Zetterberg out the door soon.
Larkin is indeed a leader for this squad, despite his young age. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him gain the designation now, especially since he just signed a new five-year contract to stay in Detroit. The team, however, has to make the decision, and it is up to them to decide if slapping the “C” on Larkin right now is the best thing to do. The added pressure might not be best at this point.
1. Max White also discussed the Wings’ captaincy:
Currently, the team has two alternate captains, Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader. It’s unlikely that Kronwall will get the “C” as he has said this year may be his last year.
Abdelkader, a Michigan-native and Michigan State grad, was given the “A” in 2016-17 and is under contract with the team until the 2022-23 season.
The likely option will be Dylan Larkin, who would become the youngest Red Wings captain since Steve Yzerman when he was 21 years old. Larkin is 22 and just signed a new 5-year contract with the team over the summer.
I. Here’s a bit from the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran:
There were nothing but kind words and respect flowing from Leafs training camp to Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, whose career has ended due to a back injury.
“He’s an elite player, better competitor, and maybe a better person — a real leader,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock, who coached Zetterberg for 10 years, winning the Stanley Cup together in 2008 with Detroit. “He hurt his back … quite a while ago and has been able to train and fight through it. He’s got a young family, and he’s got the rest of his life. We wish him nothing but success.
“They’ll miss his, his leadership, his drive, his competitiveness, his professionalism. He’s a good man.”
Zetterberg, 37, will go on long-term injured reserve with three years left on his 12-year, $73-million contract. He had 337 goals and 960 career points over 15 seasons and regularly was a candidate for the Selke Trophy honouring the NHL’s best defensive forward. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2008.
Babcock urged Auston Matthews to watch videos of Zetterberg’s game to learn what kind of player he could be.
“I love watching him play and the last two years playing against him, he was always tough to play against,” Matthews said. “So smart. Maybe couldn’t move as well as he used to. But he knows where to be.
“Obviously health comes first when it comes to sports and life in general. He had a hell of a career.”
J. Finally, here’s a story from the Associated Press:
“He’s got a degenerative condition in his back,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Part of the degenerative condition is significant arthritis. Nothing can be done. No back surgery. No rehab. No more time off is going to have any positive impact.
“Obviously if he plays professional hockey, it’s going to accelerate the degeneration, and if he does get a bad hit or something, then he’s risking a significant back surgery. Henrik has decided that his quality of life is more important than taking the risk of back surgery.”
Holland called Zetterberg one of the best players in the long history of the Red Wings and it’s hard to argue with that. Zetterberg had 337 goals and 960 career points and regularly was a candidate for the Selke Trophy honoring the NHL’s best defensive forward.
He was also a steal: Detroit selected Zetterberg with the No. 210 pick overall nearly two decades ago.
“I didn’t see myself lasting those long probably, when I got drafted back in ’99 as a seventh-round pick,” Zetterberg said. “Been through all the good things and some low things during my career but being in one organization for the whole time, being named the captain of this organization, that’s something special.”
K. Update: Here’s Fox Sports Detroit’s report:
Mike Green said it best, “It’s a sad day in hockey.”
We hear from Zetterberg on his decision to hang up his skates and what it means for the team going forward. pic.twitter.com/lHUGOjRQM5
— FOX Sports Detroit (@FOXSportsDet) September 14, 2018