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Wait and 'C': Might Zetterberg be next Wings captain?

by Brian Hedger

The reality that former Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom is actually retired is starting to sink in a little more now that the calendar has flipped to September.

A group of Red Wings are going through informal on-ice workouts this week as the scheduled start of training camp approaches, and the feel is certainly different without Lidstrom's presence. Several big names are attending, however, and among them is Henrik Zetterberg -- the guy who most feel will take over the captain's role.

Henrik Zetterberg
Henrik Zetterberg
Left Wing - DET
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 47 | PTS: 69
SOG: 267 | +/-: 14

"We'll see what happens the next few weeks," Zetterberg told reporters on Tuesday at the Troy Sports Center in suburban Detroit. "If they ask, I will be honored. It's something that you always hope you'd have a chance to do in your career, especially with a team like this in a city like this, with the past and the ownership and the history we have. It would be a true honor."

While Zetterberg isn't the only qualified candidate on a team with several experienced veteran stars, he'd be a good pick to wear the "C" according to goalie Jimmy Howard.

"There's a lot of guys that can be captain on our team because there's a lot of great leadership in the room when you start talking about (Pavel Datsyuk) and Danny Cleary and Niklas Kronwall and (Zetterberg)," Howard said. "He's been wearing the (alternate captain's 'A') for a long time now, so I think for us as an organization it would be great. He's not afraid to voice his opinion in the room."

In that regard, Zetterberg's leadership would probably be a change from the "lead by example" style of Lidstrom.

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"I think he'd be a little more vocal than Nick," Howard told "Nick was vocal when he had to be, but Nick was a lot more cerebral as a captain and just did his job to perfection. (Zetterberg) is a more vocal and emotional kind of leader."

Zetterberg already sounds like a captain too. When asked about his thoughts on the makeup of the Red Wings heading into this season, he didn't allow for lower expectations. Along with Lidstrom retiring, Brad Stuart joined the San Jose Sharks, Jiri Hudler signed with the Calgary Flames, and Detroit was unable to sign star free agent defenseman Ryan Suter -- the main target to replace Lidstrom.

Detroit also came up empty on star free agent forward Zach Parise and saw a number of Plan B and C guys on defense sign with other teams prior to Suter and Parise signing with the Minnesota Wild. Veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson, backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson and Jordin Tootoo are Detroit's lone free-agent acquisitions to date, which leaves the Red Wings with some glaring holes to patch.

Still, Zetterberg isn't about to throw his hands up and forfeit.

"We will have a good team," said Zetterberg, who played in 82 games last season and led the Wings in scoring with 69 points (22 goals and 47 assists). "Gustavsson's going to come in and help (Howard) a lot. (Samuelsson's) fired up to be here again. I think we have some great additions and as soon as we get started here, we will be fine."

Howard agreed.

"I think we've got a guy in Niklas Kronwall who's just waiting to emerge (as a top defenseman), we still have one of the best two-way forwards in the game in (Datsyuk) and we have clutch scoring with (Johan Franzen)," Howard told "I hope people take us for granted just because we didn't replace Nick. I mean, can we really replace Nick? No, but it gives some other guys a chance (to prove themselves). I definitely still consider us one of the better teams in the Western Conference, especially with the depth at forward."

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