By: Will Burchfield
Red Wings GM Ken Holland made headlines over the summer when he suggested his team isn’t an immediate Stanley Cup contender.
On Wednesday morning, just a day before the Wings’ season-opener, captain Henrik Zetterberg agreed.
“I think we gotta be realistic, too. We have a good team. We’re probably not one of the five top teams in the league going into the season but we’re going to be right there,” he told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket. “Just gotta make the playoffs, and if you make the playoffs you have a chance of winning it all.”
Despite conceding that the Wings are facing longer odds than usual, Zetterberg pointed out the deck isn’t totally stacked against them.
“I think also if you have those five teams, then you have another 20 teams that are right there and you just gotta get hot at the right time. And if you look at it, it’s not for sure that one of those five teams is going to win it all. I think there’s other teams right behind them that are really good and can do some real damage,” he said.
Zetterberg, 36, is entering his 14th season in Detroit. He spent the majority of his career playing for Mike Babcock, the Wings’ head coach from 2005-2015. Babcock was replaced by Jeff Blashill behind the bench last season, a change that the players have seemed to appreciate.
“Well (Babcock) was really demanding. He’s a good coach, he was a good coach for us. I think he was just a hard coach to have for a long time, to put it like that,” Zetterberg said.
And as the Wings captain, he noticed an improved harmony between the players and the coaching staff upon Blashill’s arrival.
“I think the communication was a little bit better last year, or a little easier, I will say, than it was under Mike. But I thought Blash did a good job last year. Obviously it was his first year, he had his players for the first time and I think it’s going to be easier this year. He’s had most of the guys for a full year and he knows what to expect,” said Zetterberg.
Zetterberg played a full 82-game season for just the second time in his career last year. He got off to a hot start, scoring 27 points in his first 34 games, but faded down the stretch. To combat any late-season fatigue this year, he acknowledged he may need to adjust his daily routine.
Still, there’s one thing he’s resistant to try.
“There’s been a lot of talk about not playing all the games, but for me as a player I think that’s hard to agree on. If you’re healthy, you’re playing. I have a tough time seeing me resting if I’m healthy enough to play,” he said.
The Wings open the season on Thursday night with a road game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Their first home game will come on Monday night against the Ottawa Senators, as they kick off their final season at Joe Louis Arena.
“The Joe has been our home, it’s been my home for 14 years, it’s been home for other people for many, many more years,” Zetterberg said. “So we’re looking forward to having a great last run in the Joe.”