PLYMOUTH – The choice was almost too obvious.
And today at Compuware Arena it becomes official when the Wings name Henrik Zetterberg as their 36th captain, replacing fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired after last season.
“It’s a great choice,” Danny Cleary said Monday after the second day of training camp. “He would be a unanimous vote in here.”
“I think Hank’s been groomed to be our captain for many, many years now,” Niklas Kronwall said. “Ever since he got in here, he sat beside Stevie (Yzerman) and learned a lot from him. Hank, he’s been a captain for many years even though he hasn’t had the ‘C.’ Of course we had Nick but Hank is just as good a leader and he brings it every night. That’s what you want from your leader.”
“No question, he’s going to be a great leader for us,” Jonathan Ericsson said.
Zetteberg, who has been wearing an “A” as an alternate captain since 2006, will be just the Wings’ third captain since 1986.
He was the odds on favorite after Lidstrom retired after last season.
“I think Hank, the biggest thing for me is that he’s so unselfish,” Cleary said. “He’s such a personable guy. He’s a star. He’s got great talent on the ice, but he’s very respectful off the ice and he’s vocal when he needs to be and he leads by example.”
This offseason, Wings general manager Ken Holland said the next captain would come from one of last season’s alternate captains – Zetterberg, Kronwall or Pavel Datsyuk.
“You need to speak at the right moment and know when to shut up at the right moment,” Zetterberg said. “It’s not just one guy who’s got to do it; everyone has to do it together. You got to sense the feeling around the locker room, how the mood is.”
Zetterberg, 32, is well respected in the locker room and fits the mold of previous captains in Detroit, like Lidstrom and Yzerman.
“It’s hard to make comparisons when Nick was unique,” Cleary said. “Even like Stevie, they led by example on and off the ice with their work ethic and their play. When something needed to be said, they said it. They weren’t huge rah-rah type players like (Kris Draper) was. So you have different personalities but certainly they were well-respected.
“I think as a captain, you look for the players to respect you and you lead by example, by working hard and by being an honest player and treating people with respect,” Cleary continued. “That’s what Stevie did, that’s what Nick did and I know Hank will.”
The biggest difference between Zetterberg and Lidstrom in the locker room is all about being vocal.
“Z’s definitely going to be more vocal than Nick,” Jimmy Howard said. “Nick spoke when he needed to and led by example. Z is more vocal throughout the room.
“You can’t go wrong with either or,” Howard continued. “Nick was probably one of the best ever to play the game at his position and Z has been a leader now for years so I think he’s going to transition very easily.”
As for his relationship with Wings coach Mike Babcock, the two of them share something in common.
“He and I have a relationship where he doesn’t mind getting mad at me and I don’t mind getting mad at him,” Babcock said. “I don’t have any problem with that. He doesn’t mind telling me what defense the team needs to do, which I think is very important.
“He doesn’t mind standing up for the guys and telling you want he thinks,” Babcock continued. “And I think that’s so important for us. The other thing is nobody ever wants the team to not be as good on their watch, believe me.”
Kronwall and Datsyuk will continue to serve as alternate captains.
For the past several seasons, the Wings have had three alternating captains, rotating it on game day since only two can wear the “A”.