Zetterberg looks ahead to captaincy, leading young Red Wings

PLYMOUTH, Mich. - The sun is rising on a new season and a new chapter in Red Wings hockey.

Come Tuesday, there will also be a new letter decorating Henrik Zetterberg's jersey.

The Red Wings forward is expected to be named the team's new captain during a pregame announcement before an exhibition game against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

"Being a captain of the Detroit Red Wings, it's pretty awesome," Zetterberg said Monday.

"When I started playing hockey, and started playing in Sweden, I don't think I expected to have that chance."

Mike Babcock, who has coached Zetterberg for seven seasons, explained why the Swedish forward will make an ideal captain.

"He's like a coach on the ice. He has a good read of the game. Him and I have a relationship; he doesn't mind getting mad at me, I don't mind getting mad at him," Babcock said.

"He doesn't mind telling me what the team needs. I think that's important for us."

There is something to be said for the spirit of silence, best exhibited by Zetterberg's two captain predecessors, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom. As far as being vocal goes, the new leader doesn't carry the same quiet presence.

"Z's gonna be definitely more vocal for us," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "He's been a leader for us now for years and I think he's gonna transition very easily."

Zetterberg's forthcoming captaincy is just one part of a much larger, changing dynamic facing the Red Wings this season. Gone are the days of the team refuting criticism for being "too old." This year, success will be measured by how the young players step up.

More will be expected from forwards Cory Emmerton, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, and Jan Mursak. On the back end, Brendan Smith immediately steps in as a factor.

"They've always been like a veteran club. I think it's funny going from Grand Rapids where I'm an older guy and I'm one of the babies here," Smith explains.

"It's cool seeing guys that are so young stepping up and being so good."

Emmerton knows what it means to be given the blessing from management to carry a roster spot and succeed. It's not a token of confidence readily handed out in Detroit, but the landscape of a salary cap NHL has forced every team's hand.

He also points out the players in place aren't here by accident.

"Detroit just doesn't bring guys here 'just because.' You have to be ready and they make sure you're ready. The guys here, it's a testament to them," he pointed out.

Babcock put a bottom line on the roster set in place.

"It's about opportunity. Yzerman and Shanahan left, guys grabbed opportunities. Zetterberg and Datsyuk took over and so here's more opportunity. Let's see what guys do."

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