Zetterberg: To Worry or Not To Worry
Three seasons into a historic contract, Zetterberg is on pace for career lows. Is this cause for concern or is it too premature to worry about one of Detroit's star forwards?
Henrik (Zata, Z, Hank, Swedish Phenom, the Next Forsberg, etc) Zetterberg has been my favorite Wing even before his debut. Hank made some noise as a rookie, with 22 goals and 22 assists. He finished second in Calder voting behind defenseman Barret Jackman who won because Al Macinnis went down with an injury and he had to carry the Blues' defense.
Zetterberg has been a top Wing and for several years Hockeytown citizens debated "which Euro Twin is better?" Both Z and Pav were great two-way players but Pavel had more highlight reel plays while Zetterberg was the more consistent playoff performer. Zetterberg was given a bigger leadership role than Datsyuk although he was younger and became an alternate captain after the lockout. There were some who thought the "C" would go to Z after Steve Yzerman retired but Lidstrom was tapped for the captaincy.
Zetterberg has scored less than 22 goals only once, in 03-04 when he missed 21 games with a broken leg; however this season he is on pace to only score 15. Some speculate that he is on the decline although only 31 and may have a career like Peter Forsberg who he was compared to as a prospect. Hank has dealt with several injuries over his career including recurring back problems but is healthy this year.
Although his overall point production hasn't faltered before this season (~1 point/game) his shooting percentage, plus/minus, power play goal and game winning goal totals have been decreasing over the past six seasons. He tends to lead Detroit in shots but is scoring at a 6.12% clip this season compared to 14.73% in 06-07.
Why We Should Worry
Declining Shooting Percentage and Power Play Goal Scoring
Zetterberg's contract is the longest and most lucrative in Red Wing history and he has been a constant scoring threat his entire career. If he isn't lighting the lamp at least 25-30 times a season he isn't earning his contract. Hank is still shooting as many shots as past years but only scoring half of the time which means he is taking away opportunities from linemates Filppula (18.99%) and Hudler (19.70%). His shots create rebound chances but are still hampering productivity. He only has one power play goal this entire season which is as many as Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler. To be fair, Datsyuk only has 2 this season.
Zetterberg has been a defensive stalwart his entire career and could have won the Selke were it not for Datsyuk. He frustrated Sidney Crosby during two Cup Finals to the delight of Red Wings fans. Z still matches up against top centers but isn't having as much of a defensive impact. If Z is becoming easier to play against the Wings lose the 1-2 2-way centerman punch they enjoy when the Euro Twins are split up. A key number is that although Hudler and Zetterberg are both +3, Filppula is +13.
Why We Shouldn't Worry
He's Heating Up
Zetterberg has 27 points over his past 29 games. Although he only has 7 goals over that span, he is still producing more than in the first 16. His linemates are on pace for great production totals with Filppula projected to reach career highs across the board and Hudler close to a pace to match his. The Red Wings' second half is easier than the first and several Wings including Lidstrom tend to perform better offensively in the second half.
He hasn't missed any games this season and doesn't seem to be playing injured. Last season he only missed 2 regular season games which was his highest games played total of his career. If Zetterberg remains healthy it will be easier for him to go on a hot streak and maintain it down the home stretch and into the postseason.
He's a Playoff Giant
Zetterberg has a playoff points/game percentage of .95 compared to Datsyuk's .75. The Red Wings are poised to make the playoffs and are likely to add a top-six forward at the deadline. Babcock may be able to shift his lines around and put Datsyuk and Zetterberg back together or put Hank with someone he has more chemistry with. The playoffs are what matters and Zetterberg's playoff production has not been in decline.
Do we worry about #40 and if his production matches his monster contract or do we keep the faith and believe that he will start putting pucks in and end the season strong? The choice is up to you.