The retirement of Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom leaves a void not only on the team’s blue line, but in its leadership as well. When the team next gets to play, coach Mike Babcock will need to name a captain to replace Lidstrom, who succeeded Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman in that role.
Star forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, along with defenseman Niklas Kronwall, were all assistant captains last season. While it might seem one of these players is the obvious choice to next wear the “C,” Babcock could really shake things up by looking elsewhere. Choosing another player also removes the difficulty of picking between Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Todd Bertuzzi, who has re-tooled his game to become more of a two-way player and become a fan favorite during his three seasons in Detroit, could make an excellent choice.
Bertuzzi endeared himself to Wings fans last April, when he fought Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. Weber had put Zetterberg into the glass head first with a vicious check in Game 1, and the Wings and their fans were not pleased with him drawing only a fine and not a suspension. Babcock described Bertuzzi’s actions as “taking care of something unacceptable.”
While Datsyuk and Zetterberg present the more “gentlemanly” options, maybe it’s time Detroit had a captain with a little more grit. Bertuzzi is signed for two more seasons and could likely retire after that, which wouldn’t close the door on Zetterberg eventually being captain as well. If the Wings want a captain who can play at both ends of the ice and won’t be afraid to drop the gloves to protect a teammate, Bertuzzi would be an excellent choice.