Ranking the 5 Most Important Players on the Detroit Red Wings Roster
Most notably, it became clear who the most important players on the team are.
Detroit possesses some of the league’s biggest stars, but some other names could make a case for bigger roles in 2014-15.
The roster is littered with esteemed leaders, some of whom can put points on the board at will. Losing players of this caliber is crushing to a team, and the Red Wings still managed to make their 23rd consecutive postseason appearance anyway.
Leadership, on-ice efficiency and valuable intangibles contribute to how each player ranks on this list.
The asset each provides earns them an integral spot in the Red Wings’ lineup and a special place in the hearts of Hockeytown faithful.
These are the five most important players on the Detroit Red Wings roster.
5. Darren Helm
Coming in at No. 5 is one of Detroit’s most valuable depth players in Darren Helm.
Helm has been a key piece to Detroit’s puzzle, but injuries have significantly limited his time in the lineup.
When on the ice, he is one of the team’s most dangerous players. Arguably its best penalty-killer, he has threatening speed and works tirelessly in both ends of the rink.
He stepped up in 2013-14 when Detroit’s top centers went down with injuries, tying his personal best with 12 goals in just 42 games. He was on pace to score 23 goals and 38 points over the course of the full season—both career highs.
He played top-six minutes at times last season, and his versatility in the middle and potential for increased production increase his worth to the club.
His contributions may not appear consistently on the scoresheet, but he could reach new levels if he can play a full 82-game season. His efforts never go unnoticed, and he is an essential cog in the winged wheel.
4. Danny DeKeyser
Detroit’s future on the blue line is bright with Danny DeKeyser.
Although DeKeyser has yet to reach a new contract with the club, he has implied a deal is imminent, per Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press: “I’m not really worried. We’re just kind of going back and forth, and we’ll see what happens. It’d be nice to figure out something long term.”
His role has increased every season since he signed in March 2013 out of Western Michigan University. He plays a quiet, stabilizing game that is reminiscent of Nicklas Lidstrom.
The 24-year-old was one of Detroit’s most reliable players last season, finishing the year tops among team defensemen at plus-10.
He does not have the offensive numbers to rank much higher on the list, but his consistency and reliability are invaluable on a struggling blue line.
Even without the scoring numbers, he is on the cusp of becoming a solid top-two defenseman in the NHL.
Detroit’s defense has been its Achilles’ heel in recent years, but with DeKeyser in the lineup and his inevitable growth, his worth lands him at No. 4.
3. Niklas Kronwall
Niklas Kronwall has been reliable as Detroit’s No. 1 defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom retired and is vital to the team’s success.
Kronwall played in 79 games and was the first defenseman to lead Detroit in scoring since Paul Coffey in 1995.
He finished with 49 points and was the only Red Wings blueliner to score more than one power-play goal (five). He has grown into a respected voice in the locker room and is the undisputed leader on the back end.
It was his best offensive season since 2008-09, and he did so without Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen for extended parts of the year.
Kronwall can hold his own against opposing top units and maintained a high level of play while averaging nearly 25 minutes of ice time per game in 2013-14.
While he brings everything to the table you want from a veteran, he falls at No. 3 on the list.
While it is hard to argue the importance of an effective top defenseman, he is only exceeded by two of the best players in the world.
2. Pavel Datsyuk
Pavel Datsyuk would likely be No. 1 on this list if he played for any other team in the NHL.
Datsyuk is a world-class player and among the NHL’s elite in every aspect of the game. The perennial All-Star is sure to put up the offensive numbers to compete for the team lead; however, his age (36) is slowly becoming a concern.
He played in just 45 games last season due to a lingering knee issue but was still the club’s top performer in the postseason. It could be argued that a one-legged Datsyuk is still better than any alternate.
His importance is evident in all facets. He epitomizes leading by example as a creative offensive mind while competing for the league lead in takeaways every season.
His humble personality keeps him away from the spotlight normally garnered by an NHL superstar, but his leadership is never in question.
This team would struggle without him in the lineup—there is no doubt about that. While some would debate he belongs in the top spot, there is still one player who is slightly more important in Detroit.
1. Henrik Zetterberg
What NHL team wouldn’t be lost without an elite-level talent and captain like Henrik Zetterberg?
Zetterberg led the team in scoring with 48 points in 45 games before suffering a back injury that required surgery.
He was among the league leaders in scoring before succumbing to the injury and still finished one point off the team lead in just over half of a season.
As team captain, it is clear the kind of leadership ability Zetterberg possesses. Have the “C” sewn onto No. 40’s uniform while he lines up alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall is proof enough.
He is a brilliant player who excels in every aspect of the game and continues to work tirelessly to improve. The 11-year veteran is expected to be 100 percent and ready to roll by the start of training camp in September.
Detroit has plenty of talent, leaders and role players with tremendous heart, but it can be argued that no one on the team does it all as well as Zetterberg.
It’s why he finishes at the top of the list as Detroit’s most important player.
All statistics courtesy of NHL.com.