Today we will outline the contributions that the Red Wings first line had for the 2013-14 season. Well, at least in the games they actually played in.
Some of these evaluations will be tough since line shuffling, even though Babcock loves to perform this as a coach, was extensive this year with all the injuries. I’m going with the Red Wings First Line that I believe would have been the regular top trio in a non-injury plagued season. (A dream, I know) Without further ado, let us begin.
Pavel Datsyuk: Center
All in all, it was a challenging season for the magic man. Datsyuk only totaled 37 points with 17 goals and 20 assists, a far cry from typical Pavel Datsyuk season. However, he was bit hard by the injury bug, and only played 45 games. (SIA Profile) Despite that number, he led the Wings in takeaways with 59 and was 18th overall in the league. He missed time in bunches and the Wings had to adjust with him and Z out at most times. In a season where your linemates are basically changing every other game due to injury or through line juggling it seems like, chemistry is hard to come by.
At the beginning of the year, it was Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Abdelkader as the first line. At the end, his linemates were an ice cold Johan Franzen and an off year Justin Abdelkader. Datsyuk, especially after the new year, did not look like himself from that time until late April. A large part of that is due to him missing time obviously, but even when he came back one could tell he was not 100%. Rumors of surgery sprang up after the Olympic Break, but in the end, it was determined that the knee didn’t need that extensive of treatment than that of his fellow Eurotwin Henrik Zetterberg’s back.
After he came back and got some games under his belt, Pav looked like the one Detroit knows and loves. He continued his transition back into game action into the playoffs where he was arguably the Wings’ best player in the 4-1 series loss to Boston, totalling 3 goals and 2 assists including the game 1 goal that left many breathless.
Looking towards next season, Datsyuk said himself that he felt better and better each game and feels he does not need surgery. Exciting news for Detroit, who will just look that more dangerous with a healthy Datsyuk back in the lineup, hopefully full time, next season. Age is just a number to some, and hopefully Pav is in that same conversation, as he will turn 36 next season.
Final Grade: B-
Henrik Zetterberg: Left Wing
Boy do Wings fans wish they could’ve seen more of this guy. Undoubtedly the heart and soul of the Red Wings, Zetterberg played in only 45 games as well, battling groin injuries, back injuries, and finally after being sent home early from Sochi, back surgery that put him out until the postseason. (SIA Profile) In the games he played, Z totaled 48 points, leading the Red Wings until Gus Nyquist tied him late in the year on a legendary stretch. Zetterberg put up the points, but that was only half his game. His play was exceptional as well in both zones, and he protected the puck like no other.
You get a superstar two-way player with Zetterberg, but you also get something that’s not calculated in a box score or with advanced stats or whatever. You get a calming influence who’s been there. A veteran and role model for the young guns that passed up and stayed and ones that went up and down (hey Cory Emmerton). The way Zetterberg could settle the team down was exceptional, and he showed it through his model play.
Final grade: B+
Daniel Alfredsson: Right Wing
What more could you ask of out of a 41 year old legend?
Deciding to leave the team he was with for his whole career in Ottawa, Alfie left in the summertime for Hockeytown (with some Swedish influence possibly enticing him), and he seemed right at home with the Red Wings. Despite only logging 68 games played, Alfie ended up with 49 points in an impressive first season with Detroit. (SIA Profile) Being the captain for a span of 14 years in Ottawa, Alfie too brought another veteran presence. In Datsyuk and Zetterberg’s absence, he rose to the occasion in the leadership department, not only with his play but in the way he carried himself.
Alfie also had some big-time moments in his first year with his new club. From the overtime winner against Calgary, to the game winning goals down the stretch against the Leafs and Penguins, he certainly left he veteran presence and mark on a season that was grueling for everyone involved. Now, the (insert dollar amount) million dollar question is…Will he return?
Personally, I hope he stays for one more season. Let’s face it. Fully healthy, the Red Wings get a better draw in the playoffs and an easier road to the Stanley Cup. But, hockey can be unforgiving. Alfie came to win a Cup here, and not a long time ago, that was a way of life in Hockeytown. Not so much in recent years, as the Wings have fought just to get in. The team has a lot of questions to answer in free agency, and Alfie is a big one. The youth movement seems to be alive and well in Detroit, and having a veteran like this stick around would help them learn immensely. Besides, why not give it another go after an injury plagued season like this?
Final Grade: B
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