When Henrik Zetterberg announced he was retiring from hockey, the question naturally arose about whether or not the Detroit Red Wings’ captain has had a career worthy of the Hall of Fame. Furthermore should his number be retired and hoisted to the rafters?
In episode #198, Joel and Carl discussed Zetterberg retiring, and after deliberation decided that he was not a Hall of Famer. Hall of Fame nominees have long divided opinion, and the organisation itself often faces criticism for the players it does, or more often does not, induct. There are no set guidelines for what makes a Hall of Famer for us to judge Zetterberg against, but we can compare him against previous inductees. For the sample size, we’re looking at the forwards inducted between 2008 and 2018 who played in the NHL. We’ve omitted goalies and blueliners as their metrics aren’t comparable, as well as those who never played in the NHL.
We won’t be looking at accolades outside of the NHL, although Zetterberg would definitely tick those boxes, having won gold for Sweden at the Olympics and World Championships. He’s also won league awards, having lifted the Conn Smythe, King Clancy and NHL Foundation Player awards.
A key metric that’s always mentioned is ‘How many Stanley Cups did he win?’. Zetterberg lifted the Cup in 2008 for Detroit, completing the ‘triple gold’ set. The following season he made the finals again but the team lost to Pittsburgh. Although Z was drafted in 1999, he only joined the Red Wings for the 2002/03 season, the season after Detroit won the previous cup. How does Zetterberg’s one Stanley Cup stack up against previous inductees?
Although it makes no material difference to what we’re looking at, Steve Yzerman won three cups as a player, but also one as an executive, as that last one would not count for the Hall of Fame’s ‘player’ category, I’ve omitted it here.
In the last 10 years, seven NHL’ers were inducted who’ve not won a cup. Does this make Zetterberg more worthy of Hall of Fame induction than Dino Ciccarelli, Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Mats Sundin, Eric Lindros, Sergei Makarov and Paul Kariya? Not really, there are plenty of players whose names are etched onto the cup who are far lesser players than any of the names we’ve just mentioned.
So if the Stanley Cup argument is a non-starter, let’s look at another metric.
The Hockey Hall of Fame isn’t just about the NHL (only mostly), so it’s only right that we include points scored in other major leagues. This is how Zetterberg stacks up when we look at total career points:
Switching Stanley Cups for Points doesn’t help Z much, but it does move several players up in the charts. There are some players who don’t move much though, by saying that Zetterberg isn’t a Hall of Famer, are we saying that he’s not as good as Pavel Bure or Paul Kariya?
Value For Money
By which I mean Points Per Game. Our sample players average out at about 1300 games played, but there are plenty of players who’ve played more but haven’t been inducted. Long contracts are not indicative of HOF careers, but a shorter career shouldn’t rule out the incredible impact a player can have. This is why we’re looking at Points Per Game:
Zetterberg played 908 games in the NHL and 128 in the SHL, his 1,088 points puts his 0.89 PPG on par with Brendan Shanahan‘s, and not far from Joe Nieuwendyk and Martin St. Louis.
If we judge Zetterberg by the HOF’s standards, then he’s definitely up for consideration, he’s won more Cups and scored more points than some recent inductees. Whether or not he should be inducted himself is a very different question as it absolutely depends on who else is nominated that year. Z will always have a special place in the hearts of Red Wings fans, but he isn’t exceptional to the point of the forgoing the three year waiting period. In three years’ time however, his contributions on and off the ice are at least worthy of contention of joining the other 58 former Red Wings in the Hall of Fame.
Should Zetterberg’s Number Be Retired?
It’s only been four years since Nick Lidstrom’s number was retired, and it won’t be long before Pavel Datsyuk‘s #13 is up there, but the Wings should give Zetterberg the ultimate recognition by retiring #40. The organisation owes him that much. It also adds something new to the Little Caesars Arena, further cementing its position as home of the Detroit Red Wings.
One thing is for sure, it’ll be a while before the Red Wings have another captain like him.
Written by Mike Laybourne and republished with permission from The 4th Line Podcast
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