New coach Mike Babcock's intensity gives energy to an old team. His pet project: inspiring Brendan Shanahan.
Nicklas Lidstrom Niklas Kronwall
Mathieu Schneider Jiri Fischer
* ALL CAPS denotes new player, Italic denotes rookie
For Hockeytown to have aspirations of hoisting the Cup again, a Swede must learn to lead
It took less than one training camp shift for the Red Wings to get the hang of the NHL's new scorer-friendly rules. After winning the opening face-off of the first intrasquad game last month, forward Henrik Zetterberg slipped behind defenders into the offensive zone. Defenseman Mathieu Schneider hit him with a pass from the other side of center ice -- a play that would have been whistled before the red line was eliminated -- and Zetterberg buried the puck in the net. Elapsed time: 12 seconds. "Henrik's from Sweden," says G.M. Ken Holland. "He knows how to play with no red line."
The Wings are banking on Zetterberg, 25, to be wise beyond his years in many ways this season. The Calder Trophy runner-up in 2002-03, Zetterberg led the Swedish Elite league with 50 points in 50 games during the lockout. With one of Detroit's top 2003-04 scorers out of the picture -- Brett Hull signed with Phoenix -- Zetterberg and center Pavel Datsyuk will be counted on to rev up the attack. But the Red Wings are also hoping for Zetterberg to develop into more of a dressing room presence. "He's so skilled and so focused," says Holland, who signed Zetterberg to a four-year, $10.6 million contract last month. "He could eventually wear a letter in Detroit."
Zetterberg can pick up leadership tips from ageless captain Steve Yzerman, back for his 22nd NHL season, and former Mighty Ducks coach Mike Babcock, who replaces the fired Dave Lewis. A Wings assistant before taking over in 2002, Lewis was too cozy with his charges. Expect Babcock to light a fire under a team that hasn't advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 2002, an eternity in Hockeytown. "I thought it was time we brought in someone who would make players feel a little more uncomfortable," says Holland. "We can't afford to fall behind early." If Zetterberg and his mates can finish as fast as he started, Detroit will contend for the Cup.