Even with Detroit Red Wings hockey not in session, Red Wings fans can still get their updates on how their players are doing overseas. And everyone knows how Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner are lighting up the ice together over in Switzerland.
Way back at the start of the off-season, Mike Babcock made comments about Damien Brunner becoming a constant staple on the Red Wings roster with a spot on one of the top two lines. With how well he has meshed with Henrik Zetterberg overseas, one can only imagine those two would be put together.
So who would be the best linemate on the Red Wings’ current roster?
Three of the more obvious choices would be Mikael Samuelsson, Dan Cleary, and Johan Franzen.
The Red Wings’ fan base is very split on how they feel about Samuelsson and whether they would rather have him or ex-Wing Jiri Hudler. Samuelsson is known for his shots that hit glass rather than net or causing his teammates to go offside when he holds the puck at the blue line on an odd-man rush.
But Samuelsson meshes extremely well with Zetterberg, and he always has. In his three seasons with the Red Wings, he had an average of 38 points a season. They also played together on the 2006 Swedish Olympic team that won gold. Adding someone like Brunner into the mix to play center or left wing would only bolster Samuelsson’s numbers.
While many people may dislike Samuelsson (including myself), he puts up consistent numbers and tries on a consistent basis. When he has top talent feeding him the puck, his numbers increase (just look at his points totals with the Vancouver Canucks). Having both Zetterberg and Brunner playing with him… it could be a very dangerous combination.
Since coming to the Red Wings in 2005, Cleary seems to have found a loving home on the roster and with fans (or maybe it’s just his Newfoundland heritage we all love). Minus the 2005-2006 season, Cleary has always managed to rack up around 35-40 points a season, finally overcoming his personal best of 42 points in a season in 2010-2011 by hitting 26 goals and 20 assists for 46 points in 68 games.
Cleary has gotten consistently better as the years pass, and having an increasingly helpful Zetterberg on the opposite wing and on the power play certainly has helped bolster his point totals. With a strong force like Brunner to add into that mix, the Newfie is bound to benefit positively.
Hockeytown has a love/hate relationship with the player Steve Yzerman nicknamed The Mule. He’s been a key performer in the playoffs, minus the past post-season, and has far too many game-winning goals for a player the media tends to ignore.
But The Mule is streaky. Franzen follows a similar pattern every season – he racks up points game-after-game for the first fifteen games of the season, suffers some sort of short term injury (usually against the Chicago Blackhawks), takes a handful of games to warm back up, starts another point streak, disappears for that long stretch in January/February, and starts to heat up offensively come late March and early April, heading straight into the playoffs where he usually is a force to be reckoned with.
Fans are more than frustrated with Franzen. For a player who signed a massively long contract to be one of the Red Wings’ core players, he should be more consistent. Adding him onto a line with the consistent, offensive force of Zetterberg and Brunner, one can only expect
Mike Babcock seems to know what he’s doing when he assembles the roster and lines for the Red Wings. If any of these three players end up on the Zetterberg/Brunner line, you can bet the results won’t be disappointing.