For Red Wings fans, there’s been a question going back to the early 2000s since these two came on the scene. Are they better together or apart?
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have combined for five points in four games so far this season, only once did one assist on the other’s goal. They’ve been one of the few high points of the Wings lately, who haven’t looked very good so far this season. The top line has proven effective, the others maybe not so much in terms of offensive production. Which brings the up the question, why not split up Detroit’s two biggest stars?
This wouldn’t be the first time Pav and Z were separated and this isn’t the first time they were put together either. It’s no secret that a big reason Weiss and Alfredsson were brought in was to put this dynamic duo together on the first line as so they may continue to tear it up with a surprisingly productive Justin Abdelkader. There’s something to be said about putting all your eggs in one basket, however, and that’s not just because I put it in the article title. Let’s think about what it’s like having so much talent concentrated on one line.
Teams often have a stupendously talented top defensive pairing. Markov and Subban in Montreal. Seabrook and Keith in Chicago. If you’re going into a game against the Red Wings, you see a line that has Datsyuk and Zetterberg, and a line that doesn’t, where is your top defensive pairing going to be lining up against? Easy answer.
Let’s have a look into the Metropolitan (gag!) Division for an example of a different way of doing this. The Pittsburgh Penguins of course have what I see as the two best players in the game, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The way that usually ends up working, Crosby centers the first line, Malkin anchors the second. Regardless of which line you decide to put your top defensemen against, there is no good decision here.
(Writer’s note: this should NOT under any circumstances be interpreted as the doing something right.)
Loading that top line with talent the way the Red Wings do is a high-risk high-reward scenario. It’s hard to shut down both of them at the same time, but it makes you wonder if the Wings would be doing better if that talent was a bit more spread out. Sure, Alfredsson, Weiss and Johan “Wildcard” Franzen have their own talent, but we all known Mike Babcock doesn’t get too patient when it comes to production. The Columbus Blue Jackets managed to be terrible with Rick Nash for a number of years, and the New York Islanders didn’t suddenly get to be a half-way decent team with the addition of John Tavares. Bottom line is you need depth in today’s NHL, one good line won’t get you anywhere. If the Wings don’t start to turn things around a bit, it may be time to spread that scoring threat out a little bit from that one top line.
But man am I going to miss watching those two together!