“Henrik Zetterberg feels that he can’t go 100 percent at the time of the World Cup and has to turn down the spot on our team. We feel that with Mikael Backlund, we will get an internationally experienced player that is very versatile and responsible. His second half of the season with the Flames was very strong, where he showed that he is a premier all-around player in the NHL,” said Grönborg, via Risto Pakarinen.
This marks the fourth Swede to miss the World Cup due to injury after being named to the roster – most recently, it was Buffalo Sabres goalie Robin Lehner out and Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jhonas Enroth in. Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues had shoulder surgery in June, and was replaced by Anaheim Ducks forward Rickard Rakell.
This also marks the second Red Wings player that has ducked out of the World Cup for injuries, after defenseman Niklas Kronwall opted out last month. He was replaced by Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm.
As GM Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press at the time:
“it’s a decision Kronner made. I talked to him a week to 10 days ago and he told me he was feeling better and that he wanted to represent his country, but he wanted to be 100% for Sweden and he wanted to be 100% for the Red Wings.
“Niklas does not feel his knee is 100%, and he’d rather go to camp with us in another month than with Sweden in a week. The Red Wings are his No. 1 priority, and another month of strength and conditioning will give him the best chance to be healthy for the upcoming season.”
As Team Sweden is currently showing, this is the danger of holding a major international tournament in the NHL preseason.
You have players rehabbing injuries from the previous season – sometimes post-surgery – that are ducking out, like Jamie Benn and Duncan Keith. But more importantly, you have players that are clearly valuing their health and status with regard to their team’s NHL regular seasons more than for a first-year exhibition tournament whose revenue they’ll benefit from regardless of their participation.
Question is: How many other veteran players are looking at Kronwall and Zetterberg and mulling over their own participation?
Keep in mind the NHL has already said that the World Cup of Hockey is “voluntary,” and hence there won’t be any punishment to players for opting out, unlike at the NHL All-Star Game.