As a Michigan native, honor means even more to Abdelkader
DETROIT – For Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill and general manager Ken Holland, it was a natural choice to name Justin Abdelkader an alternate captain.
Blashill made the announcement after Tuesday's morning skate.
"It's crazy, kind of thinking back, talking with Blash this morning, my first few days here in Detroit, being here now eight years in this organization," Abdelkader said. "This is obviously a huge honor, really thrilled and excited. Excited to hopefully help lead this team."
The Wings selected Abdelkader in the second round, 42nd overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
"Justin's got those great leadership qualities it takes to be a captain," Blashill said. "We've got lots of leaders in our room. But the guys that are wearing the As, that's a special thing in this organization. He also embodies everything we want to be about. We want to outwork people. He's a worker. We want to out-detail people. He's detailed. We want to be selfless. He's selfless. I think to me it's a great choice and I'm excited about it."
Abdelkader was born in Muskegon, which he said makes wearing the 'A' even more special.
"Growing up watching the Red Wings, idolizing so many of the players, getting the opportunity and experience to come in in 2008, kind of learn under those guys how to be a pro and how to train and how to go about your business each and every day," Abdelkader said. "I think that helped and the great leaders we've had here in the past helped. I learned a lot from them."
Abdelkader said watching Zetterberg and Nick Lidstrom has shown him what it takes to be a leader.
"With Nick, he never got too high or too low," Abdelkader said. "Sometimes as player you're really excited after one game, things going really well, a big win, but you got to keep it pretty even-keel, even after losses. I remember we lost at home to St. Louis, 10-3, it is one game, Good thing about our game is usually you get to go out and prove yourself the next day or the day after. Trying to keep an even keel, not get too high or too low.
"Z has been more of the same. Those guys put their egos aside, as good as players as they are. Everyone has bought into the team, winning as a team, putting individual accolades aside. That's huge coming into a locker room with that kind of veteran leadership and presence."
Neither Zetterberg nor Kronwall were surprised by Blashill's decision.
"Obviously Abby's been a big part of our team for many years now," Zetterberg said. "Even though he didn't have a letter on his chest, he's been one of the leaders and to us it's the obvious choice."
Said Kronwall: "I think it was a fairly given decision, to be honest with you. I think most guys kind of expected that. I'm happy for Abby. I think he's deserved it and definitely the right choice."
Abdelkader, who will play in his first preseason game in Chicago tonight, said he didn't expect anything to change just because he's now an alternate captain.
"I think just keep going about my business," Abdelkader said. "Obviously you want to be vocal in the locker room, helping especially the younger guys. When I was a younger player it was nice to have some older players come help and guide you through the season. Being there for those guys and just as a leadership group making sure we're on track throughout the year and doing things right and getting better each day."
Last November, Abdelkader signed a seven-year contract extension and he hopes to end his career as a Red Wing.
"Detroit's a very loyal organization as far as treating players the best," Abdelkader said. "That really attracts a lot of players to want to come play here because the organization, starting with the Ilitches on down are very loyal to their players and to the fans. We have the best fans around. Very honored and lucky to be able to hopefully spend the rest of my career in Detroit, team I always grew up rooting for and watching and dreaming to play for. Just real excited about this opportunity.
"I think we got a lot of good, young players pushing their way to come up on the team. We have a good mix of some veterans and some younger guys. It should be hopefully a great year and it's going to be fun to watch as grow as a team."