Following Saturday night’s game in Montreal, Hockey Night in Canada personality Cassie Campbell Tweeted the following:
Sweet mother of God.
The way that Campbell phrased this news, it represents the closest thing that we’ve had to confirmation that this season was Alfie’s last.
After missing the playoffs twice and being bounced in the quarterfinals the other two years, the on-ice success for the Senators has been in steady decline since their appearance in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals. With so many prognosticators were picking the Senators to finish at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in their preseason forecasts, even the staunchest of Senators supporters would admit that they expected the team to bottom out in the NHL’s basement. And who could blame them? The youth on the roster was unproven and the vast majority of Ottawa’s veterans were: a) coming off down statistical years; b) were past their prime; or c) were coming off of injury-marred campaigns.
Alfie certainly fit into the latter category. In fact, I would wager that at some point this offseason, every Sens fan had a conversation with a friend, colleague or spouse that discussed whether Alfie’s troubled back and hip could withstand the grind of another NHL season. And if it could, how would the captain brace for the possibility of systemic losing? Would he cement his legacy and retire as a lifelong Ottawa Senator? Or would he grow weary of the constant losing and ask to be moved like Ray Bourque did with the Bruins in 2000?
Fortunately for us fans, it’s all moot. Not only are the Senators winning games, they’re playing an entertaining style of hockey that has reinvigorated the fans and players alike. With a 25-15-6 record and winners of eight of their last ten games, gone are the days when Ottawa has had to rely heavily upon the performances of a few individuals. Instead, the Senators are getting significant contributions from everyone on the roster and with each game, we just don’t know which player or line is going to step up and play the hero. One night, it’s the Turris line. Another it might be the Spezza line. Need the third liners or role players to step up? No problem. Zack Smith and Nick Foligno have got it covered.
This collective exudes confidence and the players no longer dread coming to the rink. Aided by the health of his back, Alfie’s having fun again and if it lends itself to the captain playing one or more years into the future, we’re all better for it.
As much as I fret over the possibility that some of next season could be lost to a labor stoppage and that it could negatively influence Alfie’s decision to hang them up, the fact that Alfie openly admits to wanting to play next season bodes well. With a bigger window of opportunity to win with Alfie around, not only does it take pressure off of the organization in trying to find another top six forward this offseason, it also removes whatever short-sighted bias management may have to go for it at the trade deadline.
Speaking of the Deadline…
From the Globe and Mail:
Murray admits his approach to the trade deadline changed. He said he wants “to give our players a chance to do well in the playoffs” but not at the cost of sacrificing any of the organization’s young talent. He expects another five or so youngsters in the system to make the team next season, headed by centre Mika Zibanejad of Sweden.
Murray really expects five or so youngsters in the system to make the team next season?
That’s something. Names like Lehner, Silfverberg, Zibanejad and Borowiecki are the obvious ones. (Maybe he’s including Filatov and Da Costa amongst this group as well?) Regardless, if the bulk of Ottawa’s forward core is under team control for next season, management is going to have to make room for these players by moving someone (or someones) in the offseason. While I’ve devoted some time this season writing articles about how it may be in the organization’s best interests to sell high on some of its players and upgrade a player like Nick Foligno, with the success that the team has had this season, I expect any significant transactions (if they happen at all) to occur this summer and not at the NHL trade deadline.
Other News of Pithy Importance
With Mikko Koivu sustaining a shoulder injury that will keep him out of action for the next month, the NHL will need to name a replacement for the injured Wild forward. Could Dany Heatley be named as his stand-in? I sure as hell hope so. He would be a great fit for a game that requires no work ethic or attention to defence.
The Senators new scoreboard has been finished and will be fully functional for tonight’s game versus the Winnipeg Jets. I’m looking forward to seeing in action. Bruce Garrioch Tweeted a picture of it and it looks prettier than a Kyle Turris deflection goal.
You can check out today’s Prediction Panel picks over at SenatorsExtra.com.
In an article over at Yahoo! Sports, Nick Cotsonika discusses the merits of having Dion Phaneuf and Daniel Alfredsson as this year’s captains for the All-Star Game.
After being named as the NHL’s third star of the week last week, Craig Anderson has been named as the NHL’s first star of this week.