At around 4:30 pm yesterday afternoon, I carried my four-month old daughter down the stairs into the basement to settle in on the couch and watch the Hockey Hall of Fame’s 2020 inductee announcement live on the NHL Network.
I don’t really know why I brought her down.
I’m not a superstitious person, but I hoped that she’d bring some luck to the possibility that this would be Daniel Alfredsson’s year. More importantly, part of me wanted her to witness Daniel Alfredsson be announced as the first modern Senator to be bestowed with the sports’ highest honour.
Instead, the most iconic player in franchise history was passed over for a fourth consecutive year.
Welcome to Senators fandom, kid.
As the years have passed, we have been conditioned for disappointment as Senators fans. We have grown accustomed to seeing incredibly talented teams fall short. And even when things were going well during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, financial difficulties loomed over the organization like a dark cloud. Dating back to the days of Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara, we have watched Hall of Fame caliber talents, who wanted to remain in Ottawa, depart thanks to dragged out contract negotiations. The arrival of a billionaire who promised to spend fervently was supposed to be that white knight in shining moment that would stabilize the franchise, instead Eugene Melnyk has developed into one of the most vilified sports figures that this city has ever known.
The induction of Alfredsson into the Hockey Hall of Fame just felt like such a sure-thing.
And in the moments after his exclusion, I just sat there on my couch going running through the gamut of emotions. There was frustration, anger, resentment and sadness. There was cynicism and thoughts that cronyism and an old boys network helped keep a deserving candidate out.
It just felt wrong.
From the moment of his arrival as a 23-year old rookie in the 1995-96 season through his last campaign in 2013-14 with the Red Wings, only four players outproduced Alfredsson’s 1,157 points during that span: Jaromir Jagr (1,366); Teemu Selanne (1,223); Joe Thornton (1,194); and Jarome Iginla (1,167).
He is currently the second-leading NHL amongst Swedish-born players trailing only Mats Sundin.
From a goal scoring perspective, the same holds true. Only four players scored more goals than Alfredsson’s 444: the aforementioned Selanne (561), Iginla (560), Jagr (548) and Marian Hossa (464).
Sportsnet’s Andrew Berkshire looked at era-adjusted stats and found Alfredsson fared quite well.
“Adjusted for era, Alfredsson was a better point producer than Hossa (82 points per 82 games), Iginla (80 points per 82 games), Patrik Elias (78 points per 82 games), and was just behind Alexander Mogilny (88 points per 82 games).
Since expansion, Alfredsson’s equals in point production adjusted for era are Guy Lafleur, Martin St. Louis, Adam Oates, and Stan Mikita. If you don’t see him in that echelon of player, there’s likely some bias clouding your view.”
Historically speaking, Alfredsson was one of the most productive players of his era despite some easily identifiable factors that affected his offensive numbers.
Knowing what we do about aging curves and how most NHL players’ have prime offensive seasons between 22 and 27 years of age, Alfredsson had some injury-plagued seasons playing for some hapless Senators squads during what should have been his prime offensive years.
Thanks to the injuries, the multitude of Alexei Yashin holdouts, and the well-known fact that Alfredsson never played regular minutes with the team’s best offensive centre until Bryan Murray put him alongside Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza during the team’s 2006-07 season, Alfredsson’s offensive totals could have been much higher.
The old Bryan Murray adage was that whatever line Alfie was on was the team’s best line. And rather than stack the team’s best offensive players together, longtime head coach Jacques Martin preferred a more balanced approach that expected Alfredsson to make the players around him significantly better. Alfredsson even offered to help defer salary during the team’s lean years to help ensure that they could make additions at the deadline to improve the club.
Even without those extra goals and points, his offensive numbers speak for themselves, but around the league, the 13-year captain of the Senators was just as renowned for his relentless work ethic and dedication to his craft.
Looking past the hardware he did win — the 1995-96 Calder Trophy, his 2005-06 second-team NHL All Star honor or being the 2011-12 King Clancy Memorial Trophy and 2012-13 Mark Messier Leadership Trophy recipient — Alfie was one of the respected two-way players in the game garnering Selke votes in seven seasons and Lady Byng votes in 11. (As an aside, Jarome Iginla received Selke votes in four seasons, Mogilny in one season and Marian Hossa in 15 seasons.)
Alfie was not just some one-dimensional NHLer who was well-regarded for his offence, this was a player who was also recognized for his leadership, humanitarian efforts and all-around play.
Glad you asked, Alfie had tons.
He was a four-time World Championship medalist (two silver, two bronze). He appeared in five Olympic Games winning gold in 2006 while leading Sweden in scoring with five goals and 10 points in eight games. Alfredsson would reach the podium again in 2014 while winning silver.
Quanthockey.com lists Alfie as being tied as the 15th-highest scorer in Olympics history with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists in 26 games). Only Sven Johansson has recorded more points (28) representing Sweden at the Olympics than Alfredssson.
During the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Alfredsson returned to Frölunda HC of the SHL where he won the SHL championship and was named to the Elitserien All-Star Team after leading the SHL in playoff goals (12) and points (18).
Thanks to these credentials, Alfredsson was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2018.
The funny thing is that I’m sitting here describing all of Alfredsson’s on-ice accolades and I have not even discussed what he means to the city of Ottawa.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve read many a writer wax poetic about what Jarome Iginla meant to the city of Calgary and how with his resume, he was a slam dunk candidate for the HHOF.
They weren’t wrong, but the same things should have been said about what Daniel Alfredsson and what he meant to the city of Ottawa.
If you think about the laundry list of unbelievably talented players who have come and gone from Ottawa, Alfie was essentially here through it all. He should have been a legacy player.
It would have been easy for him to pick his spots and cement his HHOF resume later in his career like Marian Hossa.
Daniel Alfredsson wasn’t a mercenary.
He should have been a Senator for life, but instead, he told the owner to shove it. Not once, but twice.
It’s not the only time that Alfie has always been ahead of the curve.
His advocacy for mental health awareness through the Royal Ottawa Foundation and for the equality of athletes, regardless of their sexual orientation were also ahead of their time.
Which makes it somewhat ironic considering Alfredsson’s having to wait for the HHOF to open its doors to him.
In the past few years, I have not pumped Alfredsson’s tires at all, believing that his candidacy stood out on its own merits.
I promise that this will change. I do not have any delusions of grandeur and realize that my platform isn’t significantly large, but moving forward at this time of year, I’m going to use whatever platform I have to emphasize the strength of Alfredsson’s case.
The Ottawa media, including myself, can do a hell of a lot more to promote Alfie. We don’t have a choice in the matter.
Hopefully the Senators organization comes around and does more moving forward. Unfortunately, if they tow to their of their petty owner’s wishes and do the bare minimum to support the candidacy of their franchise’s icon, the onus is on the rest of us to make sure that others (and ideally the HHOF voters) have an informed opinion of Alfredsson.
I’ll start by working on my material and teaching my daughter as much as I can, but this time next year, there needs to be a grassroots Alfie movement for the HHOF.
More people need to know how great he was and how much he means to the city of Ottawa.