Daniel Alfredsson Has Left The Ottawa Senators

Human emotions aren't something I have a lot of luck with. Generally speaking, I tend towards the common denominators: I like something, I don't like something, or I'm ambivalent (with ambivalence owning the controlling interest in that partnership). Not a lot happens within that range. However, very occasionally, something will happen that I know I'm meant to have an emotional response to, but don't. It's not that I don't feel, it's that I am feeling, but I'm not certain what it is I am feeling.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson is leaving the Ottawa Senators after 17 years, his entire NHL career to this point. And I don't know how I feel about that.

The split was announced Friday is a surprising turn of events that came just weeks after Ottawa fans celebrated Alfie's announcement that he would not be retiring, which had become an annual summer tradition for fans of the franchise these past few years. When he said he was coming back, we assumed he's be playing for us. Such is the life of a hockey fan, of a sports fan, whose only constant in the life of their team is the brand, not the players. It's easy to overcome trades like the departure of Jakob Silfverberg (an Alfredsson protege) for Anaheim's Bobby Ryan, that's just part of the game. But Alfie's presence not only on the ice, but in the city, had become almost deified. 17 years with a single team is practically unheard of, and at 14 years, Alfie is... was the NHL's longest serving captain, and one of it's most respected (look at his tenure as a team captain of the 2012 All Star Game). The Mark Messier Leadership Award winner was a constant, consistent presence who fans had quiet rightly had chosen to personify their team. The idea of Alfredsson wearing any colour then Senator Red seemed unimaginable. He was the franchise's first legacy player.

The deal sees Alfredsson move to the Detroit Red Wings, who will move in the Eastern Conference in the upcoming season, meaning confrontations between the former captain and his previous team will be more likely then if they had remained in the West. For the move, Alfredsson will get $5.5 million for one year, possibly his last (as has every year for the past five). Rumours were that the move was partly inspired as protest against Senators owner Eugene Melnyk's franchise salary cap of $50 million, $13 million less then the NHL cap, with the belief that the team was unwilling to spend the money to acquire the talent necessary to bump the Senators into the same league as Pittsburgh, Boston or Chicago. The Sens are still technically in a rebuild, are an increasingly young team, who lack the consistency and physical dominance of the front heavy teams, but are consistent in exceeding expectations. Alfredsson says no, money wasn't the issue, as the Senators could have... should have, been able to match most any offer made by Detroit or Boston, which Alfredsson was also considering. Said Alfie, "Just to stay in Ottawa and enjoy my last year there and retire as an Ottawa Senator probably would have been a great ending, too. I’m a competitive person and I wouldn’t have felt the same drive, sort of being the mentor and playing it out."

The truth of the matter is, Alfredsson, who describes his want to win a Stanley Cup before he retires as a "selfish decision" has no better a chance in Detroit then Ottawa. Both teams finished the 2013 season as seventh seeds, both had 56 points, and both lost in the second round to a superior team (Ottawa to Pittsburgh, Detroit to Chicago), though Detroit took their series to seven games, while Ottawa only managed five. The question I have now is, how will fans react to the inevitable return of Alfie to the only rink he has known as home in the NHL. Sens fans have notoriously long memories, and teams still get booed for slights made by players who have long since moved on. And the return of players who have left the fans bitter are marked by harsh reactions, whether it be wrought in antagonism like Dany Heatley's departure, or in disgrace like Ray Emery. Alfredsson's leaving does put a bad taste in the mouth, and will no doubt draw the ire of fans, but all told he was the champion of the team for nearly two decades, and will no doubt be remembered more for that then this eleventh hour sojourn. There certainly won't be a on-mass move towards discarding Alfredsson adorned jerseys. And it could have been worse, he could have left at mid season, as he nearly did last year, to Boston. Or as Jerome Iginla did from his career home of Calgary to Pittsburgh (he's now moved on again, to Boston).

I have faith in the Sens to be able to move past this, and to continue to build this young team into the sort of winners that have been illusive these past twenty years. I just don't know how long it will take. Alfredsson was a mentor and a friend to the team, and I suspect (or maybe its just hope) that once his days on ice are done, he'll find his way back to the team and the city that he gave so much to, and gave so much to him in return. It almost certainly means an end to the eleven minute chants of "Alfie" bellowing from the rafters of the  recently renamed Canadian Tire Centre. The odds on favourite to get the C is Jason Spezza, coming off his truncated season due to injury, though no announcement in that regard is expected for some time. Stalwart influences like Chris Neil, Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips remain with the team, with Phillips matching (and now surpassing) Alfredsson's 17 years exclusively with the Sens. And Karlsson leads a new generation of players like Kyle Turris who promise to be the bright future of team. Jack Adams trophy winner Coach Paul Maclean has signed a three year extension to his contract to keep him behind the bench, the best coach this team has had since Bryan Murray, who I believe can weather any fall out from loosing the team's true star (whether fans will want to see Murray's contract renewed after it expires at the end of the year is yet to be seen, though I will continue to support him). I believe that fault will fall on Eugene Melnyk, who signs the cheques, and has final say in all matter money. The team will continue, and perhaps succeed despite the demoralising effect Alfredsson's sudden absence will have. A hole has been left in the lineup, one that isn't likely to be filled anytime soon.

I feel something about all of that. I just don't know what.

Via The Ottawa Citizen.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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