Three months ago, after the all-star game, it was unimaginable that this could be Daniel Alfredsson’s last season. He had recovered from a concussion caused by the elbow of New York’s Wojtek Wolski and he was having way too much fun.
Three weeks ago, heading into the playoffs, same thing. Alfredsson was at or near the top of his game and pumped about the possibilities. No way was he ready for retirement.
Today, it’s quite conceivable that we’ve seen the last game for the Senators’ No. 11 Senators jersey, and only partly because of a second concussion cause by the elbow of a Ranger. Maybe it was just the emotional exhaustion in the aftermath of a heartbreaking loss at MSG, but Alfredsson just sounded like he didn’t want to do it all again.
He should. Here’s why:
1. THE MAN CAN PLAY
With the Senators in a win-or-go-home situation, one player stood out as their best. The guy who turns 40 in eight months. Alfredsson scored their lone goal, set up their best scoring other chance (by Milan Michalek), tied for the team lead in shots (with six), played 17 minutes (including a hard 2:15 on the PK) and threw a couple of hits. More than any of them, he worked his ass off.
It could be said that he played like someone who knew it was his last game and didn’t want to leave anything on the table, or a guy who was “playing guilty” after an embarrassing Game 6.
Except that, for the most part, it was typical of the way Alfredsson performed all season.
2. FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
He is still the first on the ice for every practice. He is still one of the last to come off, clearly and thoroughly enjoying the game of “keep away” he dominates at the end of the drills.
Alfredsson loves to compete. And while he can still golf and play tennis with his buddies, or go on skiing trips with his family, being a Senator enables him to be a part of a team and play the game he has played his whole life.
He’s obviously fond of the dressing-room environment, especially the camaraderie that exists with a group of “kids” who help keep him young. It’s tough to let go of that when you don’t have to.
3. HIS OFF-ICE LEADERSHIP
Other Senators watch closely the way Alfredsson deals with the media in the dressing room each day, the way he handles himself in public. They learn from his off-ice behavior just as they do the proper way to play the game.
Erik Karlsson looked like he was choking up when he was asked, after Game 7, about the possibility of Alfredsson hanging them up. His development has been significantly helped by a man he grew up idolizing, just as Mika Zibanejad, Jakob Silfverberg and Robin Lehner can continue to learn from him in the future.
It’s not just his fellow Swedes, however. By his actions, Alfredsson is teaching all young Senators how to be a classy pro. Class is not yet ready to be dismissed.
4. THE ADORATION OF THE FANS
Long after he does retire, Senators fans will likely honor him with the “Alfie” chants 11 minutes from the end of each period. But to give the new tradition some momentum, they need him around for one more season. And yes, Senators fans “need” Alfredsson to return. They thought they were in for a few years of suffering with a rebuilding team, but in 2011-12 they were given hope that the process of building a contender won’t be so long after all.
They fell in love with this hard working team led by the captain they have always adored. It just wouldn’t be the same without Alfredsson, whose mere presence on the ice causes them to break into chants and roars and always gives them reason for optimism. His premature retirement would break a lot of hearts.
5. WHEN IT’S OVER IT’S OVER
While there’s something to be said for going out on top, there’s also the potential for great regret when a person realizes he quit when he still had plenty to give. Alfredsson doesn’t figure to be the type to change his mind on such matters. When he decides he’s done, he’ll be done. But if that’s the way he goes, he better be sure. He has the rest of his life to be retired. It would be a shame if he didn’t squeeze every last ounce out of this wonderful segment.
He’s also not really on top right now, either. He’s never won the Cup, and while the Senators won’t be considered a top contender next season, they could have a shot, with the parity that exists.
Alfredsson, especially at a $1 million salary, could greatly aid the cause.