Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The Elephant In The Room Just Stirred
Some Ottawa Senators fans were probably still digesting their three bowls of Cap'n Crunch this morning when they saw a headline that said "Alfie: This Season Could Be My Last". You could actually hear the stomachs lurching across the capital.
In that article on Sportsnet.ca, Ian Mendes quotes Daniel Alfredsson as saying this could very well be his final year in the NHL and that the captain hasn’t completely closed the door on moving to another team if Ottawa can’t compete this season.
Time to panic, folks. Time to FU**ING PANIC.
Well, maybe not just yet. Remember, Alfie said pretty much the same thing last year when asked if he would ever consider moving to another team. At that time he also made it clear he wanted to stay and win a Stanley Cup in Ottawa. If anything, this is just a repeat of those same sentiments. No reason to return your brand new Heritage Alfredsson jersey you just bought on Saturday (although I wonder if Vancouver fans are itching to order their own Alfie versions come early March).
The fact that he told Mendes that this could very well be his last year is the real bit of news, although most of us can put two and two together after realizing his contract goes down to $1 million next season, a number that many suspect is an out-clause disguised as a salary. That’s not to suggest Alfie wouldn’t play for 1 million. He made most of his money up front in his last contract and if the Senators surprise some people by contending, and if #11 is healthy and putting up points, I think he’ll come back for an encore.
But fans can’t play dumb here. He’s giving direct hints now and a tough season in the capital may be all that’s needed to push him into his well-deserved golf years or into the arms of another welcoming organization.
Yet “fans playing dumb” may just be the thing to fear most in this situation.
And in dumb, I mean having a repeat of what the fans put Chris Phillips through last season when his contract was expiring. I would say a vast majority of post-game callers, anonymous experts on message boards and some bloggers were practically begging Phillips to waive his no-trade clause at the deadline so the Senators could get something in return for his suddenly unappreciated services. It became a vicious little campaign with all sorts of insults and exaggerated untruths being tossed around about loyal #4. Instead of fans being happy that Phillips wanted to stay in Ottawa, a lot of them seemed disappointed that he robbed them of their big trade at the deadline.
Now, I’m not saying the exact same thing will happen in Alfredsson’s situation – he’s much too beloved by even the most curmudgeonly fans (whose sole excitement in hockey seems to come from trades and their ugly, slightly cross-eyed cousin, the trade rumour) – but already the usual suspects will be contemplating just what they can get by selling the team’s heart and soul on the open market. If the team starts losing games, the speculation will get more intense and the campaign to unload the captain will be well underway. It will be unavoidable.
Which brings me to this point: If Alfredsson decides he wants to chase a Stanley Cup with another team by March, then he deserves the chance to do so. On the other hand, if he decides to ride it out with the Senators like the captain of the Titanic, let’s hope he’s given the respect and the opportunity to do so and that there isn’t a repeat of the Chris Phillips situation from last year.
Because that was a sorry, ugly little episode in Senators history you won’t see in any of those heartwarming 20th anniversary videos we’ll be watching all season long.