Saturday, March 26, 2011

Passing The Torch

When it's all said and done, it looks like Chris Phillips could be the Senators all-time leader in games played just a few seasons from now. Daniel Alfredsson currently sits at 1056 and Phillips is about a season and a half behind him at 938.

But that gap could close quickly. Alfredsson is 38 years old and has two years remaining on his contract after this season, but the last of those years, 2012-2013, coincides with a possible CBA confrontation between the players union and the league. I'd say it's 50/50 on whether or not a good chunk of games are cancelled, especially with the NHLPA having a new boss in Donald Fehr who was brought in to be a tough guy for the next round of negotiations.

It's entirely possible that next season could be Alfie's last in the NHL. A lot will depend on his health, which hasn't been great this season, and the looming CBA battle which could, in a worst-case scenario, wipe out an entire season.

Phillips on the other hand is still in the late stages of his prime years at 33 years old and has 3 more on his new deal and one that extends a season past the possible Armageddon. He'll still only be about 36 when the contract expires and could conceivably re-sign for another couple in the city he obviously loves to play in.

A lot of defenseman in their late 30's are still playing important minutes in the NHL today such as Sean O'Donnell (39), Chris Pronger (36), Adam Foote (39), Nicklas Lidstrom (40), Brian Rafalski (37), Adrian Aucoin (37), Sergei Gonchar (36), Sami Salo (36), Roman Hamrlik (36), Jaroslav Spacek (37) and Karlis Skrastins (36). There's both offensive and defensive specialists in that group.

Phillips has a chance to play another five or six years in this league if he can stay healthy and there's no reason to think he won't play a lot of those years in an Ottawa uniform. In a way, Phillips has a chance to be the next Glen Wesley who played 21 seasons in the NHL, mostly with the Carolina/Hartford organization. There are a lot of similarities between the two.

So if Phillips succeeds Alfredsson as the all-time games played leader, who's in the pipeline to surpass him?

The next guy on the list is Chris Neil at 652 games but at 31 years old and only 2 years left on his deal, he has a long road to the top. I'd say the odds are not good.

Jason Spezza is intriguing. He's a relative pup at 27 and is signed all the way through the 2014-2015 season with a no-trade clause in his pocket. He's already played in 519 games but would have been in more if it weren't for injuries. That's Spezza's only barrier to eventually becoming both the all-time games played and all-time points leader one day down the road. His new devotion to two-way play will cut down his offensive numbers a little over the coming years but he will be in the 75-100 point range nearly every season if he can keep healthy.

While Alfredsson and Phillips will share the elder statesman status for the time being, the torch has already been passed to Spezza. He's quickly become the team's most important player and his worth to the club is incalculable on the ice.

This is his team now and will be for a long time. He's the next captain, guaranteed.

But then again, there's Erik Karlsson, who is going to be one of the best defenseman in this league for the next 15 years. He's already the best defenseman on this team.

And then there's whoever they draft in the early first round this season. The Senators could have another franchise player on their hands in just three months time.

Things could be worse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those all-time stats are great to have when we reflect on the storybook of the franchise years from now. That's the one thing that I've always admired about the Habs. They've got a great game atmosphere, but I think it's enhanced by the history the surrounds the franchise.

They've got all these players that you can identify with the franchise.

Alfie and Phillips are clearly on that trajectory for us.

I just hope that the franchise doesn't take Spezza and Karlsson for granted. And, what I mean by that specifically, is that the team has to surround the guys with players that can help them win.

If the team becomes a perennial loser, these guys might seek better opportunities. And, that's when the real downward spiral starts, because then no player wants to come to Ottawa; whether we have Beavertails or not.