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.


Blood Red Army said...

Amen, brother. Amen.

JA said...

I agree. Phillips deserved better, and so does Alfie. In any case I hope Alfie sticks around with the Senators, but I'll wish him all the best if he wants to try for a Cup elsewhere.

PvR said...

There are those that feel that the fans were failed by the team when Fisher was traded to Nashville rather than some supposed better offer. I think they fit with the ones you are describing as well. And I hope I'm not one of them.

Anonymous said...

He'll stay a Sen. If he leaves, my early bet is Pete Chiarelli's Bruins. They seem to be collecting folks with Ottawa ties.

But, I'd bet that he ain't going anywhere.

Anonymous said...

$5 M cap hit this season AND next means he ain't going anywhere like it or not. Praise Alfie!

Peter Raaymakers said...

Was there really much of a run-Phillips-out-of-town thing last year? Maybe I'm just misremembering, but I don't remember it getting so bad. Certainly not as bad as the Kaberle situation.

Jeremy Milks said...

Peter, you may remember the Phillips situation being the biggest issue by far going into the deadline and there was a loud and large group of fans who wanted him traded. He was called “selfish” many times on fan call-in shows, on the HF Boards and on blogs. His desire to win was questioned over and over again because he didn’t want to “play for a winner”. I was personally at a game late in the season where Phillips was booed by a lot of people in my section. A lot of fans were so focused on a possible Phillips trade that the Fisher and Kelly deals seemed to take everybody by surprise, myself included. So while it may not have been on the grand harassment scale of Tomas Kaberle who had been going through that for years in the biggest hockey market, it undoubtedly happened here as well.