The uncertainty surrounding Daniel Alfredsson’s playing days are like a scab some cannot resist picking.
Unfortunately, this desire to know exactly when Alfie will decide to pull the plug has been an omnipresence ever since his injury-marred 2010/11 season was cut short.
After overcoming back surgery and Wojtek Wolski’s precision-like blow to the head during the October 29th, 2011 game versus the Rangers, the questions of whether or not Alfie could still get it done and play at a level he was accustomed to have been overshadowed by concerns that his off-ice motivations (or lack thereof) could prompt the captain to retire.
Slated to earn $1-million in the final year of his 4-year frontloaded contract that carries an average cap hit of $4.875-million, would the money be a factor in his decision to return for another season? Would the allure of spending more time at home with his wife and children be too tempting to pass up? At thirty-nine years of age, could he continue to ramp up his training regimen to get his aging prepared for the gruelling grind of another NHL season?
Ultimately, these questions were put to bed in the wake of Alfie’s decision to play out the final year of his deal, but now, the lockout has given cause for media types to dredge up the ol’ retirement question. (Alfie is clearly getting comfortable at home anyway by virtue of this new self-styled moniker — "official toilet wiper".
Here are some select passages from the Ottawa Sun:
“I think the longer it’s been going here, I don’t feel as eager to get back,” the 39-year-old Senators captain said while discussing the lockout and his new routine as a stay-at-home dad following a skate with fellow NHLPA union brothers Tuesday morning at the Sensplex. “I’d say I’m more relaxed. If it happens, it happens.
“I can’t say I’ve at all been frustrated or really looking forward to coming to the rink. I love it when I’m on the ice and I have fun, but at the same time, at this stage, I know I have to look forward as well. Depending what happens, we’ll see how quick that comes.”
“Obviously, if we get a solution, I’ll go to camp and see how the motivation is. I haven’t skated as much as we normally do, but I’ve been going to the gym four days a week, and I feel really good there."
"I enjoy working out, so I’m not going to stop being in shape, but it’s a different step once you go to training camp."
“I could physically, I don’t think it would be an issue for me. It’s all in motivation, I think. Do I feel I could go a whole year and do it again? I think I could. But do I want to? That’s more what I think will determine it.”
Now bear in mind that this is the same player who told Allen Panzeri at the end of July that he's leaving the door open to playing beyond 2012/13.
“I’m not saying this is my last year,”
“If I can still play and contribute, I’ll continue."
“I had issues with my back for a few years, and now that I finally feel healthy again, I want to see how good I can be."
“You see players at 40 and 40-plus like (Jaromir) Jagr and (Teemu) Selanne, and maybe it’s a new trend that’s starting, that if you look after yourself and take care of yourself, you can play. Who knows what the limit is?"
“That’s an intriguing part for me, how far I can push myself. How good can I still be? I feel like I can get better, especially looking back at the health issues I’ve had, feeling that I’ve corrected that."
“I should be able to push myself and be better, especially physically, than I was last year.”
His ambiguity to commit to anything beyond playing in the 2012/13 season is only matched by the level of play we’ve grown accustomed to watching. The man, if you haven’t noticed, has been pretty damn consistent. This whole, “Will he or won’t he?” routine is tired.
Whether it is this year, next, or two years from now people need to come to terms with the fact that Alfie will be retiring soon. I think it's fair to say a good number already have. As much as it would suck to see the captain’s legacy and eventual Hall of Fame candidacy lose another season to an NHL lockout, I’m not going to go on at lengths bleating and begrudging those responsible for it. I'll be far too busy celebrating the most storied Senators career that I will likely ever be able to witness during my lifetime.
It’s not too often that players get to go out playing at such a high level and if last season was Alfie's last, then so be it.