Daniel Alfredsson was right.
The Detroit Red Wings were closer to a Stanley Cup. Five games closer.
That was the difference between this year’s Red Wings and the only other NHL organization that he’s ever known.
As fans so often do, they took sides: with one pulling for Alfredsson to win a Cup once the Senators were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention; and the other admonishing the Swede for spurning the Senators and relishing the opportunity to root against the Red Wings.
It was just another example of an incident within professional sports in which no party came out ahead – the fans, the Ottawa Senators or Daniel Alfredsson – because of greed and money.
Alfredsson was denied in his pursuit of a Cup.
Fans were robbed of an opportunity to see a Hall of Fame player remain with the organization throughout his career and honour him appropriately when the time comes.
His absence created a ballyhooed leadership void that Jason Spezza will likely pay the price for this summer when he is traded. As an aside, it’s pretty ironic that an organization that publicly yearns for more leadership and accountability is paving the way to rid itself of their best veteran player. Admittedly however, it’s not like the organization can come out and say, “We can’t re-sign our captain to the contract extension he wants because we do not have faith in his ability to stay healthy over the duration of the contract term that he’ll be (or is) looking for in his extension.” It is pretty shitty nevertheless that people will cling to this leadership angle when any prospective trade involving Spezza simply comes down to a risk averse hockey ops decision.
Not only did the Senators lost their captain, they lost one of their most marketable players. Perhaps most strikingly, the situation was really the first instance in which money became a prominent storyline to the Senators 2013/14 season. From Alfie to the casino, to the ability to add a player, to all the talk of an internal budget, everything came down to money and Alfie was just the tip of the iceberg.
To help curb the backlash from fans and throw fans off the scent, Bryan Murray swiftly dealt Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a 2014 first round pick for Bobby Ryan.
It was a heavy price to pay and until the Senators move Ryan or ink him to an extension, the jury still remains out on whether it was a good trade.
Although the move offset some of the resentment harbored by the fan base, looking back, the decision to acquire Ryan seems somewhat odd if the organization literally cannot afford to supplement its roster with more talented (and expensive) players.
Even shortly after the trade, Eugene Melnyk was adamant that the Ryan acquisition was predicated on Ottawa’s inability to afford Alfie and Ryan.
Bryan Murray eventually tried to downplay Melnyk’s comments, saying that he believed he could have found a way to bring both players into the fold.
Looking at the situation with the short-term in mind, most fans were smitten with the Ryan deal. It helped that Ryan’s personality and candor resonated with the fans, but perhaps most importantly, fans optimistically believed that the team was better on paper with Ryan than they were had they kept Alfie.
Unfortunately Ryan’s sports hernia injury hampered his on-ice performance and eventually ended his season and with it, the Senators fell short of expectations and missed the postseason – giving the Anaheim Ducks the tenth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft.
From a long-term perspective, if the team was and will continue to struggle augmenting its roster with better players to give it the best chance to contend or take it to the next level, one cannot help but wonder whether it was a smart move to parlay so many cost controlled assets for a player who had little term left on his contract – essentially giving the player all of the leverage in any prospective contract negotiations.
Acquiring Ryan for futures was the kind of “we’re going for it” moment that would make sense if the organization was going to follow it up with more moves designed to push this team toward contention.
Instead, there’s a very good chance that the Senators will move Jason Spezza – the captain who seems to be bearing the brunt of the attacks at this team leadership and accountability — this summer for futures, and will lose Milan Michalek and Ales Hemsky to unrestricted free agency.
Depending on how Ryan’s contract extension talks go, he could join this growing list of players who may wind up leaving town.
Would fans we worrying about any of this had Alfredsson and the Senators put their egos aside and been able to reach an agreement?
We’ll never know, but as it stands, the Senators are caught in a holding pattern and until this summer’s events play out, nobody will know whether the Senators are that much further ahead than they were a year ago.
The same could be said of Alfie’s situation in Detroit. The Red Wings could ultimately decide that they want to go in a different direction and make a more concerted effort to get younger and give greater opportunities to their younger players.
Alfie may no longer be a part of Detroit’s future, but he should have been a part of ours.
The Red Wings may have technically been closer to Stanley Cup contention, but in the end, everyone lost.
Other News and Notes…
Senators 2013 first round pick Curtis Lazar was named the WHL’s Eastern Conference Most Valuable Player after his Edmonton Oil Kings knocked off the Medicine Hat Tigers in five games. Lazar had four goals and six points in these games and his Oil Kings will face the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL Finals.