Selfies from Sochi

Erik Karlsson is a man on a mission. He seems determined to do two things at these Olympic games in Sochi: 1) lead all defencemen in goals and points; and 2) to take his bromance with Daniel Alfredsson to another level by posing for as many photos as he possibly can with Alfie and sharing them via Twitter.

Although it’s great to see the Swedish defenceman perform at an elite level on a world stage for everyone to see, it’s the latter point that stands out and has vexed a sect the Senators’ fan base. (Photos: here, here, here, here and here.)

It’d be naïve to believe that the wound from the former captain’s departure has completely healed or that the speculation over why he left has subsided. Hell, in Alfie’s return to the nation’s capital as a member of the Red Wings, he created a bit of a stir when he arrived at the rink with Erik Karlsson and exchanged a hug right in front of the media for them to capture and detail.

In case you have not noticed, the Senators fan base can be a little insecure at times. So when CBC’s Elliotte Friedman included a thought in his most recent 30 Thoughts column on how Karlsson looks reenergized in Sweden, it created more unease about what Karlsson has had to go through in this 2013-14 season.

One player (and team) that could really benefit from the added lift of this event is Erik Karlsson and, therefore, Ottawa. It’s been a tough season for him, but he’s noticeably energized here. I didn’t see much of Sweden’s practice on Tuesday, but a few players and observers said he was just flying through it. The Senators have had trouble finding him a consistent partner, but he’s lined up with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

Although from a point production standpoint, Karlsson’s been fine and has paced Ottawa’s offence, there’s no question that Karlsson’s endured some troubles this season on and off the ice. From his Alfie’s departure (his friend and mentor), to his recovery from his Achilles injury, to an alleged off-ice situation that landed him on the cover of January’s issue of Frank Magazine, to him shunning the media for part of January, to the Senators falling short of expectations and the constant juggling of defencemen, you could hardly blame Karlsson for not being the same bundle of energy that he’s renowned as. 2013 was a brutal year for him as his Twitter account will attest.

Taking the photos one step further, there is also this fear that this bonding in Sochi will lead to Alfie spilling the beans on why he moved on and whether Senators owner Eugene Melnyk primarily influenced his decision – creating this situation in which the players on the current roster may look at and question their future with the organization when it comes time to negotiate their own contract extension.

I mean, do some fans think that players are really that much different than ourselves?

They are instinctually going to be interested in what management and their ownership is doing and how their organization is being run? Are we really supposed to believe that the players didn’t know the score when news broke in the summer that Alfie wasn’t returning on the first day of free agency? I mean, he called and spoke with Jason Spezza the night before his decision became public knowledge, so by the same token, fans should be equally as concerned that Spezza could be impacted by Alfie’s decision making.

When Elliotte Friedman came on our podcast earlier in the season, he mentioned how he had heard through his various Ottawa-based sources that the Senators looked like a tight team from the get go and that even Paul MacLean, someone who was a pretty loose character, seemed to be affected as well.

Cue to a few weeks ago when in the wake of announcement that the organization had reached an agreement with Bell Media on a new regional broadcast deal, Senators President Cyril Leeder mentioned the trickledown effect that the news had on the players.

And there’s the rub, this isn’t necessarily something that’s exclusive to Karlsson. There’s a letdown amongst the collective.

Until Karlsson starts growing a hobo beard, gets tattooed up like Joe Corvo and starts tweeting the lyrics to Mandy Moore songs, we shouldn’t have to worry about him that much.

But, if we do have to be concerned about anything, maybe we should worry about him being a socks and sandals kind of guy.

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