by SENShobo on 09/20/08 at 01:03 PM ET
I had a chance to speak with Daniel Alfredsson yesterday, by which I mean I was able to get a hold of a transcript of his conference call. Nevermind how I came of it, it yielded some interesting thoughts regardless, on the team, the new season, and the challenges ahead, and I’d like to share some of them with you.
We all know that nagging injuries kept you from playing for a good portion of last season, did they affect the way you trained this summer in preparation of the upcoming season? “Not much, to be honest. I had an MCL sprain in my right knee, and I had a little bit of the whiplash. But I had, well, I took three weeks off. Then I started rehab, and you know, after another two weeks I was doing all the exercises. It didn’t affect my off-season training much at all.” Always great to hear, and I’m sure having your longest off-season in a decade only helped you to heal, while making you all the more hungry to start the new season.
Soon to be 36, you are still one of the best players in the NHL, keeping up with guys half your age and able to pull off some really great games in the process. One might have thought you’d reached your peak pre-lockout, but your past three seasons have been astounding. Do you think you have peaked, or are there ways in which you still feel you can develop as a player? “I think power play. It’s not only individual, but the power play can be better. I think it’s just that we’ll get more goals and points out of that. That’s one thing that me, myself needs to be better at, and we as a team as well. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
No doubt one of the most exciting parts of this season will be playing a few games in Sweden. What does it mean to you to go home and play in Sweden, play against your old team? “You know, I have my roots here pretty much being in the same city for the 12 years I’ve been here. It’s going to be a really great experience for myself, I think, coming home to my hometown and then, obviously, to Stockholm. Like I said, the media follows the NHL pretty closely, but to be able to show off ourselves in front of them, I think it’s going to be special. You know, it’s not a home game in the sense that, you know we played there regularly. But at the same time, it’s my home and I played a lot of games in Stockholm, in the Swedish League and then with the National Team as well. So there are a lot of memories that are involved. I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to go back and relive it. But this is a great opportunity to do that. You know, playing in front of Swedish fans, it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to.
“I think I played for Frolunda for three years, and previously I went to high school right across the street from where the arena is. I skated in that rink for four years, twice in the morning, and twice each week in the mornings. So I have a lot of memories going back to that. I played there for a couple of month, three, four months during the lockout which was a really fun time as well. But coming back to Ottawa, which most people hadn’t seen me with Ottawa, so to be able to play a game in front of the home crowd, I think it will be a special night.”
What do you think of the decision to separate you from Heatley and Spezza, do you think it will work well and last? “I think we’re going to try to be separated. I mean, I think we can always go back. But I think our new coach, Craig Hartsburg, would like us to find more balance throughout the lineup, more balanced scoring. We’re going to try different combinations. We know how well Jason and Danny can play together, and hopefully I can find a couple of good line mates as well that can take pressure off them and create offense. If we can do that, I think we can have three lines that can contribute offensively, and that takes pressure off everybody.”
An area of great shuffling for the team has been on defense. You’ve lost Commodore, but more importantly both Redden and Meszaros. How do you think the team will deal with this? “I’m not sure if we can. It’s always tough to tell how much we’re going to need. You don’t know until you miss them how much you’re going to miss them, I guess. We brought in some good character. We’ve got Kuba who is good with the puck. Jason Smith is going to give us more grit and help our penalty killing for sure. So it’s going to be tough to replace him. I think the way coach wants us to play we’re going to be more aggressive and force turnovers a little bit higher than we did probably last year. That will probably help our defense.”
Finally, what do you think of the new team and new coach you will be playing with this season? “We have much more grit this year, I think. Our manager is definitely kind of had a plan when he signed new guys and got rid of some of the other ones. Brought more character people. You know, Smith, Jarkko Ruutu, just to mention a couple. We’ll probably be a little tougher to play against physically than we have in the past. We’ve always played with a lot of skill and puck possession, and hopefully can maintain that. But at the same time can be a little grittier. It’s been three practices. The practices have been hard, but they’ve been fun. I mean, it’s a lot of handling the puck, a lot of passing. It’s just not, you know, skating up and down the ice. It’s a lot of thinking involved. He hasn’t coached any games yet. He makes sure it’s a high, high tempo and not on too long. But we work hard when we’re on, so it’s been fun.”
An optimist and a realist indeed, his continued Captaincy should no doubt be a boon to the team and its meshing, and tonight we will get our first look at a new team we’ve all been waiting very long to see.
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Native of Northern California. Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.
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