The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/22/13 at 06:09 PM ET
As you already know, the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators will tangle tomorrow night in the first game between the teams since Daniel Alfredsson signed with the Red Wings, and while the Red Wings' press corps spent Tuesday addressing the statuses of Jonathan Ericsson (out 2-3 weeks with a shoulder sublaxion), Darren Helm (not coming back Saturday as his groin is an issue), Niklas Kronwall (should return tomorrow) and Ericsson's status as a father...
Alfredsson was the flavor of the day.
He spoke with Sportsnet's Arash Mardani for a six-minute interview, and a similar feature will air on TSN at 6:30 PM EDT (update: You can watch the interview here, and the CP posted 1-minute clip as well)--but Sportsnet allows video embedding, so enjoy:
The Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno spoke with Alfredsson about transitioning to life as a Red Wing--and this is just part of a much, much longer interview:
“It’s mixed emotions,” Alfredsson said Tuesday, the day before facing his former team for the first time since signing with the Red Wings as a free agent in July. “I miss a lot about Ottawa, no question. But at the same time I also enjoy not being the guy and kind of worrying about myself a little bit more.”
That’s something he rarely got to do in 17 seasons with the Senators, 14 of which he spent as the captain. He was the de facto first-line right winger and holds the Ottawa records for most games, goals, assists, points and much more. Alfredsson’s new team features a couple of other future Hall of Famers in captain Henrik Zetterberg and alternate Pavel Datsyuk. When the Red Wings lost in a shootout Monday to the San Jose Sharks, Alfredsson didn’t have to serve as the team spokesman like he would have for the Sens.
“I don’t mind media at all, but it’s also nice to prepare every day through the ups and downs,” he said. “I don’t think I would’ve played as long as I did if I felt that was a burden for me.”
A veteran of almost 1,200 NHL games, Alfredsson earned instant respect from his new Red Wings teammates. The 40-year-old fit seamlessly into the leadership structure that was already in place.
“It’s not like he’s stepping on anyone’s toes or anything like that,” goaltender Jonas Gustavsson said. “He knows when to say something and he knows when to let other people take care of that.”
But it was his responsibility to move his wife and four children to Michigan. He expressed some trepidation about his family settling in to their new life but didn’t express regrets about leaving the old one behind in order to prove himself to a new organization.
“The way I looked at it at the time and still do today is it’s a huge challenge for myself, both on and off the ice,” Alfredsson said. “It’s a big challenge for our family. I think I will look back at this down the road as something that was a stepping stone for me in my life.”
“I think my role here is more I’m going to do everything I can to make it feel like they don’t have everything on their shoulders, and not the other way around that they should take something off me,” Alfredsson said. “I think if I can stay healthy and play to my abilities I should be able to do that. I think that’s important. We know how good they are, and if we can help out behind them, I think it’s going to make them even better.”
Whyno also speaks with San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan, Wings forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelakder and Wings coach Mike Babcock about Alfredsson's "fit" (edit/update: and the CP also posted a short video of Alfredsson practicing with the Wings)...
The London Free Press's Morris Dalla Costa also took note of Alfredsson's decision-making process...
“It was a quick process in early July. I didn’t have any ideas of leaving,” Alfredsson said. “We got to the period were teams could contact pending free agents. (Detroit) made a really good impression on everything, how the family fit in, how I fit in with the team.”
How did Ottawa let Alfredsson get away? The perception is that Detroit went after Alfredsson hard while the Senators didn’t. Alfredsson prefers to publicly abstain from discussing any residual bitterness toward his old organization. He says he has no hard feelings.
“Not toward anyone especially,” he said. “It was more emotions about leaving the city, all the friends and people behind that made my time there so special. But there is no resentment toward anyone or anybody.”
Alfredsson admitted he isn’t quite sure how he’ll react Wednesday playing against the team he spent the first 17 seasons of his career with, but he does anticpate his Dec. 1 visit to the Canadian Tire Centre will be emotional.
“I think I’m (excited,)” he said. “Obviously there are a lot of good friends on the other side ... for another 32 hours. It will be a relief once the puck drops. There will (be a) lot of emotion for me tomorrow afternoon going into the game. It’s a bit exciting.”
And this is interesting:
“There are mixed emotions. I miss a lot about Ottawa and being the guy,” he said. “At the same time, I also enjoy not being the guy. I can worry about myself a little bit more.”
But don’t think for a second that Alfredsson wants to fade to black. When someone suggested that having players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg would help ease some of the pressure, Alfredsson said he didn’t look at it that way.
“My role here is to do everything I can to make it feel they don’t have everything on their shoulders,” Alfredsson said. “Not the other way around that they should take something off me. I think if I can stay healthy and play to my abilities I should be able to do that.”
Today, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch snagged Ken Holland's take on the team's courtship of Alfredsson..
"In the past years, free agency hit at noon (on July 1) and you started to make the calls," Holland told the Sun Monday from his Detroit office. "This year, we had the 48-hour window and we made the rounds. Certainly, when I called J.P. Barry, I wasn't calling on Alfie, I was calling J.P. to see who he had that was unrestricted, and J.P. brought up Alfie's name. He just said to me, 'For the first time in his career, he's entertaining thoughts of moving and would you be interested?' I said, 'Absolutely.' First off because he's Daniel Alfredsson and we've had good success here with older players. Age is not a number that has scared us through the years. We need a right-winger that we thought could produce offence and play at the point on the power play."
The Wings knew they could use a guy like Alfredsson, but they didn't think he would leave Ottawa after such a long career here, even after a 45-minute call with coach Mike Babcock, Holland and Alfredsson on July 4 went well.
"Was I surprised (he left)? Yeah, I was. Anytime you've got a player who has accomplished what Alfie has accomplished and he's been in one spot his entire career ..." said Holland. "After talking to Alfie, and J.P. Barry was up front with me, he told me Alfie was entertaining thoughts of leaving, but he might stay in Ottawa. (Barry and Alfredsson) had conversations about moving and if he did there were two teams at the head of the class, and we were one of them (with Boston).
"We had a really good conversation. I've been at the game a long time. Did I think we had a really good shot after the call? Yeah. Did I think there was a real chance? Quite often I hear that a guy who has been in one spot for a long time is thinking about leaving and then you get off the phone and they say, 'I'm not sure about leaving.'
"Certainly, my feeling, when I got off the call was that Alfie was seriously going through the mental gymnastics to make a decision. We made our presentation and his questions were about family: Places to live, his boys playing hockey. He wasn't just asking about what line he would be on ... I just felt we were a legitimate landing spot for him."
I can't quote all of Garrioch's article, but Garrioch notes that the Red Wings didn't need to use any Swedes to lobby Alfredsson to join them, and this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Holland's reasoning as to why the Wings should never have to "lobby" players to join the program...
"I didn't call any of our Swedish players to get them to call Alfie," said Holland. "Out of respect to Alfie, and out of respect to the Red Wings, my feeling is with a 40-year-old they've got to want to come to you.
The Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren brings us back to Alfredsson himself while noting that things are very different from #11 in Detroit, where Joe Louis Arena doesn't carry Alfredsson merchandise quite yet (and again, this is part of a much longer article that's very much so worth your time)...
[Niklas] Kronwall labels Alfredsson as one of the best Swedish players of all time, in the same company as Lidstrom, Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg. While Kronwall always knew of Alfredsson’s offensive talents, he has a new appreciation for his “all around game” and ability to read the play.
[Johan] Franzen, originally shocked when he heard Alfredsson had signed in Detroit as a free agent, figures a weight has been removed from the shoulders of the former Senators captain.
“I’ve always been a big fan,” Franzen said, casting his eyes at the media scrum surrounding Alfredsson Tuesday, in advance of the Senators arrival. “He can relax and focus on hockey. He doesn’t have to deal with that everyday. I think he’s having fun here. It’s a little different for him and he has a different role.”
Unquestionably, the biggest adjustment has been in the family situation, as Alfredsson, wife Bibbi, and their four sons — Hugo, Loui, Fenix and William — adapt to an entirely different living experience. When he’s asked if they’re settled, Alfredsson lets out a sigh of relief.
“We are … now,” he said, happy to have found a neighbourhood full of parks where he can toss a baseball or football around with his sons and where their dog, Bono, can run free. We stayed for about a month at a hotel before we moved into the house. It has been two or three weeks now in the house. It’s a really good area, it’s great school for the kids (all but William are in school), but it’s … different. It’s not Kanata, where we’ve lived for so long. I knew it was going to be a challenge in terms of everything that’s involved with a big move with a big family, but it has probably been more work and a bigger challenge than I expected. Not just about finding the right place, but just getting to schools, getting American cellphones, credit cards, there are so many things and I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone. I’ve learned a lot.”
There’s also an anonymity here that he didn’t enjoy in Ottawa. When he goes to a restaurant or a park or watches his kids play hockey, he’s often just another guy in the crowd, wearing a Tigers baseball cap like half the people in the city.
But I'll leave Alfredsson's revisiting of the circumstances of his departure on your own.
Finally--for now--the Ottawa Citizen's Warren leaves us with something of a non-sequitur:
So, are Daniel Alfredsson’s four boys now wearing Red Wings’ red and white colours everywhere they go? Well, not exactly.
“They wear everything,” said Alfredsson. “They wear (Senators) stuff and Pittsburgh and (New York) Rangers and Nashville and Boston. Wade (Redden) was in Boston and with the Rangers, there’s a Nashville jersey (because of Mike Fisher) and Columbus (current home of Nick Foligno). I don’t know if any of them have one team they follow. I know Loui, our second, his favourite team is whoever won the Stanley Cup last, because they’re the best. They all have Wings jerseys and when they go to games, they wear the Wings. But if they like the logo, they wear it”.
Any Maple Leafs stuff? “No,” said Alfredsson. “You have to draw the line somewhere.”
"It's more [weird] for him," said new captain Jason Spezza. "We're used to seeing one guy move on and play for a different team and play against teammates you've played with. It will be different because it's Alfie, but I think it will be harder for him playing against Ottawa because it's the only place he's ever played."
Senators coach Paul MacLean has great memories from his own time in Detroit, where he served as an assistant coach to Mike Babcock. But as far as he's concerned, this is just one more game on the schedule.
"We're just going there to play the Red Wings," said MacLean. "That's all my focus is on is we're playing the Red Wings. That's a big enough task in my book. They have lots of good players. Daniel is one of them so our focus is on the Red Wings and how they play as a team, not one guy."
Senators tough guy Chris Neil says it will be a little strange to see Alfredsson in a different jersey, but says he won't get any special treatment. If the opportunity to finish a check on Alfredsson arises, he won't think twice.
"At the end of the day he's just on another team," said Neil, who spent 11 seasons with Alfredsson. "It's not like he's not our friend, but you've got to go out and play hard against him. For us we want to get the two points and that's the bottom line. It's no different than playing other friends on other teams."
Again, Erik Karlsson feels a little more sentimental about Alfredsson:
"It's been very different," Karlsson said. "He's been here as long as I've been here and longer than that as well. It's just something that you were used to and someone you were used to having around all the time. It's different, but it's going well. I'm still a happy guy and even though I miss him we're still talking every once in a while so it's all good."
As for facing his former mentor, Karlsson doesn't anticipate it being as big a deal as many are making it out to be.
"It's going to be different in a way, but I think once the game starts it's not going to be on anyone's mind it's going to be like a regular game. Maybe if we see him before the game and after it's going to be a little bit weird, but once the puck drops I think it's going to be just like normal."
Update #2: The Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren's wagering that the Senators have "money on the line" in terms of beating Alfredsson's Wings, especially in terms of Chris Phillips, who played with Alfredsson from the 1997-98 season onward:
“It’s going to be fun, interesting, to see him on the other side in a different jersey, and I’m looking forward to it,” Phillips said.
It’s a game that is also certain to prompt some reward money to be pinned to locker-room bulletin boards since Alfredsson will want to beat his former teammates as much as they want to beat him. Phillips smiled when asked if he’d be putting up some cash. You can get in trouble for saying something like that out loud, he said.
“We’ll keep that between ourselves,” he said, “but, yeah, we would like to win that game as much as he would.”
One reason Alfredsson gave for signing with the Red Wings was that the 40-year-old winger thought he’d have a better chance of winning a Stanley Cup with that team before he retired. Asked if the Senators were out to spoil that dream, Phillips couldn’t resist a small shot.
“Well, we want to win the Cup, so, if we can go and do that this year, you’d almost feel bad for the guy for making what would end up being the wrong choice,” he said. “But that’s so far away right now. But that’s our goal: to go win the Stanley Cup.”
And oh yeah, hi, Bobby Ryan. Again:
Red Wings rerun for Ryan: Senators winger Bobby Ryan can’t believe his luck. He jumps to the Eastern Conference and the Detroit Red Wings jump there, too. Truth is, he has some great memories of the epic battles between Ryan’s former team, the Anaheim Ducks, and the Red Wings. Two Western Conference powerhouses.
“Detroit … we used to get them at the end of a 10-day road trip and you’re exhausted,” Ryan said Tuesday. “One of the things I was excited about was leaving them in the other conference, but they seem to follow me everywhere I go. They’re a good team, they’re fun to play against. They bring out the best in you.”
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.