The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/01/13 at 04:50 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings will face the Ottawa Senators today (5:30 PM EST, FSD Plus/TSN/RDS/1270 AM; the Wings are holding a "viewing party" at the Hard Rock Cafe today, and Alex Delvecchio will be there) hoping to snap a two-game losing streak against Ottawa (Detroit lost 6-1 to Ottawa on October 23rd and 4-2 on November 23rd, with both games having taken place at Joe Louis Arena) and hoping to continue push their winning streak to four games (the Wings defeated Buffalo 3-1 a week ago today, Boston 6-1 last Wednesday and the Islanders 5-0 on Friday)...
And given both Saturday morning's crop of "Daniel Alfredsson returns to Ottawa for the first time since leaving the team this past summer" articles and the massive media crush taking in Alfredsson and the Wings' practice on Saturday (5:30 PM start = no morning skate today), I've been trying to figure out how to frame this game from a Red Wings fan's perspective, because, to quote Marty McFly poorly, "This is some heavy shit, man."
My first reaction is to suggest that, possibility of avenging Jared Cowen's concussion-inducing but non-suspension-worthy elbow on Pavel Datsyuk (accidental or not accidental, with malice aforethought or remorse thereafter, it was negligent) aside...
All of this "stuff" that's happening has nothing to do with us: it's about Senators fans attempting to find closure after what was essentially a mash-up of Sergei Fedorov's acrimonious divorce from the Wings in 2003 with losing a player of Steve Yzerman's magnitude in the character and leadership department, and it's about Alfredsson and his family closing a major chapter of their lives, so let's let them have their "moment," let's stay out of their emotional business, and let's worry about what happens after the puck drops.
But that sells Alfredsson short, and from a casual Wings fan's perspective, that makes it sound like all Daniel Alfredsson is...Is a mercenary, which is kind of hard to suggest when someone signs with your team and buys a house to bring his wife and four kids with him instead of setting up shop in an apartment as a "commuter" player.
The vast majority of this "stuff" still isn't about the Red Wings. It is about closure for Senators fans and it is about Alfredsson and his family finding some closure after what really was the equivalent of Steve Yzerman leaving the Red Wings sans Stanley Cups with all the acrimony of the Fedorov divorce.
But some of it is also a framing of Alfredsson as a player, framing of his legacy as a person and a framing of his character as a person, and even on December 1st, many Wings fans still don't necessarily know who "Alfie" is or what he represents.
A significant amount of all this chit-chat and what feels like media overload to those of us who understood the magnitude of a 40-year-old who'd played for and captained one team for his entire career choosing to come to Detroit, regardless of the circumstances surrounding his departure from his previous employer...
Some Wings fans still don't know who exactly Daniel Alfredsson is, however, or why the fact that he chose to join the Detroit Red Wings is both so very important and so very special.
He chose us" our city, our metropolitan area, and our team, because he wanted to play here. He brought his family with him because he chose to live here, with a slightly lower profile in Birmingham, and one of his four sons is playing for Little Caesars' program.
Alfredsson's spent the past couple of months settling in Metro Detroit and beginning to write a new chapter of his career. He's registered 6 goals, 13 assists and 19 points over the course of only 21 games played thus far, and the Wings insist that his presence as both a still-potent offensive player (who skates like he's 35), power play contributor and especially as a leader on the bench and in the locker room have allowed Alfredsson to fit perfectly with his new team.
After today's events, it's official, if only on a six-month-delayed basis: Daniel Alfredsson is a Red Wing now, and he, his wife and his four sons get to close a chapter of their lives today and officially become members of the opposition--the Red Wings--and if they didn't feel like Metro Detroiters before, here's hoping that they feel a little less strange when they go back home to Birmingham this evening.
He's one of "our guys," he's playing for "our team," and I hope all of the articles I've been trudging through to bring to you and today's video tribute illustrate why it is so very special that he's going to finish his career as a Detroit Red Wing, possibly after another year or two of hockey, and hopefully with a Cup ring in tow.
That's a crapton of rhetoric, so I'm going to hand it over to Alfredsson himself, mostly from Saturday's practice post.
The Ottawa Citizen posted a YouTube clip of Alfredsson's practice scrum...
The CBC Ottawa posted a longer clip of Alfredsson's presser (and Mike Babcock's comments about Alfredsson being in the starting lineup are telling):
The Ottawa Citizen's James Gordon posted an even longer clip of what turned out to be a FIFTEEN-MINUTE scrum, and for convenience's sake I've posted it on SoundCloud...
Sportsnet also posted a feature video that frames Alfredsson's return in a little more detail thanks to Shawn McKenzie (oh hey, he scored 2 goals and had an assist on Friday, game 1,200) and the comments of Alfredsson, his former teammates and his current coach...
And while I can't embed them, TSN posted both a 1:56 practice clip which includes comments from Jason Spezza, Joe Corvo and Erik Karlsson, and holy shit, TSN's Bob McKenzie, James Duthie, Paul Maurice and Mike Johnson are all in Ottawa ahead of today's broadcast.
Alfredsson did bring his kids to practice, and the media noticed:
Now we get to delve into an abundance of Alfredsson press for the sake of thoroughness, if not "getting to know him" quips and quotes, because the honest-to-Pete truth is that the Wings' media corps has given Alfredsson such a wide berth that I'm not sure fans like you and me really know his personality all that well yet.
The Ottawa Citizen posted both a photo gallery of Alfredsson practicing and a slate of questions posited by the press, as noted by the Citizen's James Gordon, and, amongst Alfredsson's comments were the following...
Alfredsson admitted Ottawa still feels like home, and he didn’t rule out returning to live here one day. Asked if Sunday’s game would be the closing of a chapter of sorts, he said he wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know if I look at it that way,” he said after skating with his new teammates. “I think we were here for so long and we have so many roots here that I don’t know if it’s a closed chapter or if the book’s going to continue, and where and what’s going to happen, but I guess this is another chapter that I’ll go through.”
Nor did he rule out playing here again.
“Like I said, I don’t know,” the 40-year-old winger explained. “I’ll play this year and see how I feel, how I fit with the team and where they are and I guess you evaluate all those things. So I’m just playing this year and whatever decisions that come will come later.”
For now, he said he’s happy in Detroit.
“The city is great, there’s no question. We love the area where we live, the people of Detroit, I find very similar to here, they’re hard-working people, they’re very upbeat and positive and helpful, so that’s been great to see. Being here, I know Ottawa’s a great city to raise a family and coming to Detroit, I didn’t know what to expect and … it’s been great, no problems there.”
On what the game means to his family: “This is home to the kids, there’s no question. They’ve been here since Tuesday and seen a lot of friends and family and had a great time, so they’re really looking forward to it. They’re down here at practice today, they feel at home here in this rink so like I said, same things are going to go through my head tomorrow — a lot of good memories, a lot of good things that happened here, it’ll be a special game.
On whether he’s thought about retirement after this season: “It’s too early. It’s all health and mentally, how you feel, and I’m having fun right now, enjoying it, and that’s the biggest thing.”
The Ottawa Sun went as "all in" as you might expect, with the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch going so far as to ask Wayne Gretzky--who played the final Canadian-played game of his NHL career in Ottawa--about #99's return to Edmonton as a member of the Kings:
The Great One, now 52, returned to Edmonton on Oct. 18, 1988 with the Los Angeles Kings to face the Oilers for the first time since a controversial summer trade sent him to Hollywood. The emotions and the feelings of that night he’ll never forget.
“It’s going to be a tough day for (Alfredsson), very emotional,” Gretzky told the Sun in a 1-on-1 interview late Friday from his St. Louis home. “From his point of view, I’m sure he’s excited in a lot of ways and in other ways he’s probably nervous. He played a lot of years there, the fans were really good to him, the organization was great to him and his family. I’m sure he feels the same way: That he played as hard as he could for the organization. It’s one of those scenarios where he’s probably nervous now. I’m sure the fans are going to treat him great and down the road, for what he’s meant to the organization, somehow, someway they’ll find their way back together again.”
Gretzky wasn’t sure what to expect the first time he went back to Edmonton and had two assists in an 8-6 loss. The response was classy with a four-minute standing ovation. This breakup in Ottawa with Alfredsson got ugly, with words exchanged.
“It’s human nature to be nervous but I don’t think he should be concerned,” said Gretzky. “People in Ottawa are great hockey fans, they have a great deal of respect and I’m sure they’re going to give him the respect that he deserves. The other side of it is they’re going to cheer for their (team). He’s not a member of their team anymore. Fans are good at separating that. They’ll give him his respect and understand that they are there to cheer for the Senators. Those kinds of partings are always hard, especially when a guy has been the face or the organization and the great things he’s done for the community, not only on the ice but off the ice.”
Gretzky also duly noted that leaving a team when you're 40 and leaving at 28 are two very different sets of circumstances:
“I was younger. He’s probably a lot more mature in that way. I was 28, he’s 40 and he’s got a lot more experience. He’s going to be fine,” said Gretzky.
“Being a professional athlete, everybody gets emotional,” said Gretzky. “It’s a very emotional business and sometimes you forget athletes are human, the organization is human and emotions run high. I would guarantee that Alfie has a great deal of respect for Bryan Murray and his staff and Bryan Murray has a great deal of respect for what Alfie did for their organization. They should all embrace it Sunday and enjoy the game.”
The Sun also surveyed fans as to what their reactions will be (muted, mostly), Aedan Helmer listed Alfredsson's "greatest moments as a Senator," and given that he's a professional trash-talker when it comes to Detroit and the Red Wings, the Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan did something that drives me nuts--he told a great story in framing Alfredsson's return in his own way, because, as it turns out, Brennan's an excellent "spirit of the thing" scribe...
Standing on a small block reserved for those who draw the largest scrums, Alfredsson was almost through the interviews when somebody in the shadows either accidentally or not hit the “hands free” option on their iPhone.
Suddenly, we all heard Siri, the “intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator” on Apple products, blurt out an interruption. “Sorry, I didn’t get that,” she said.
Without missing a beat, Alfredsson smiled wide and quipped: “Who is God?”, then added with a wink: “Just kidding.”
Not all that long ago, Siris in Ottawa replied “Daniel Alfredsson” when asked that question.
But then he got into the gossipy part of events, and concluded the "news" portion of his column by throwing his full support behind the following idea:
[T]he question that generated the most interesting response came from French broadcaster Nick St. Pierre.
“If you do decide to play beyond this season, can you see coming back and finishing your career here?” wondered St. Pierre.
“I don’t know,” said Alfredsson. “I’ll play this year and see how I feel, how I fit with the (Wings) team and where they are. I guess you evaluate all those things and make a decision from there. I’m just playing this year and whatever decisions will come will come later.”
That conversation was actually set up by a query from Lisa Burke-Wallace of the Canadian Press, who asked Alfredsson if Sunday’s game “closes a chapter” on his career as a Senator.
‘I don’t know if I look at it that way,” he said. “We were here for so long, we have so many roots here, I don’t know if it’s a closed chapter or if the book is going to continue or where and what’s going to happen. It’s another chapter I’ll go through and I hope it will be a great reception. I’m expecting them to cheer in Ottawa (for the Senators) as well, and I’ll do everything I can to keep them quiet.”
The Canadian Press's Wallace's story does add more to the equation--by speaking with Alfredsson's former teammates and coach...
"I think it will finally put a close to it," said Senators coach Paul MacLean. "We've moved on and I know Daniel's moved on. This gives fans an opportunity to move on and I think it will be good for everybody."
Regardless of what led to Alfredsson's decision, his former teammates believe he absolutely deserves to be recognized and honoured for his contributions to both the team and the community.
"There's always emotion when there's change and change in pro sports is sometimes inevitable and sometimes it isn't," said Senators captain Jason Spezza. "I think it's important that they recognize him for what he's done and not just for him leaving. I think it's a good move by the team to recognize him. I think it's the right thing to do and something he deserves."
Alfredsson played a franchise-leading 1,178 regular season games, plus playoffs and picked up 1,108 points along the way. He volunteered countless hours to various charities and was the face of the Senators.
"I fully expect him to get huge applause as he deserves that," said Ottawa's Chris Phillips. "We'll welcome that time for the fans to do that, but at the same time we've got to go out and play the game."
And the players continued while speaking to NHL.com's Steve Farrell...
"He was well-loved in this city, and that's the type of person he is," [Chris] Neil said. "I'm sure the Detroit players will tell you the same thing. A great team guy and he fits in well, and [he'll] do anything for your teammates. He's one of the hardest-working guys on the ice, game in and game out, and that's what he was for all those years. Ottawa was lucky to have a guy like that for so many years, to be able to watch him play and produce like he did."
Senators defenseman Chris Phillips counted Alfredsson, who won the 1995-96 Calder Trophy, as a teammate for his entire career until this season.
"There's a big story out there about facing him, and when there's so much hoopla like that, you want to just come out on top," Phillips said. "You don't really need any more incentive or motivation than that, and that's not stuff that really we talk about, but at the same time, he wants to beat us as bad as we want to beat him. That's the nature of the sport."
Ottawa came out on top in the first two games with its new Atlantic Division foe, including a 6-1 win in Detroit on Oct. 26 and a 4-2 win last Saturday, also at Joe Louis Arena. Alfredsson missed that game with a groin injury.
"He was a quiet leader, and he was always very welcoming to new guys coming into the room, and just always carried himself with a measure of class," said Jason Spezza, who succeeded Alfredsson as captain.
Dec. 1 is a date that has been circled on calendars since the summer. The Senators understand the game's significance.
"We all know it's there, and we all know what to expect, and I don't think we have to walk around and talk about it to understand the meaning of it," said defenseman Erik Karlsson, a fellow Swede who was mentored by Alfredsson. "Obviously, it's going to be emotional when the video shows, but when the puck drops, I think it's going to just translate into any other game, and we're going to play hard and we're not going to focus on the white No. 11."
And Farrell noted that Wings coach Mike Babcock will place Alfredsson in the starting lineup for a reason:
"One of the things that he gets to do here [Sunday] is say thanks, and he's done that already anyway, but anybody who's played almost 1,200 games in your organization has done a lot for your city," Babcock said. "And the kind of man he is off the ice, so it's his opportunity to kind of take a bow that way, and the people's opportunity to express what they've got to say, too, and they pay their money, so they get to do whatever they want, but respect is a real important factor in life."
The Ottawa Sun's Garrioch noted the Senators' current captain's take on the tribute as well as his team's tasks at hand...
"We're aware of the fact it is Alf's homecoming and there's going to be a lot of attention around it," said captain Jason Spezza. "They're playing well, he's playing well and these are all things that we're aware of. It doesn't change how we're going to approach the game, but we do know they're going to come out with a little extra jump for him and I'm sure he's going to want to have a good night as well."
Spezza said he has no problems with the pre-game video.
"It is the right thing to do. You have to recognize what he's done with the organization," said Spezza. "He put a lot of good years in here, did a lot of great things for this team.I hope he gets a good reception and then it allows the game to start and us to just play the game. Alfie deserves the moment to get respected."
And the Ottawa Sun's Brennan takes all the warm fuzzies and throws cold water on 'em by asking defenseman Zack Smith whether the Senators might literally "let their emotions out" on their former teammate--Ah, here are those Senators Wings fans have grown to love to hate so very readily!
"It's a good opportunity for guys to maybe let a bit out on him when you couldn't before, when he was on your team," Smith said Saturday when asked if he'd ever "hold up" when presented an opportunity to finish a check on his friend. "He's very competitive, especially for his age, and playing (against him) in practices, he's always pretty frustrating, because he's so skilled and he can just pick your pocket whenever he wants. So I'm looking forward to playing him.
"I'm not going to speak for the rest of the guys but I know I'll be going harder, if anything, because he's always been such a challenge," added Smith. "Here's a guy you kind of looked up to, and you always competed hard against, because he'd embarrass you otherwise. I wasn't going to put him on his ass at practice ... and I'm not saying that I could or will (Sunday). But sometimes he used moves and kind of went around you and frustrated you enough to make you want to. I wouldn't hold up on him."
Smith is full of respect for Alfredsson and expects fans in Ottawa will show they are, too.
"For us, we've played him (once in Detroit) already. For a lot of other people, it'll be cool for them to see Alfredsson back in this building, even if it's in a different jersey," said Smith. "We've almost been looking forward to it. It will be nice to see the welcome he gets."
"I think (fans) will be great. He's been the face and the heart of the team for a lot of years. I wouldn't expect anything less than a great reception from all the fans. It was tough at the time (he left) but people do things for different reasons, and sometimes it's not made public. It will be nice to see him back and I think the fans will enjoy it too."
The Senators insisted to Garrioch that, once the puck drops, anyway, the game should have little to nothing to do with Daniel Alfredsson's presence and everything to do with a 10-12-and-4 team trying to rebound from a 5-2 loss to Vancouver this past Wednesday:
“For us, the focus is on the game, not on (Alfredsson),” said captain Jason Spezza. “It’s an important game for us in the standings, it’s an important game after losing one and we’re trying to get back on track here a bit.”
MacLean said he is hopeful the Senators will continue to react well to playing the Wings. The club has two victories in Detroit this season.
“The big focus is us,” said MacLean. “We have to do what we have to do and we know that we have a difficult opponent no matter what’s on the line or who is in the lineup. We know they’re a good team. They are going to give us all we can handle. We know if we don’t come out and play, it could get ugly.”
The Senators continued while speaking with the Ottawa Citizen's Gordon...
"The big focus is us,” MacLean said. “We have to do what we have to do, we know we have a difficult opponent no matter what’s on the line or who’s in their lineup, we know that they’re a good team. They played well against Long Island the other night, gave them all they can handle, they’re gonna give us all we can handle and we’ll just have to be focused on playing the game.”
The Wings beat the Islanders 5-0 Friday night, with Alfredsson scoring twice.
Asked why his team seems to play better against some of the NHL’s top-tier teams, MacLean suggested fear was a factor.
“If you don’t come out and play, it could get ugly … maybe it’s as simple as that,” he said. “But we try to prepare our team for every opponent the same way, to make sure we have that emotion and play hard in every game. We haven’t got that every game this year … our next chance is tomorrow.”
And OttawaSenators.com's Chris Lund also took note of MacLean's off-day comments:
On tomorrow's goaltender: I haven't had a chance to talk to them yet — I have, but I haven't had a chance to talk to them yet. I was busy between now and then.
On the team's success in emotional games as a good sign: I'm sleeping on that, but I also know the team that we're playing, they don't like getting beat and they're going to be very prepared for the game tomorrow. It's going to be an emotional game for them as well with Daniel in it. Historically this team, they don't take getting beat very well so I expect it to be a very difficult game.
On the team playing well against elite teams: You know if you don't play, if you don't come out and play it could get ugly. Maybe it's as simple as that. We try to prepare our team for every opponent the same way and to make sure we have that emotion and play hard in every game. We haven't got that in every game this year but our next chance is tomorrow…Playing the Red Wings is different than playing Edmonton, playing Boston is different than playing Columbus because of who they are. The opponent, we could be guilty of not having enough respect for all of our opponents and having maybe too much for the elite teams.
On what stands out from games vs. Detroit this year: Other than the score? I liked the score is what I liked the most. We didn't play as much in our own zone, we were able to get out of our zone. Right now when we have trouble and issues is when we play too much in our own end, like every team does.
On what has gotten them out of the zone against Detroit: I'm not sure, did we execute better, did they not, I don't know. I'm not saying.
Clarke MacArthur-Kyle Turris-Bobby Ryan
Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Mika Zibanejad
Cory Conacher-Zack Smith-Chris Neil
Colin Greening-Derek Grant-Erik Condra
Marc Methot-Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips-Joe Corvo
Jared Cowen-Patrick Wiercioch
Mark Borowicki-Eric Gryba
Robin Lehner-Craig Anderson
Brennan issues a slate of "Five Keys" to the game, too:
EXTRA FUEL: Not only will the boys from Motor City want to make this a successful return to Ottawa for Alfredsson, but there is a revenge factor to consider. If the Red Wings hadn’t dropped two at home to the Senators earlier this season, they would have arrived in Ottawa as the first place team in the conference.
TAKING ADVANTAGE The Senators’ power play has scored in five of the last seven games, including a 2-for-8 performance in Detroit last weekend. That’s no small feat, as the Red Wings have the league’s third best shorthanded numbers. Since the Ottawa game, Detroit has killed off 6-of-6 penalties.
EBBS AND FLOWS: The Senators and the Nashville Predators are the only teams to beat the Red Wings in regulation time in their last 11 games. The Senators have lost their last three home games.
BREAK IT OPEN: The Red Wings like to keep things close. In one-goal games this season, they have a 7-0-7 record. Meanwhile, the Senators are 3-4-4 in games decided by one goal.
BETWEEN THE PIPES: While the Senators are expected to start Robin Lehner, both he and Craig Anderson have had success against the Wings this season. The Detroit tandem, on the other hand, has had troubles with Ottawa. Howard, the No. 1 man, has a .811 save percentage and 5.66 GAA versus the Senators.
That's why Jonas Gustavsson will start opposite Lehner today.
NHL.com sets up this afternoon/evening's game as follows...
Season series: This is the third of four games between the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators; the Senators won twice in Detroit by a combined score of 10-3. Bobby Ryan had three goals and an assist in those games.
Red Wings [team scope]:The Red Wings are 5-1-1 in their past seven road games and 8-3-1 after Alfredsson and Darren Helm each scored twice in the win Friday. Since a seven-game winless streak, Detroit is 4-1-0, including 14 goals in its past three games.
"I think we're finding ways to put the puck in the net. I don't know if we are doing things a whole lot different from what we were doing when we kept on losing those games in OT and shootout, just the confidence of the puck going in is with us right now," Helm said.
Senators[team scope]: Ottawa had a 1-0 lead before the Vancouver Canucks scored four second-period goals in less than nine minutes en route to a 5-2 win. It was the Senators' third straight loss at home, and they have not won consecutive games in three weeks.
The Senators have 24 points, nine behind the Red Wings in the Atlantic Division.
Who's hot: Helm has five goals in five games for the Red Wings. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall has a five-game scoring streak (two goals, five assists), and Alfredsson has three goals and two assists in his past three games. ... Ryan has three goals in four games for the Senators.
Injury report: Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser (shoulder) is on injured reserve. Forwards Todd Bertuzzi (shoulder) and Pavel Datsyuk (head) missed the game Friday. ... The Senators enter the game with a healthy lineup.
And the AP/Stats LLC's preview adds what you might expect to the mix:
With three straight wins by a combined score of 14-2, the Detroit Red Wings are playing possibly their best hockey of the season. If it's going to continue Sunday in Ottawa, they're going to have to figure out the lowly Senators, who have handed the Red Wings two losses in the past six weeks by a combined 10-3 score.
Detroit (13-7-7) has strung together back-to-back five-goal wins. Friday's 5-0 road victory over the New York Islanders featured two-goal performances by Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson.
[Senators coach Paul] MacLean is more concerned about his current players, with Ottawa (10-12-4) having lost five of seven while allowing 28 goals. The Senators surrendered four straight second-period goals in Thursday's 5-2 loss to Vancouver.
"We don't play hard enough on the forecheck," MacLean said. "We don't play hard enough coming back. We don't play hard enough defensively. Our goaltenders aren't playing hard enough. We're just not playing hard enough for long enough to have an opportunity to win."
Craig Anderson was replaced midway through the second period after allowing four goals for the fourth straight game. He has a 4.36 GAA in his last nine starts, though he did win at Detroit in October with 31 saves. Robin Lehner started the more recent matchup, stopping 34 shots, as part of an eight-game stretch during which he's 4-2-1 with a 2.14 GAA.
All three of Detroit's goals in those games came on the power play against a Senators' penalty-killing unit which has been terrible. Ottawa has allowed 13 power-play goals in its opponents' last 35 chances.
Ottawa left wing Bobby Ryan has three goals and an assist against the Red Wings this season.
We'll start the game-pertinent part of this entry by noting something uttered by the "enemy": the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa found that Chris Neil had something of a warning for the Red Wings if they're expecting Ottawa to let up on their physical play given the hubbub surrounding today's game:
“We’ve got a lot of big bodies,” said Neil, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 215-pounds and is one of the biggest, toughest Senators. “So it doesn’t matter if we’re playing Detroit, Boston or whomever. We want to be physical. We want to be hard on the puck. If we’re not hard on the puck, we’re an easier team to beat. So, whenever we’re in hard on the forecheck, finishing checks, it makes it tough for the other team. And that’s what we want to do.”
The first game against the Senators, the first time Daniel Alfredsson faced his team of 17 years, the Wings played one of their worst games of the season, suffering their first loss, 6-1.
“You know, we’ve got to play better,” the Red Wings’ captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I don’t think we did enough in those two games. The second one was a little bit better than the first one, obviously, but we still have a lot to prove.”
They have an opportunity to do so while they are hot. The Wings suddenly have won four of five, and the last two by a combined score of 11-1. Coach Mike Babcock said they are excited about the opportunity to play a big, emotional game on the road, while they are playing well — winning four of five.
“And, I mean, we can’t do any worse than we have,” Babcock said, of the two previous.
Krupa also took note of Darren Helm's scoring exploits of late...
In just 13 games since returning from a long recovery froma back injury that limited him to two games since April, 2012, Darren Helm has 18.4 percent of his career goals — seven of 38.
“Helmer’s never been a big scorer for us,” Babcock said after the 5-0 victory over the Islanders Friday. “He’s always been a dominant player for us. And so, we’ll take both. Obviously, confidence grows as you play in the league and trust yourself with what you can do more.”
And while Krupa states that Justin Abdelkader was making the following comment about #43, the Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan thought that Abdelkader was speaking about his other linemate, and this is one of those, "Well, what did the sound recorder really tell you?" remarks that seems to have gotten lost in digital translation:
Justin Abdelkader would not be surprised if his linemate’s sense of timing emerges again Sunday. “Maybe,” he said when asked if Alfredsson, his linemate, would light the lamp against his old team. “Lately, you almost expect him to score. He’s just playing really well. It’s amazing. Hope I can still get around (at age 40) like he is.”
Also of note from Brennan:
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock figures his team has a lot of incentive for this one, as well. “I don’t think we can be any worse than we’ve been our (first two meetings),” said Babcock. “First game we were awful, their power play is a juggernaut against us. We took 13 minutes in penalties the last game in the third period just to make sure we didn’t win. We can’t be any worse, I don’t think. So I’m pretty excited about the opportunity. We’re bound to play good against them one of these times.”
The Red Wings told MLive's Ansar Khan that they plan on giving Alfredsson a result to remember instead of another game against Ottawa to forget...
“We want to do everything we can to help him have a good homecoming,’’ linemate Justin Abdelkader said. “It’ll be a fun night. The crowd will be into it.’’
Said Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg: “Obviously, it’s a big night for him. For us it’s big; we’re looking forward to it.’’
Alfredsson is coming off perhaps his best game as a Red Wing on Friday, when he scored two goals and added an assist in a 5-0 victory at the New York Islanders. He has 19 points, including six goals, in 22 games.
“I think I’m playing pretty good,’’ Alfredsson said. “I missed a week (Nov. 15-23) with a groin injury but feel 100 percent. I got a little bit more energy. I’m playing with two really hot players in (Darren) Helm and Abdelkader; they made life easier for me.’’
Babcock said Alfredsson’s impact extends beyond games.
“In our room, at practice, with the coaches, just the kind of man he is makes you a better team,’’ Babcock said. “When you add to your core leadership of Zetterberg, (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Niklas) Kronwall with an every-dayer like Alfredsson, who does things right, it makes you a better team.’’
Alfredsson, who signed a one-year, $5.5 million free-agent contract on July 5, after his relationship with the Senators soured fast, said it’s too soon to decide whether he will play next season.
“It’s all health and mentally how you feel,’’ he said. “I’m having fun right now. If you feel you have energy coming to the rink that’s the biggest thing. … I will see how I feel and how I fit with the team and where they are.’’
And Alfredsson and Babcock addressed the game itself as well as its surrounding narrative while speaking with the Free Press's George Sipple:
“I think the biggest thing I look forward to coming back is seeing friends,” he said before a throng of media after practice Saturday for today’s game at the Canadian Tire Centre. “The game is what it’s going to be. It’s a division rival. And they’ve handed it to us pretty good two times. Obviously, coming back to Ottawa, playing in the first game, I’m sure it will be emotional. I’m not sure how I will react.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock said Alfredsson would “for sure” start the game. That mean he’ll be out for the anthems as well as the video tribute the Senators are planning for Alfredsson, who was the face of the franchise for 17 seasons.
“It’s hard to see how it’s going to be until after,” said Alfredsson, who admitted it will probably one of the most emotional games he’ll play. “So many memories for me in this building. Just coming here today, driving out towards the rink, it feels like normal. And then you realize I’m on the other team now.”
Alfredsson said Ottawa is home to his children. “They’ve been here since Tuesday and seen a lot of friends and family and had a great time,” he said. “They’re down here at practice today and they feel at home here.”
Babcock half-joked that the Wings couldn’t play any worse than they have already against the Senators.
“I’m pretty excited about the opportunity,” Babcock said. “We’re bound to play good at least one of these times. No, we’re looking forward to playing. Let’s fix this. We’ve been poor against them, and I’m not trying to take anything away from them.”
Alfredsson also pointed out that this isn't the first occasion in which a popular player's come back to Ottawa, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted...
“We always see guys that were with us before, (Marian) Hossa and Wade (Redden), we came down to see them after games and it was weird seeing them on the other side, and all the sudden I’m there as well,” Alfredsson said. “It’s a little different but I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow but I’m looking forward to getting on the ice.”
And as Gotenburgs Posten's Goran Sundberg's Swedish-language article doesn't add anything to the mix that you or I haven't already seen, read, or heard, I might as well let the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa take us out of what has turned out to be more of a "donut story" than a "frame story," with Alfredsson's return basically serving as the meaty surroundings of a barely-there donut hole of a game preview...
So let's let Krupa offer his "spirit of the thing" take to the equation:
Around town Saturday, they were still talking about “all Alfie did for Ottawa.” And beyond putting the Canadian capital back on the map in the NHL after five decades, he contributed abundantly in time and money to mental health causes and community concerns.
In the tarnished world of sport, that men like Daniel Alfredsson still exist is striking. He is an example of a life well lived, and the sort of man mothers and fathers want their boys to grow up to be.
“In our room, at practice, with the coaches, just the kind of man he is makes you a better team,” said Mike Babcock, coach of the Red Wings, who said he most certainly will have Alfredsson on the ice for the two national anthems and the start of the game.
In between, the Senators have prepared a brief video, likely a retrospective of 17 special years in the rink in Ottawa and around town. What is Alfredsson anticipating?
“I don’t know, I think the biggest thing I looked forward to coming back was probably seeing friends and meeting people,” he said. "The game is what it’s going to be. It’s a divisional rival, and they’ve handed it to us pretty good two times. Obviously, coming back here to Ottawa and playing for the first time is considerably emotional. I’m not sure how I will react, but I think it will be a special night.
Is he concerned about what the fans will do?
“Not really. I think I am anxious to play the game. What is going to happen, will happen. It’s a very different situation from anything I’ve gone through before. So, I don’t know what to expect or what’s going to happen. There’s so many memories for me, in this building.”
There will be at least one more from Sunday. He will remember at least most of them standing and cheering, even after he felt he had to leave.
There are no notebooks or any other stories of Red Wings-related note save one, and it's one that I would suggest is not quite dead yet.
As far as I am concerned, and as far as my hockey "gut" is concerned, this upcoming summer's free agent class is likely to thin out quickly, especially on defense--as usual--and whiile the cap will probably return to at or around last season's $70-million mark, most of the raises the Wings will give to their own players and hard decisions they've got to make will constitute the bulk of their spending.
As such, I believe that the Wings are going to seriously, seriously consider attempting to add a top-four defenseman at or around the trade deadline, when they can maximize the salary they can add to the mix.
Per Capgeek, Alfredsson (and keep in mind that his
$3 $2 million in bonuses will be applied to the 13-14 cap), Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, Kyle Quincey and Jonas Gustavsson will be free agents, with maybe three of six likely to return;
Danny DeKeyser and Tomas Tatar will need to be re-signed as restricted free agents;
Jonathan Ericsson's cap hit will go up from $3.25 million to $4.25 million;
And, as the Production Line's Michael Petrella noted, players like Mitch Callahan, Landon Ferraro, Riley Sheahan and Adam Almquist will all run out of waiver-exempt status, so the Wings have some hard decisions to make regarding "the youth movement" and/or cashing in on some of the secondary prospects who might not be in the team's long-term plans.
The Canucks had opportunities to move Alex Edler before his no-trade clause went live in July. A deal to the Detroit Red Wings was considered, and close enough, but was snuffed when the asking price was too rich for Ken Holland.
The Canucks wanted four pieces in return, one of which was a first-round draft pick. But the Wings weren’t even sure about giving up three, so considering four was a non-starter, killing the deal.
After that went down, everyone knew getting the most out of Edler was going to be Tortorella’s biggest challenge. The other was Kassian, but people from NY tried to warn everyone in Van, there was no way Torts had the patience to sit through the follies of youth.
Boy, they were right. The rest of us were duped.
I guess what is most frustrating for Torts is that he was making headway with Edler before the suspension. Even though Edler said he wasn’t going to let it change him, maybe it did just a little and that’s all that’s needed for Edler to dip into some bad habits. Well, that and playing alongside Jason Garrison.
If the Canucks aren't happy with Edler, who's posted 3 goals, 6 assists and 9 points and is an ugly -14 over the course of 25 games played for Vancouver--and whose $5 million flat cap hit belies equal parts real-world salaries of $4.25 million and signing bonuses of $4.25 million per season this year and then a $6 million salary and $6 million signing bonus for the next three years...
The 27-year-old Edler is the player Hakan Andersson and the Wings wanted to pick in 2004, but the Canucks saw him and plucked him away just a few picks before the Wings picked someone no one else had seen in Johan Franzen.
Grabbing Edler might be more expensive than taking a shot at Buffalo's Christian Ehrhoff, whose $4 million cap hit belies similar half-salary-half-bonus numbers that are twice his cap hit, but the Wings wouldn't have to worry about their return playing in the same division, and the Canucks do have some cap space.
Expect this little ditty to warm back up over the next couple of months, at least in the rumor mill, and this is one time where I'd suggest that, given the Wings' familiarity with the player, given the hard decisions they have to make about prospects who aren't necessarily superstars in the making and given the fact that the Wings do indeed need a top-four defenseman, it is at least logically and rationally possible that opposite-conference teams might consider renewing their talks.
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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.