THE NHL’S 2015 CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

TEN THINGS GMS, PLAYERS AND FANS FROM THE NHL SHOULD BE WISHING FOR THIS CHRISTMAS

(Originally posted on Hautnews.com on December 24th, 2015)

So here we are on Christmas Eve, and while everyone’s asked jolly old St. Nick for something this year, here are ten suggestions that should appear under some NHL Christmas trees tomorrow morning. If you’re reading this Santa, you might want to take a few of these to heart and hopefully some enterprising GMs and hockey execs will leave out some extra cookies and milk for you.

  1. A hobby for the idiots from Las Vegas who came after me on Twitter. Earlier this year I wrote a story on why the NHL shouldn’t put a franchise in Sin City (you’ll notice the absence of any other major sports league teams as well) and before I knew it I found myself in the crosshairs of some angry Las Vegas fans on Twitter, including the guy who ran the bid’s Twitter account. They apparently had nothing better to do with their time on a summer Saturday evening, so if you could Santa, maybe leave a hobby or two in their stocking. Possibly crochet or Sudoku. Or maybe Crazy 8s because I hear playing cards is a big thing in Vegas. And speaking of Twitter . . .
  1. Some exploding coal for some toxic Chicago Blackhawks fans. When Chicago Blackhawks superstar (and renowned party animal) Patrick Kane was being investigated for allegations of rape during the summer, some Blackhawk fans not only decided that he was innocent, but that anyone in the media who didn’t immediately begin singing songs of his innocence deserved threats. CBSChicago.com reporter (and Sports 670 update anchor) Julie DiCaro actually had to stay home from work after getting threatening Tweets from some Blackhawk fans. Common sense and reason doesn’t enter into the equation with animals like this Big Red, so maybe some hand grenades disguised like coal could get the job done.
  1. Some luck for my fantasy hockey team. I don’t know what it is Santa, but this year my players have been dropping like flies. Not minor injuries mind you, but the kind that sidelines players for weeks and even months at a time. Even the players I’ve drafted to replace my injured superstars have been getting themselves injured. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if some of their legs started falling off. I don’t know how you’d wrap it Big Man, but how about some fantasy health?
  1. A break for Buffalo Sabre fans. Being a Sabre fan these past few years has been a pretty tall order. The team finished dead last in both 2014 and 2015 but they were denied the first overall pick both years (losing out on Connor McDavid last June was especially painful given how Sabre management did everything in its power to finish last). But despite all that, this year was supposed to offer hope for beleaguered Sabres fans. Not a playoff spot mind you, but enough tangible improvement to warrant patient loyalty. Instead, Sabres fans have been treated to a buffet of injury and misfortune. Robin Lehtner, who was supposed to be their goaltender moving forward, has yet to start a game because of injury and Evander Kane, who was supposed to light it up riding shotgun for generational talent Jack Eichel, missed a month with a leg injury (I know, he was on my fantasy team). And speaking of Eichel, while 2015’s second overall pick has been posting pretty good numbers, he isn’t yet in the Calder Trophy conversation, another potential sore point for long suffering Sabres fans.
  1. A do-over for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus lost over 500 man games to injury last season (no other team came close) and even though their non-stop parade of injuries cost them a playoff berth, when the team was healthy it looked mighty fine, ending the season by winning thirteen of its final sixteen games. Adding rising young power forward Brandon Saad over the summer was the icing on the cake and a playoff berth seemed a foregone conclusion for a lot of pundits. No one knows exactly what happened in Ohio but wow did this team fall of the rails at light speed. Mired at the bottom of the standings again with a playoff spot looking like an impossible long shot, Columbus is now stuck with the walking talking temper tantrum known as John Tortorella as it’s coach and the team seems on the verge of dealing away superstar and franchise player Ryan Johansen (one of only two Blue Jackets not to miss any time to injury last season). It’s pretty safe to say Big Red that this was hardly how the Blue Jackets or their fans expected this season to go.
  1. Last year Santa I asked you for some Divine Intervention to save my Edmonton Oilers from themselves. Primarily from horrible management and deliberately blind ownership. Boy did you come through. When we won the right to draft Connor McDavid last April, it set off a chain of events that all fell into place like dominoes from Heaven. Within forty-eight hours our President and General Manager (both the worst in the League) had been demoted and our head coaching position vacated. Over the next few months the proven and competent leadership that replaced them systematically filled the open positions with established names and then went about transforming the roster. But now Santa, I need to ask another monumental favour for my team.

Do you think you could lift the curse that seems to be hanging over this franchise? We     have yet to see what this squad can do since the roster has never been healthy. Jordan Eberle blew his shoulder in training camp, missing the first month of the season. Justin Schultz injured his back just before Halloween, sidelining him a month. The worst has got to be Connor McDavid, the saviour and teenage phenom who was just beginning to bust out after a slow start and dominate games the way few eighteen year olds before him had, when a pair of no talent Philadelphia pylons on skates dragged him into the boards, breaking his left collarbone and putting him on the shelf for several months. And now Oscar Klefbom, arguably our top blue liner, is out an undetermined amount of time after a broken finger somehow became a staff infection in his leg. Perhaps nothing sums up how snake bitten this season has been as much as Nail Yakupov. Finally having a good year (playing alongside McDavid), the embattled Yak has been out for the past few weeks (and will be out a few more) since being dragged down by a falling linesman. Yak sprained his ankle in the fall and will miss approximately a month with the biggest freak injury anyone has ever heard of. But don’t worry Santa, the ref was OK.

  1. A milk carton for the Pittsburgh Penguins offence and the entire Anaheim Ducks organization, since both seem to be missing. When the Penguins stunned the hockey world by acquiring sniper Phil Kessel from the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs last July, adding him to the likes of Sydney Crosby, Evengi Malkin and Kris Letang, everyone thought Pittsburgh was going to be a regular feature on the nightly highlight reels. No one was prepared to hand the Pens the Cup mind you (much was made of the team’s remaining holes on the blue line and questions in net), but the question everyone was asking was how many goals would Pittsburgh score? Now the question going into every game is are the Pittsburgh Penguins going to score at all? Sydney Crosby has spent months mired in a scoring slump and Kessel has yet to light anything resembling a fire under the Pens offence. They’ve been downright mediocre and are miles from being the offensive juggernaut just about every one in the world predicted them to be last September.

Anaheim meanwhile is easily the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season. After falling just short of making the Stanley Cup finals last June, no other team was as aggressive as the Ducks in addressing roster needs while deftly managing the salary cap. The Ducks beefed up at every position and were everyone’s favourite to win the Cup at the beginning of the season. The team’s strength combined with their home in the NHL’s weakest division seemed a perfect recipe for regular season dominance and eventual Stanley Cup glory. But now the Ducks are in very real danger of missing the playoffs altogether, their top players have been called out repeatedly in the media and it’s considered only a matter of time before head coach Bruce Boudreau is fired. How bad has it been Santa? The Ducks won just one game in the entire month of October and fared little better in November. Even if Anaheim begins tearing it up in the New Year, they may not be able to make up the ground they lost in the first few months of the season, and could very well find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time.

  1. A little more patience from my fellow Oilers fans. If you could Big Man, could you slip a little more resolve into Oilers fans stockings? We’ve been a battered bunch this past decade, saddled with the worst President, the worst GMs and the worst coaches for years, all overseen by an owner whose negligence bordered on criminal. But with Connor McDavid now on the scene and all the necessary front office changes his arrival inspired, we finally had hope-sweet, precious hope. But that hope was tested when we lost our first four games and has been bruised further by a few prolonged losing streaks that have kept us from reaching a .500 record. But if you squint your eyes and turn your head just enough, things are looking up.

The Oilers may have lost a lot of games this season, but they’ve been competitive in just about all of them, something they haven’t been able to say in years. A few more bounces go their way and a few less calls against them and this team could easily be a game or two over the .500 mark right now. They’ve actually come back to win some games, another trait they haven’t displayed since time out of mind, and they’ve managed to steal a few points here and there with some outstanding goaltending (if you would have told an Oilers fan that as recently as last year they would have slapped you in the face with a brick and told you to stop your lies). McDavid’s injury was a big blow, but it allowed the team to recall Leon Draisaitl, who has blown the doors off the NHL and Taylor Hall, who’s spent most of the season among the NHL’s top scorers, is looking every bit like the team’s future captain, both on and off the ice. And when McDavid returns sometime in January, GM Peter Chiarelli will have a surplus of assets he can trade to address other needs.

There’s still a long way to go Santa, but could you just make sure my fellow members of the Copper and Blue Nation stick around just a little longer for the good times? No one should have anticipated a playoff spot this season anyway (though a recent winning streak has put us back in that conversation, a place we haven’t been in December for years), but there would be a certain poetic symbolism if we returned to the post season dance next season, the first in our shiny new home.

  1. A healing factor for Connor McDavid. You know Santa, like the one Wolverine has. And maybe some of those unbreakable Adamantium bones as well. Because if McDavid’s injury in November at the hands of much less talented, slow of foot blue liners, it’s that the young heir apparent has a target on his back. McDavid’s blinding speed coupled with his cat like agility and his sublime puck handling skills proved impossible for most NHL D-men to defend against, so the thug like antics displayed by Flyers blue liners Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Manning, where they basically gang-tackled him into the boards, are likely going to become more common. And more accepted (the NHL has never been eager to protect its stars).

But there’s one other reason Connor’s going to need an ability to heal fast Big Red, and that’s because of Hockey Trolls. McDavid’s good. Really good. He’s been lauded by everyone from Steven Stamkos to Wayne Gretzky (who described him as the best player to come along in the last thirty years) and his skill set is pure offense (though he’s proven he can use his offensive instincts to protect a lead as well), meaning that there’s a sizeable portion of “traditional” hockey fans who will never respect him. There was no shortage of them on social media before the season began begging for him to fail and they tripped over themselves with glee when he went down with his injury. The Great One had his fair share of detractors back in the day, fans who didn’t consider him a real player because he didn’t fight, but Gretz didn’t have to contend with Twitter and Reddit. So if it isn’t too much trouble Santa, could you wrap up a nice healing X-gene and put it under Connor’s tree?

  1. A big pat on the back to P.K. Subban. Already heavily involved in charity work (P.K. and his family are the faces of Hyundai Hockey Helpers, a non profit organization that assists parents struggling with cost of enrolling their kids in North America’s most expensive sport), the popular (and often controversial) Montreal Canadiens defenseman pledged ten million dollars over the next seven years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. It is by far the biggest single donation a member of the venerated Habs franchise has ever donated to charity. Subban’s contributions on the ice never go unnoticed by his teammates or Habs fans (or their opponents, for that matter), and now, with a wing of the hospital bearing his name, his presence and generosity to the community won’t either.

          An honourable shout out to Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie and Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price in this category as well. When the St. Louis Blues traded the popular Oshie to Washington last off-season, five-year-old Libby Lu was so distraught at his departure that she locked herself in a closet crying, refusing to come out. Well, T.J. reached out to little Libby twice, first calling her on a Sportscenter talk show and then by mailing her a crate full of Washington Capitals swag, all of it autographed, ensuring that Libby would not only be a T.J. Oshie fan her entire life, but also a hockey one as well. Meanwhile Carey Price has been heavily involved in a number of youth programs, everything from donating equipment to Aboriginal communities to raffling off his game masks. Price’s community work won him the Jean Beliveau award last October, awarded by the legendary Beliveau’s wife. Good job, gentlemen, good job.

Shayne Kempton

libby-lu-caps-jersey

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RESPECT THE BOLT

FANS TREATING THE TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING LIKE THE RODNEY DANGERFIELD OF HOCKEY ARE MISSING THE POINT

When the Tamp Bay Lightning eliminated the New York Rangers last week, much was said about the difference between their on ice celebration, where players poured off the bench to mob each other in raucous joy, to that of their eventual Stanley Cup opponent Chicago Blackhawks, who treated it like just another day at the office when they sent the Anaheim Ducks packing in the seventh game of the Western Conference Final. Since the matchup became official, the Bolts have been getting precious little respect from any corner of Hockeydom, the most charitable prediction most pundits have offered is that Steve Stamkos and crew may last as long as six games against the mighty Chicago Blackhawks. Reading most analytical breakdowns, the mainstream sports media seems content to ruffle Tampa Bay’s hair like the upstart scamps they are, scamps who are so overmatched they should just save themselves the bother and eventual humiliation and not even show up for the games. And while the media has been borderline condescending to the Lightning, the blogosphere has been even more merciless. According to the citizens of the Internet, Tampa is just lucky to be where they are, most are predicting the Bolts will suffer an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the boys from the Windy City and many give you the impression that the Lightning should bow down and kiss the feet of their opponents. Apparently, representing the East for the Stanley Cup, the toughest trophy in all of professional sports to win, no longer warrants any respect. The Tampa Lightning have become, for lack of a better comparison, the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL.

This isn’t a prediction; these teams are both elite squads who earned their respective berths in the Final, and they offer one of the more intriguing matchups in recent memory. Nor is this to say that the Chicago Blackhawks don’t deserve the vast respect they get. This is a team that has made the playoffs seven consecutive years (no small feat in the NHL’s thirty team salary cap world), this is their third trip to the Stanley Cup finals in the past six years and they’ve hoisted Lord Stanley’s coveted Chalice twice in the same period. Lightning captain Steve Stamkos called the Blackhawks a beast, and for good reason. There is just as much chance that this series ends in a sweep, as there is that it goes the distance in a seven game marathon.

But the Tampa Bay Lightning deserve to be here just as much as the Chicago Blackhawks do. Tampa Bay was the highest scoring team in the regular season, a trend they’ve continued during the grind of the post season, when goals are often tougher to come by then an honest politician, and they significantly tightened up their mediocre defense. The Lightning eliminated the highly respected Detroit Red Wings (who have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs an amazing 24 consecutive seasons and is regarded as the most efficiently run organization in the NHL), they knocked out the Montreal Canadiens and Carey Price (widely regarded as the best goaltender on the planet right now) in the second round and they sent the President Trophy winning New York Rangers (the most successful team in the regular season) packing in round three. In fact, Tampa Bay holds the distinction of being the only team to eliminate three “Original 6” teams to get to the Stanley Cup final, where they now face another one for the Cup. Steve Stamkos, who slept walked through Tampa’s first round battle with the Red Wings, awoke with a vengeance in round two and is skating hard, throwing hits and scoring big goals. In short he’s become the prototypical Stanley Cup franchise player, the Lightning’s possible answer to Chicago superstar and future Hall of Famer Jonathan Toews. The Bolts have an underrated blue line lead by 2009 second overall pick Victor Hedman, whose quickly becoming one of the game’s elite two way defenders, and while goalie Ben Bishop may not be reminding anyone of Patrick Roy, he’s shown that he can come up big when needed and has two game seven shut outs on his resume to prove it. There’s no reason to think that Tampa Bay will skate over Chicago, but there shouldn’t be any reason to think that they’ll be fodder for the Blackhawks either. And you can’t help but get the feeling that if any of the “Original Six” squads that the Bolts sent golfing were facing Chicago in the Final, that they’d be getting a little more respect and fewer pats on the head from the peanut gallery.

Game one of the series probably didn’t go according to either team’s plans. While Chicago won the game based on a pair of lightning quick (pardon the pun) goals late in the third period, they spent most of the game playing catch up and Tampa proved that they could hold the Blackhawks formidable attack at bay for long stretches. The Bolts meanwhile, learned that you can never count the Hawks out, you can never let up the attack and that Chicago will pounce on even the tiniest mistake and punish you for it. While Chicago’s 2-1 victory may have been the result a lot of people expected, it was hardly the blowout many predicted. The two teams probably learned quite a bit about each other during those three periods and fans can expect to see radically different battle plans from both squads for game two. While Tampa Bay management should be embarrassed by their absurd ban on Blackhawks jerseys and colours in certain seating areas during home games, Steve Yzerman and his staff should take enormous pride in the team they’ve assembled and the success it has enjoyed. Perhaps Tampa’s biggest motive to win the Stanley Cup is to finally earn some much deserved.

Shayne Kempton

FANTASTIC FOUR

IT’S DOWN TO JUST FOUR TEAMS CHASING THE NHL’S ULTIMATE PRIZE AND THERE ARE SOME FAMILIAR FACES ALONG WITH SOME SURPRISING NEW ONES

      And then there were four. Four teams are all that remain in the hunt for the Stanley Cup and each offers plenty of intrigue and questions. While the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings clashing for the second consecutive season to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final probably doesn’t surprise a lot of hockey fans, the fact that the East is up for grabs between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens blows more than a few predictions out of the water (mine included). There are three original six teams included among the Final Four, as well as the first Canadian team in seven years, the defending Stanley Cup champions, the 2012 Stanley Cup champions, the team that won the Cup twenty years ago (the Rangers) and the team that won it twenty seasons ago (Montreal, adjusted for the 2005 lockout that scrapped that year’s post season). And each remaining roster includes at least two members from Canada’s gold medal winning team from the Sochi Winter Games, meaning that no matter what happens over the next few weeks, a couple of players will accomplish the incredible feat of winning both an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup ring in the same year. Its gonna be an awesome end to the 2013-2014 campaign.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: No team is a better example of excellence and champion building in today’s NHL than the Chicago Blackhawks. A decade ago, the Blackhawks were consistently written off as perennial losers and the only time they were ever mentioned in the same sentence as the playoffs was as the punch line of a joke. But through smart drafting, patient development, shrewd trades and a handful of brilliant free agency signings, the Blackhawks are on the cusp of being a modern day dynasty. They had to strip some parts after their Stanley Cup parade in 2010 for salary cap reasons, but were still playoff worthy in 2011 and 2012 before winning the Cup again last spring. It should come as no surprise that the Hawks were tied with Detroit and St. Louis for sending the most players to the Olympics (including Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith to wear the Maple Leaf) or that this is their third appearance in the NHL’s Final Four in the past five years. Nor should it come as any surprise that they remain most people’s favourites for the 2014 Stanley Cup

 LOS ANGELES KINGS: 2012’s Stanley Cup winners are looking to avenge their 2013 elimination by Chi-town this spring and get some of that Dynasty recognition for themselves. They are perhaps the only team in the League right now that can challenge Chicago in terms of depth and playoff caliber talent. Despite some big names up front, the Kings did have some scoring difficulties during the regular season. That was until they added sniper Marion Gaborik at the trade deadline and now roll three lines that are a danger to score at any time. With Drew Doughty leading a deep blue line and franchise goalie Jonathan Quick as the last line of defense between the pipes, the Kings are a super power. And if anyone doubts the Kings’ emotional resolve, well you can just ask the San Jose Sharks, who jumped out to a commanding 3-0 lead during their first round matchup, only to watch L.A. storm back and become just the fourth team in NHL history to overcome such a deficit and win their series. What turned the tide during that matchup? For the first three games, Quick wasn’t on his game. For the last four he was unbeatable. Now the Kings are contending for the Cup and San Jose is doing a full post mortem on their entire organization. Enough said.

 MONTREAL CANADIENS: I have to hand it to the Habs; I didn’t give them much of a chance against the Boston Bruins in their second round series. Boston was the East’s answer to the Chicago Blackhawks, tailor built for playoff success from the ground up with one of the best goalies, one of the best defensemen and one of the best two-way forwards in the game all wearing Bruins’ jerseys. Good thing nobody told Les Habitants that. Anyone who doesn’t believe that Carey Price and P.K. Subban are now prime time talents in today’s NHL clearly wasn’t paying attention. The Bruins made a habit of outshooting and out chancing the Habs early in the series, but Price routinely made game-saving stops while Subban increasingly dominated the ice, challenging the Bruins as often as he could, refusing to back down when they challenged him and putting more than his fair share of pucks behind Tuuka Rask. Meanwhile, Montreal’s forwards adapted to Boston’s bigger yet less mobile defense, allowing them to gradually take the lead in shots and scoring chances. Montreal proved they wouldn’t be intimidated by either the odds or bigger teams and through perseverance and self-confidence now find themselves the first team representing the Great white North in the Final Four since the Ottawa Senators in 2007 (and 20 seasons after they won it all in 1993, over Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings no less). And while losing Price to a knee injury is a devastating blow, if there’s one team that seems destined to overcome such enormous adversity this spring, it’s Montreal. Does another goalie rise to the occasion in Price’s absence? Does Peter Budaj rekindle his days as a starter? Or does an unheralded prospect like Dustin Tokarski get in touch with his inner Bill Ranford and emerge as the team’s savior? This could be interesting.

 NEW YORK RANGERS: At the beginning of the season, would anyone outside of New York’s dressing room have thought the Rangers would still be playing meaningful hockey in mid-May? Even at the beginning of the playoffs, no one outside the most optimistic Rangers fan thought they’d get this far. And when Pittsburgh jumped out to a 3-1 lead in their second round series, the Rangers were given up for dead by just about everyone. But that’ why they play the games. Henrik Lundqvist, who backstopped his native Sweden to silver at Sochi last February, has reasserted himself as The King, keeping his team in games no matter how many shots they give up or how difficult the Rangers attack finds it to score. The Rangers blue line meanwhile, may be the most underrated defense corps in the NHL and the entire team blocks more shots then targets at a shooting range on NRA appreciation day. Scoring on the Rangers sometimes resembles a feat of Herculean proportions (just ask the Philadelphia Flyers, Sidney Crosby and Evengi Malkin). Deadline acquisition Martin St.-Louis not only offers experience (having won the Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning) but an emotional fire as well, playing in tribute to his mother who tragically passed away earlier this month (the Rangers defeated the Penguins in the game St.-Louis missed, embracing the mantra “Win it for Marty,” a win that sparked their comeback). The simple fact is New York is red hot right now with most cylinders firing at warp speed. If Rick Nash can return to form, the Rangers may be this year’s Cinderella team, an unstoppable David that slays all the remaining Goliaths on their path to Stanley Cup glory.

 Shayne Kempton

THE WOUND MAY STILL BE A LITTLE FRESH SENS FANS, BUT WHILE MOST OF YOU HAVE DEALT WITH DANIEL ALFREDSSON’S DEPARTURE, THERE ARE STILL SOME HATERS OUT THERE WHO NEED A STRONG DOSE OF TRUTH

Daniel Alfredsson

Daniel Alfredsson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been an entire week now Ottawa; how do you feel?  You’ve had seven days to accept the fact that Daniel Alfredsson will play the 2013-14 season-likely his last-wearing another team’s jersey.  Most Sens fans, though left winded and heartbroken, wished nothing but the best for their former captain, his family and even his new team, the Detroit Red Wings.  But there are some Ottawa fans who choked on the bitter pill that was Alfredsson’s departure; behaving like jealous, jilted lovers they swarmed to the internet, their grief spilling across chat rooms and fan forums like so much venom and bile, insulting No. 11 and accusing him of being a traitor (one disgruntled Sens fan took to Twitter, wishing Alfie the best of luck selling his house once it was covered with egg).  And those fans, well, you’re the ones here to get bitch slapped.  Shall we begin?

I have to be honest; I never thought I’d see Daniel Alfredsson leave the Nations Capital to join another team.  I heard the rumours leading up to last Friday’s free agent feeding frenzy, that Alfie (who’d just confirmed he would play one more season the week before), was being courted by other teams (with the Boston Bruins topping the list).  But in all honestly, I thought it a game his agent was playing to nudge the value of his final contract up just a little more.  And why not?  Alfredsson had accepted a hometown discount for a large part of the seventeen seasons he wore a Senators jersey (fourteen of them with the captain’s “C” on his chest), even giving up some paycheques when the team was bankrupt and flirting with relocation.  Besides, that’s what agents do, they get the best possible deal for their clients.  And the Senators had pretty much made it clear that they were prepared to offer the heart and soul of their franchise a blank cheque to keep him in Ottawa for his final season, so any contractual foreplay seemed a moot point.  But there we all were last Friday afternoon, shocked to find out that Daniel Alfredsson had joined the Detroit Red Wings.  That enormous crashing sound coming from the Nation’s Capital last Friday wasn’t Bluesfest getting under way or another earthquake shaking Ottawa, it was the collective hearts of the Sens Army breaking.

And as I said, for the most part, Sens fans have been very understanding, and while disappointed and emotionally exhausted, many have wished Alfie all the best with his new team.  For his part, Alfredsson said all the right things last Friday, heaping genuine praise on the Ottawa Senators organization and it’s fans.  He even offered an olive branch to the angry, unforgiving ones, saying he understood their anger, giving them permission to vent their hatred.  He’s a big man, that Daniel Alfredsson.  Me?  Not so much, and I’m still going to slap the trolls like the bitches they are.

Daniel Alfredsson has nothing to apologize for.  His primary reason for signing with the Red Wings was to win a Stanley Cup, it’s what every professional hockey player dreams of.  And doesn’t one who’s played in the NHL for seventeen seasons at an elite level deserve that shot?  Alfredsson worked tirelessly to realize that dream with the Ottawa Senators, he demonstrated exceptional loyalty to both the team and the city of Ottawa (see my previous point about him playing for free before the Sens were rescued by Eugene Melnyk), investing almost as much time in charitable causes within the community as he invested on the ice in his quest to win the Cup.  He’s earned the right to be loyal to himself for a change.

Now here’s the part where you’re going to tell me that Detroit and Ottawa’s chances of winning Lord Stanley’s coveted chalice are the same.  Both teams finished seventh in their respective conferences last season and both were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, so abandoning the Senators for the Red Wings makes about as much sense as dumping a bikini model to date a lingerie one.  Except the Red Wings were (and remain) stronger contenders for the Cup then the Senators.  Yes, Detroit was knocked out in the second round last season-same as the Sens-but they were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks, the eventual Stanley Cup champions.  That series went seven games, with the Red Wings staking a 3-1 series lead at one point, and the decisive game seven needed overtime before it was settled.  No other team pushed the Blackhawks so close to elimination; not the defending Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings in the third round and not the Stanley Cup finalist Boston Bruins.  And if the Red Wings had won that pivotal game seven a few months ago, they could very well have been the ones sipping champagne out of the Stanley Cup when all was said and done. After defeating the highly favoured Montreal Canadiens in the first round,  the Senators on the other hand, proceeded to get an education in playoff hockey from Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Even Sens coach Paul MacLean joked about Ottawa owing the Pens money for the clinic they put on at the Senators expense.  The same Pittsburgh Penguins who would go on to be manhandled by the Boston Bruins in the following round, the same Boston Bruins who were then defeated in six games by the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final.   The simple truth of he matter is that the Red Wings were contenders and the Sens pretenders.  Even now, bookies in Vegas are probably giving the Red Wings more favourable odds to win the Cup.  And after what we’ve seen Detroit, recognized by most in the business to be the most efficiently run organization in the NHL, do these past few weeks, can you blame them?

It’s a hard fact to face Sens fans, but Alfie has a better chance at hoisting the Cup in Detroit than he does here in Ottawa,  And isn’t that what you want for a captain that worked so hard and played so tirelessly for you for the better part of two decades?  It isn’t too much to ask, is it?  And as for the haters out there, maybe you should direct some of that restless contempt of yours at the Sens organization.  There are some rumours that Mr. Melnyk’s pockets are no longer quite as deep as they once were, and the blank cheque Sens management guaranteed fans would convince Alfredsson to remain a Senator may not have existed at all.  And if Ottawa did lowball Daniel Alfredsson after all he’s done for them, doesn’t it make poetic sense for him to take his considerable services to one of the best franchises in the NHL?

So good luck Alfie.  No hard feelings and all the best for you and your family.  If the Sens are smart, they’ll retire your number 11 to the rafters of the Canadian Tire Centre (Dumbest.  Name.  Ever.) as soon as possible and offer you a job upstairs.  The city will embrace you because most of your fans are sensible, reasonable people (well, as much as any sports fan can be).  As for all the spiteful trolls out there, just remember, with Detroit moving into the Eastern Conference next season, you’ll still get to see plenty of Danny.  And between you and me?  Deep down, we both know that when he scores, even if it’s against the Sens, you’ll still be cheering a little.

Shayne Kempton

 

CAPITAL LOSS