Alfie classy team leader: Senators name Alfredsson captain
The Ottawa Citizen
Sat Oct 2 1999
Page: F1 / FRONT
Byline: Wayne Scanlan
Column: Wayne Scanlan
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
PHILADELPHIA - Daniel Alfredsson has always been a player whose class is best expressed with a capital "C."
Today, that "C'' also stands for captain of the Ottawa Senators.
From the first day of training camp, Alfredsson has had the look, the feel, the air of a team captain.
Yesterday, his Senators team made it official. Alfredsson was named the seventh captain in club history, joining the link to Laurie Boschman, Mark Lamb, Brad Shaw, Gord Dineen, Randy Cunneyworth and Alexei Yashin.
This latest transaction and transition signal another page turned in the Yashin saga. All the world knows the big Russian is in Zurich, Switzerland, practising with a European club team. His unpopular holdout position is a protest over the indignity of playing for a mere $3.6 million U.S. in the final year of his Senators contract, richest of any Ottawa player past or present.
Yashin has long since lost his fans in Ottawa.
Now, he's officially lost the "C'' he once coveted so desperately.
In place of the enigmatic Yashin comes the regal Swede, Alfredsson.
From a pure leadership point of view, setting aside Yashin's supreme offensive production, it's probably a unanimous sentiment in the Senators' room that the team just took a step forward.
What Yashin did for the Senators he did on the ice. And only on the ice. The rest of the time the self-absorbed Yashin seemed to be lost in the comfort and security of the stick room.
Alfredsson, a fifth-year Senators player and a sixth-round steal from the 1994 draft, offers a more complete package. He's a fine player (with something to prove after last year's disappointing season), sound of character, a gifted diplomat.
With assistant captains Shawn McEachern and Wade Redden, Alfredsson's will be a more inclusive leadership. Appropriately, it was Alfredsson, McEachern and Redden who always seemed to speak for the team during that shocking playoff sweep to the Buffalo Sabres.
Not that words were much comfort, but there was no denying the accountability of Nos. 11, 15 and 6.
With Yashin, the frustration he was realizing on the ice met with a second frustration among media and fans over his inability -- or unwillingness -- to express the state of the team's plight or his personal drought.
This fall, it was Alfredsson who took a stand against Yashin's holdout, stating his belief that a contract should be honoured. It has been Alfredsson who, long before the announcement was made, seemed to skate into his new role as easily as he might slip into an open area inside the opposition blueline.
"I'm pretty young,'' says Alfredsson, who turns 27 in December. "But I'll lead by example, hopefully.
"We have a lot of young guys and whether it means extra time in the weight room or whatever, I will try to be a role model.''
Veteran additions Kevin Dineen and Rob Zamuner, new to Ottawa but hardly new to leadership roles, should ease King Alfie's reign.
"These players have been around and they want to win,'' says the new monarch. "That's why Dineen came here. At this point in his career he wants to be on one of the top teams.''
First on the captain's to-do list is to pick up his own game.
What better way to lead by example than with a return to the style of play for which Alfredsson was known in late 1997-98. The NHL's rookie of the year in 1995-96, Alfredsson missed long stretches the next season because of contract negotiations and injuries, including a broken fibula, but he rebounded to lead the Senators in playoff scoring.
Last fall, he was easily the most impressive Senators player in the opening days of camp. Alfie delivered an eye-popping squat of 442 pounds and had a midseason stride to his September skating.
Then, to the team's horror, he caught a skate edge in a Corel Centre ice rut during a Sept. 16 practice and tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Although he returned after missing the first nine games of the regular season, the campaign never seemed long enough for Alfredsson to regain his stride.
Another playoff round might have been just the ticket.
"It was frustrating because we knew we had such a good team, and we didn't really get the best out of us,'' says Alfredsson. "I want to step up my play from last year,'' he says. There's that accountability again. "I need to just go out and have fun. Before you go to sleep every night, you can't be saying to yourself, 'I've got to get two goals tomorrow.' Go out and have fun, do the best you can and the points will come. The victories will come with them.''
This is music to the ears of fans worried, whether they'll admit it, about the losses of Yashin and goaltender Damian Rhodes.
Alfredsson isn't much of a baseball fan. But he can relate to the story of the Boston Red Sox, who lost marquee slugger Mo Vaughn this summer, yet still won the American League wild-card berth over allegedly more talented teams like the Toronto Blue Jays.
Yashin is the Senators' Big Mo, minus the clubhouse leadership.
"Of course, we'd love to have Alexei here, but he isn't,'' says Alfredsson. "I think everybody is going to band together and do a little extra.''
Alfredsson insists the dressing room was a democracy under Yashin and will remain so. He'll speak when he must and probably never holler.
"I'm not going to be doing all the talking,'' he says. "If somebody has something to say, they're going to step up. I'm just
part of the puzzle.''
Part of the puzzle, but one of the biggest, classiest pieces.