In the snap of a finger, the Ottawa Senators went from pesky to pessimistic.
Daniel Alfredsson — who was the hero for his last-minute goal in Game 3 — was being roundly criticized by fans and media for his post-game comments on Wednesday night.
The Sens captain answered “probably not” when asked about the possibility of his team winning three straight games against the heavily-favoured Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I mean, with their depth and power play right now, it doesn’t look too good for us,” he said.
There were a lot of Sens fans who were upset that the captain sounded like he was going down with the ship. If you were hoping that Alfredsson would channel his inner Mark Messier and produce a bold guarantee, this statement was the complete opposite.
However, I would ask you to remember an incident involving Manny Ramirez, whose team was in the exact same situation a few years ago.
With his Red Sox trailing 3-1 in their championship series against the Cleveland Indians in 2007, Manny Ramirez provided one of his most memorable quotes of all time.
“It doesn’t happen, so who cares? There’s always next year. It’s not like it’s the end of the world,” Ramirez said after his team lost Game 4.
Those comments from Ramirez were viewed as defeatist by many of his critics. How in the world could an athlete suggest that his team was finished? Ramirez took a beating from members of the media across North America. Apparently, he didn’t know the script is supposed to read, “We’ll take it one game at a time” when you’re trailing 3-1 in a series.
But here’s the funny thing: In Game 5 of that series, Ramirez went 2-for-4 with a home run in a decisive Red Sox victory. Boston went on to win Games 6 & 7 of that series as well. In fact, after Ramirez’s controversial comments, his Red Sox outscored the Indians 30-5 in the final three games.
Boston then swept the Colorado Rockies in the World Series, so they actually won seven straight games after Ramirez’s pessimistic comment to the media.
So do post-game comments have any impact on a series or a player’s mindset? I think the Ramirez incident answers that question. (Maybe we can make “Alfie being Alfie” into a slogan here in Ottawa).
There was also a significant amount of attention placed on the fact that Alfredsson picked up the puck at the end of Game 4. To many, it was a clear sign that the captain knew it was his last game on home ice. But I can tell you with a great degree of certainty that Alfredsson has not made up his mind — one way or another — about next season.
If you’ll recall last year, we went through the same exercise with him during the Rangers series. In Game 6 on home ice, two of Alfredsson’s sons came out to skate with the flag before the game — and many people took that as a sign that it could be the captain’s final game on home ice.
And when the Senators let that game slip through their fingers, Alfredsson had a rare meltdown on the bench. He slammed his stick and stomped on a water bottle. Again, many people interpreted this as Alfredsson knowing he had just played his last game at Scotiabank Place.
All of the signs pointing towards retirement were there last season and yet Alfredsson returned for another year. The betting here says that Alfredsson will do the same thing this summer. He’ll wait a few weeks and then announce his intentions for next season. If he feels like he can handle the mental and physical workload during the off-season, I think he’ll come back for one more year.
But don’t expect that decision to come moments after the Sens are eliminated. Choosing to retire is process that requires time and reflection.
And as Alfredsson proved on Wednesday night, sometimes athletes are a little emotional at the end of a hockey game.