You should have seen the faces of the Ottawa Senators as they walked off the ice at the Nassau Coliseum last night.
My broadcast spot was located just outside their dressing room, so the players all had to file past me as the game ended. Just a couple of moments earlier, Guillaume Latendresse had sealed an improbable third period comeback with an empty net goal to give Ottawa a 5-3 win.
As they came off the ice, Andre Benoit looked at me, rolled his eyes and smiled with a look of utter amazement.
Chris Phillips walked by with a huge grin and said emphatically, “Make sure you hashtag that one pesky Sens!” For those who don’t know, #peskysens is a Twitter hashtag that has caught on in Ottawa and a reference to the club’s never-say-die attitude.
About 20 seconds before Phillips walked by, Daniel Alfredsson said something to me. But unfortunately, I had my earpiece on and could only hear the voices of Dean Brown and Denis Potvin in my ear. By the time I took my earpiece out, Alfredsson had walked past me and I missed his comment completely.
But the look on his face said it all and the words coming out of his mouth were secondary. The captain was wearing a huge smile — one that wouldn’t be wiped off even when he met with the media 10 minutes later. Alfredsson is having as much fun as I’ve ever seen him have around his teammates. His team is winning games and he’s a major reason for their recent success. Ask anyone who has been around this team and they’ll tell you that Alfredsson has been their best forward in the month of March.
This isn’t a 40-year-old passenger; this is a 40-year-old man is who is driving the bus.
And because the Senators are alive and well in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, we can officially kill those pesky Daniel Alfredsson trade rumors that popped up a couple of weeks ago.
When we went to the TD Garden on February 28, the Boston media swarmed Alfredsson inside the visitor’s locker room. The Sens captain spent several minutes answering questions about his future and whether or not he’d be open to a trade to a Stanley Cup contender at the deadline. He deftly deflected all the questions, saying that his first choice was to stay in Ottawa and that is where his focus was going to be moving forward.
However, Ottawa fans were a little concerned when Alfredsson also said, “you can never say never” about being moved at the deadline.
But I can tell you unequivocally, the captain isn’t going anywhere this season. In fact, you can make the argument that Alfredsson has been so good lately, that he should certainly come back for another season with the Senators in 2013-14. But that’s another blog for another day.
Today’s piece is about officially putting an end to any trade talk that has surrounded Alfredsson — even though it was way too premature to begin with.
The Senators inspired play of late — without several of their best players — is the biggest reason why Alfredsson does not have to go to Bryan Murray in the next 10 days and ask for a trade to a contender. If the Senators were in a free fall in the standings or languishing outside of playoff picture, it would only be natural for those rumors to heat up. It’s what’s happening with Jarome Iginla and Jay Feaster out in Calgary, but it’s certainly a different story in Ottawa.
In fact, the Senators are fortunate that they’ve never really had to deal with the controversy of potentially trading their captain. As the fans in Calgary can tell you, it can be an extremely divisive issue. Things also got a little awkward between Maple Leafs fans and Mats Sundin, partially because he didn’t agree to be traded — even when his team missed the post-season in each of his last three seasons.
In Ottawa, the only time trading Alfredsson could have been a reality was two seasons ago, when the club finished in last place in the Northeast Division. Bryan Murray went on a massive pre-deadline fire sale, shipping out veterans like Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly Jarkko Ruutu and Alex Kovalev.
But before he was forced to make a decision on Alfredsson, the Sens captain went down with a back injury in early February that effectively ended his season. Thanks to that injury, the Senators dodged a massive bullet. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as Murray never had to really handle what could have turned into a public relations nightmare.
This year, the Senators will once again avoid dealing with the touchy subject of trading their captain. But it has nothing to do with a timely injury — and everything to do with the fact their team is alive and well in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.