Mendes on Sens: The Alfredsson approach

A trade request from a star member of the Senators is not something the fans want to read about in Ottawa.

This city still has a bitter taste from the Dany Heatley saga two years ago.

But what if the person making that trade request was Daniel Alfredsson? How would Senators fans feel?

Before we start this hypothetical exercise, let’s make one thing clear: The Ottawa Senators organization has no interest in trading Daniel Alfredsson. Eugene Melnyk stated that discussing Alfredsson’s name in a trade is a non-starter for him. Bryan Murray said that even if the organization was going with a youth movement, they would want the captain to be around to help mentor the next generation. Alfredsson is as untouchable as Spartacat from the Senators’ perspective.

However, the reason for writing this piece is that the captain is in a very rare and interesting situation. Since expansion in 1967, only three retired players spent their entire career with one organization and did not win a Stanley Cup: Gilbert Perreault, Dave Taylor and Craig Ramsay. (Players with a minimum 1,000 games).

Alfredsson has a decision to make in the near future: Does he want to be this generation’s Gilbert Perreault or Raymond Bourque? For the record, both are Hall of Famers and there are merits to each approach.

The Bourque Approach:

Bourque famously asked for a trade out of Boston to a contender and he ended up winning the Stanley Cup. But what most people forget is that Bourque did not win the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche right after he landed in Denver. It was in his second year with Colorado — in 2001 — that he finally lifted the Holy Grail.

Which begs the next question: If Alfredsson really wants to win a Stanley Cup before he retires, should he ask for a trade this season to give himself two chances for success? Alfredsson might be having an off-season, but he could certainly add leadership, character and some secondary scoring to a Stanley Cup contender.

My gut feeling is that if Alfredsson ever asked for a trade to a contender, it would happen next season and only if the Senators were out of playoff contention in February. Alfredsson’s ideal scenario is to win a Stanley Cup here in Ottawa and until that dream is completely dead, I can’t see him asking for a change in scenery. I also believe that Alfredsson wants to be a part of the all-star game festivities in Ottawa next January. And then if the Senators are out of the race at the trade deadline, perhaps he would ask to be dealt to a contender. Next season will likely be his last in the National Hockey League, as he turns 39 in December.

If Alfredsson was ever traded away from Ottawa, I can guarantee two things:

1. There would not be any bitterness towards Alfredsson or management if it was the captain who quietly asked for a trade to a contender. The Senators fans would rally around him and cheer for his new team to win the Stanley Cup.
2. Alfredsson’s No. 11 jersey would still be retired to the rafters at Scotiabank Place.

The Perreault Approach:

However, there is also something to be said for loyalty and character, which happen to be two of Alfredsson’s strongest traits.

Since assuming the captaincy of this team 12 years ago, Alfredsson has thrust himself into every aspect of this community. His charitable work — especially dealing with mental health issues — is remarkable. Alfredsson should give tutorials to other star players on how to deal with the media. He is always accessible to answer questions — win or lose — in a humble manner that belies his demigod status in this city.

Alfredsson has become so entrenched in Ottawa that he is seriously considering retiring here after his playing days have concluded. His family is about to expand to include a fourth child this spring and Alfredsson’s face lights up when he talks about raising his kids in Ottawa.

So for those reasons, it wouldn’t surprise me that Alfredsson retired as a member of the Ottawa Senators. Some athletes — like John Elway and Steve Yzerman — were fortunate enough to be surrounded by championship teams in the twilight of their careers so they didn’t have to be traded.

But for a select few — like Gilbert Perreault and Dan Marino — their success is measured by their ability to play at a high level for a single franchise. And while a championship ring may be absent from their resume, there is something to be said for staying with one team for an entire career. Loyalty to a single franchise may not replace that championship ring, but we can probably agree it comes pretty darn close in this era of free agency.

So if Alfredsson chooses to stay in Ottawa, I can guarantee two things:

1. Alfredsson would have his #11 retired to the rafters of Scotiabank Place.
2. His legacy in Ottawa will be further enhanced as a person who chose to stay in our city, rather than seek a championship elsewhere.

So if you were Daniel Alfredsson, what would you do?

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