Daniel Alfredsson has had an illustrious seventeen-year career with the Ottawa Senators, but in an instant, all of that was in his rear-view mirror as he jumped ship. He headed off to the Detroit Red Wings in hopes of getting a Stanley Cup ring before he retires. And all I can say is, “What was he thinking?”
Don’t get me wrong. I can understand his desperation to win the Cup, and I don’t begrudge him using his status as an unrestricted free agent to pursue that goal. But the Detroit Red Wings?…….Really??? Sure, they have a storied past, but what have they done lately? Since bowing out to Pittsburgh in game seven of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, they have not even been able to make it to the Conference Finals, winning just three first-round series in four years.
And this happens to coincide with Jimmy Howard’s reign as their starting goaltender. Howard’s playoff play has been mediocre at best. He posted goals-against averages of 2.75 in 2010, 2.49 in 2011, 2.64 in 2012, and a career best 2.44 this past spring. . .but let a 3-1 series lead against Chicago slip away, twice yielding four goals in the losses that sent the Red Wings packing. And Alfie thinks he has a better chance to win a Stanley Cup playing in front of this calibre of goaltending rather than that provided by Craig Anderson back in Ottawa. . .who could be the best goalie in the NHL right now?
Granted, stellar goaltending has not always been the determining factor in playoff success. What seems to be emerging as an even more crucial factor is the stud defenseman. Think of the Stanley Cup Finals this year, and how much impact Duncan Keith and Zdeno Chara had for their respective teams. And think back to last year and Drew Doughty. And the two years before that, it was Chara and Keith, respectively. In 2008, it was Niklas Lidstrom, and the 2007 Anaheim Ducks boasted both Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. And, of course, it was Pronger who was largely responsible for getting an eighth-place Edmonton Oilers team to a seventh game of the 2006 Cup Finals.
Unfortunately, the current Red Wings are lacking such a stud defenseman; there are only a handful to go around, and Detroit had their turn with Lidstrom for so many years. But Ottawa is one of the few teams who has one of them at the current time: Erik Karlsson, whose 78 points during the 2011-2012 season was 25 points more than any other d-man, and his 14 points in 17 games in his injury-shortened 2012-13 season put him among the league leaders in points-per-game for d-men.
So, a team with arguably the best goaltender and the best defenseman in the league, a hungry Jason Spezza back from his long stint on the injury-reserve list, a core of promising young players, and a Bobby Ryan added to the mix? Yet, Alfie chooses Detroit over all this? As I said at the beginning, “What was he thinking?”