On July 5th of last summer, captain Daniel Alfredsson‘s seventeen season career with the Ottawa Senators came to a shocking end when the franchise’s leading scorer signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. It was surprising, but given Alfie’s age and steady decline in offensive production, many thought his departure would allow the Sens to turn a new page in franchise history and not miss a beat. Throw in the addition of scoring winger Bobby Ryan, acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks, and it appeared like everything was going to be fine in Ottawa this season.
The Senators, who made the playoffs last year, and the season before, are struggling this season without their captain. Of course, to say Alfredsson’s absence is the cause of the slow start to 2013-14 is a statement that lacks convincing evidence. That being said, perhaps as fans we sometimes undervalue the impact a veteran leader and role model has on his NHL club. The Senators were such a hard working team last season despite suffering multiple injuries to key players. With the core healthy this time around, that hard working attitude and never-say-die consistency is amiss.
The Senators might be more talented this season than they were last. But talent doesn’t always equate to success. Whereas a season ago, through all the injuries, every player on the Ottawa Senators had to face the imposing captain after a bad game, this season, that accountability may not be present within the team – the guys who play for each other every night. It’s just a thought.
I don’t suggest we all write-off the 2013-14 Ottawa Senators. It’s fair to allow that the season is young and by no means does a poor first two months necessarily stand as a firm definition of the expectations for the entire campaign. But over the next few months things need to drastically change or a return to the playoffs will become increasingly unlikely.
The room dynamic of any NHL team is fascinating. It’s one facet of professional sports we don’t have a lot of access to. Therefore, how important a captain’s presence is within a team is something we can only speculate. But think about it like this. If your boss, or team leader at work were to leave and be replaced by someone with less experience would things continue to operate as smoothly? Would the team work as hard with the new guy or gal leading the way? Maybe there is a transition period that needs to take place here.
The good thing for the Sens is that current captain Jason Spezza was an understudy to Alfredsson. He was trained to be a leader. Perhaps last night’s 4-2 Red Wings victory, capped off by an Alfredsson empty netter will serve as a defining moment in the Sens’ season. Maybe they get some closure from last night and move forward with their new leader, more accountable, more ready to be those Pesky Sens that played so well last season against all odds.