Not a bad formula for the Ottawa Senators especially when team captain Daniel Alfredsson was named captain as one of the two teams for this Sunday’s All-Star Game.
Capitalizing on Ottawa as the venue for the up-coming NHL All-Star Game and Alfredsson’s status as one of the elite players in the game, his appointment became a no-brainer to recognize the Gothenburg, Sweden native in his adopted city.
After 1,102 career NHL games,1,061 points (at the current All-Star break) and countless accolades from teammates, former teammates and opponents, Alfredsson has come to characterize the rising success enjoyed this season by the Senators and ballot-stuffing by the Ottawa faithful. The result is an honor for Alfredsson, many believe, is well earned, well deserved and long overdue.
“He’s an iconic figure in this league, and as easy choice for captain,” said Ottawa coach Paul McLean. “Look, when you play over 1100 games and score over 1000 points, you have to look at a player like this for this position.”
With the game slated for Ottawa, given the passion for hockey in the capital city, and the Senators rising status in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break, there is no reason not to believe the faithful will vote early and often.
With the combination of this success and game to be played Scotibank Place, the honor of naming Alfredsson captain of one team came without question.
“It’s an honor, to be sure, and at this stage of my career, I may not have too many seasons left,” Alfredsson said after Phoenix defeated the Senators 3-2 on Jan. 24. “This will be a special moment for me and my family. My kids will be there and several friends and family are coming from Sweden. So, yes, this is a very special moment for me.”
Given the venue, Senators fans not only cited Alfredsson for reward but also voted teammates Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson as starters. At the All-Star break, Karlsson leads NHL defensemen in scoring, and the aggregate trio of Alfredsson, Michalek and Spezza have combined for 60 goals at intermission of the schedule.
“Just awesome, and such an honor,” said linemate Nick Foligno, who has 31 points (12-19) at the break in describing Alfredsson‘s appointment. “I know this is special moment for him, but also for us. As a team, we’re playing well, in the middle of the playoff race, and (Alfredsson) is a big part of our success so far this season.”
At the break, the Senators are fifth in the Eastern Conference and just behind the Rangers, Boston, Florida and Philadelphia. Despite dropping three straight prior to the break for only the second time this season, Ottawa, sparked by its All-Star selections, could be positioned for a strong second half surge.
“We’re getting great contributions from two different sets of players,” McLean added. “First , we have the veteran core, led by Daniel, Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips, Chris Neil, and younger guys have made trips the AHL championship series. Plus, all of these guys are leaders, and certainly that works to the team’s advantage.”
While the second half is still days away, the immediate spotlight remains on Alfredsson and rightly so.
EDITOR’S NOTE - Quotes used in this story were obtained by the author in post-game interviews, Ottawa at Phoenix, Jan. 24, 2012.