Remember when the Detroit Red Wings were a young, plucky team that needed to win their last four regular-season games of the 2012-13 season just to make it into the playoffs?
Well, as of July 5, 2013, that team is officially gone and has been replaced by one that will now measure success by how long it takes them to win 16 games in the playoffs.
Though it was kinda neat to see the Detroit Red Wings play the uncommon role of "underdog" during much of the 2012-13 shortened season, the role of "Stanley Cup contender" is one they are about step right back into and will seek to play to wide acclaim.
While it's rare that a declining 40-year-old player can change the fortunes of a team so drastically, Daniel Alfredsson has done just that by leaving the only NHL team he's ever known and a city in which he'd never, ever have to buy his own beer.
Selfish or otherwise, Alfredsson's reasons for leaving the Ottawa Senators were not arrived at carelessly.
Aside from making the incredibly difficult decision to keep playing for one more year—and that in a brand new city—Alfredsson surely took his time to consider the team to which he was coming and measured it against his chances of finally winning a Stanley Cup.
While the list of options outside Ottawa were small (in fact, only Boston has been noted as the only other team with whom Alfredsson was having discussions), Alfredsson clearly felt that uprooting his family, his legacy and his entire career was worth it to come to Detroit.
After all, the Red Wings of 2013 are certainly not the Red Wings of 2008.
There is no Nicklas Lidstrom anchoring the blue line.
No Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom or Kirk Maltby to ooze championship grit and experience into the locker room.
Instead, the Red Wings are a team with more young promise than proven success, more hope than certainty that they can even contend for a championship, let alone win one.
So why would Daniel Alfredsson pin what will almost certainly be his last hope to win a Stanley Cup to such a team?
I won't even waste time speculating on the reasons.
What seems more intriguing to me isn't that Alfredsson picked Detroit—it's that Detroit picked Alfredsson.
This is an organization that rarely makes a foolish move and one that practically wrote the book on professionalism and class, and not just in the NHL but sports in general.
By signing Alfredsson, the Wings have made a bold and potentially reckless statement: "It's Stanley Cup or bust in Detroit."
Alfredsson left the Ottawa Senators to win a Stanley Cup, and the Detroit Red Wings convinced him he could do it with them.
If they don't, both Alfredsson and the Wings will have a lot of explaining to do at season's end.
If they do, then both the player and the team will have revealed that they both knew something back in July 2013 that not a lot of other people knew.
Daniel Alfredsson and the Detroit Red Wings believe they can win a Stanley Cup together.
I for one won't seek to detail the reasons why.
Rather, I'd simply say that a player of Alfredsson's pedigree and a team of Detroit's history wouldn't risk tarnishing both unless they felt the reward was real and large.
The Detroit Red Wings are Stanley Cup contenders.
If not because they want to be, then because they have to be.
Tune in to the Knee Jerks Radio Show on the Sports Geeks Radio Network (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/mkesportsgeeks) Monday at 7 p.m. EST to hear me talk all things Red Wings with Greg Eno and Big Al Beaton!
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