When Daniel Alfredsson left Ottawa for Detroit in the summer, he said part of the reason for his departure (beyond a fissure with Sens management) was an improved chance to win his first Stanley Cup. In making the leap from the only NHL for which he’d ever played, however, he may also have impacted his chances for enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame – and not necessarily in a negative way.
Alfredssson, who tonight at Joe Louis Arena faces his former club for the first time, was firmly on the bubble in terms of Hall of Fame credentials prior to his free agent move to Michigan. His resume isn’t too dissimilar to that of countryman Mats Sundin’s: a gifted player who has had a marvelous career, but one who has never truly dominated the league.
Sundin never won a major individual award and was named a second-team all-star twice, both second-team appointments. He also never won a Cup, though he did captain Sweden to Olympic gold. Sundin, who finished his career 27th all-time with 1,349 points, was elected to the Hall in 2012.
The 40-year-old Alfredsson, meantime, has one second-team all-star nod, Olympic gold and the Calder Trophy on his CV. Depending on how many more seasons he plays, he’ll likely finish Top 50 all-time in NHL points, in the same territory as honored Hall members such as Michel Goulet, Bobby Hull and Dino Ciccarelli. And we need to remember Alfredsson played the bulk of his career in the Dead Puck Era.
But what previously gave Alfie elevated stuats was his community involvement in Ottawa. He was a demi-God in Canada’s capital, a key awareness and funds raiser for local charities. He owned the city, gave back to it in a meaningful way, and it was unfathomable he would ever leave as a player. That image has now been altered, if only slightly, and it’s possible it could affect his legacy in the eyes of Hall selectors. They’re only human, after all.
But what will impact it even more is if he gets his name on the Cup. While the Wings have started the season slightly hotter than Ottawa, neither club has distinguished itself as an early-season juggernaut. Entering tonight’s showdown, Detroit is winless in two and has allowed as many goals as it has scored. Ottawa has struggled with its roster makeover and has yet to resemble the feisty, underdog club that was easy to root for last season. Team defense has been particularly porous, with Ottawa allowing nearly 40 shots per night, by far the most in the NHL.
Tonight should be good theatre, a performance whose next act in Ottawa (Dec. 1) will be even more dramatic. But there’s still plenty of plot to be revealed before the final curtain and the determination on whether Alfredsson will be immortalized or just very fondly remembered.