Daniel Alfredsson and Mats Sundin have been at the center of the Ottawa-Toronto rivalry since it started budding.
ATLANTA – If Daniel Alfredsson had his way, his countryman and friend Mats Sundin would be joining him for the Ottawa Senators’ Stanley Cup run this spring.
When asked during all-star weekend which player, in his mind, would be a better fit for the Senators at the deadline, Sundin or Peter Forsberg, Alfredsson was both lightning quick and emphatic with his response.
“Sundin, obviously,” Alfredsson said immediately. “Oh yeah.”
Despite the fact the two are the focal points of one of the better rivalries in hockey, they are still good friends. They have played many times together for the Swedish national team and shared the experience of winning Olympic gold at the Winter Olympics in Turin. Alfredsson knows Sundin enough to tell that, given a legitimate opportunity, Sundin could be a difference maker for a team on the quest for a Cup.
“I just know how desperate he is to win,” Alfredsson said when he explained his choice. “He would love to win a Stanley Cup, I know that for sure. We’ll see what happens. Of course, Mats has to want to come, but obviously we’re one of the better teams.”
In fact, Alfredsson half-jokingly acknowledged he had told Senators management of his desire to play with Sundin and said he and Sundin have joked about the possibility in the past.
Alfredsson’s observations on Sundin are in contrast to the ones Sundin has expressed publicly. He steadfastly maintains that the prospect of winning the Cup with a team for which he has played only two months is not a prospect that particularly appeals to him. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay in Toronto to try to win here, as far-fetched and delusional as that thought process might be. The fact of the matter is the Leafs are a mess on the ice and by the time someone comes in to straighten out the product, Sundin will be too old to contribute to the effort.
The Senators are one team that would be equipped to make a Sundin deal, should the Maple Leafs captain agree to waive his no-trade clause before Feb. 26. The Senators have some very good young players in their lineup and in their organization that would provide the Leafs with the kind of return they desperately need for Sundin.
Much has been made recently by those who scoff at the possibility of Toronto and Ottawa making a trade and how upset Leaf fans would be to see Sundin hoist the Stanley Cup with their hated rival. But if the Senators were to present the Leafs with the best offer, they’d be betraying themselves and their fans by taking such a myopic view of things.
The addition of Sundin would give the Senators a center ice corps of Jason Spezza, Sundin and Mike Fisher and would not only give the Senators the offensive depth they lacked when Spezza and Dany Heatley were overwhelmed in the Stanley Cup final, it would also allow Fisher to devote his efforts exclusively to a shutdown role, one at which he excels.
Clearly, the only way the Leafs are going to get Sundin to agree to a trade is if they convince him it is truly the best thing for the organization. And if he’s going to be dealt, Ottawa is as good a place as any if he wants a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup.
SORRY, NO MORE FOR ERIC
In the NHL’s defense, the league has worked very hard to connect with its fans and expose its young stars in an effort to get hockey into the consciousness of the U.S. fan base.
But old habits do die hard. Here we were at the All-Star Game and Eric Staal was named the most valuable player. (Rick Nash was jobbed out of the award for the second straight year, but I digress.) In the middle of the dressing room, the Carolina Hurricanes media relation’s guy cut off questions and denied several other major news outlets the opportunity to speak with Staal, citing he had already answered enough questions.
My word. Last time I checked, the Hurricanes weren’t exactly conjuring up images of the New York Yankees. After winning the Stanley Cup two years ago, the Hurricanes have struggled to remain competitive and are not exactly a household name. You’d think they’d welcome the chance to showcase one of their young players whenever possible.
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