No. 11 was No. 1 in Ottawa fans’ hearts: How Daniel Alfredsson became the Senators’ franchise player

There was more than a little skill involved in the Senators’ original selection of Alfredsson, who on Friday announced that he was signing with Detroit Red Wings as a free agent after 17 seasons with the Senators.

With the 132nd pick in the 1994 National Hockey League draft, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim selected Bates Battaglia, a left-winger from the Caledon Canadians.

With the 134th pick, the New Jersey Devils picked Ryan Smart, a centre from Meadville Area Senior High School in Pennsylvania.

With the 133rd pick, the Ottawa Senators selected right-winger Daniel Alfredsson from the Frolunda Indians in Gothenburg.

This happened just after the Senators used the 131st pick to select Mike Gaffney, a defenceman from St. John’s High School in Massachusetts.

There was more than a little skill involved in the selection of Alfredsson, who on Friday announced that he was signing with Detroit Red Wings as a free agent after 17 seasons with the Senators.

John Ferguson, Ottawa’s director of player personnel at the time Alfredsson was drafted, liked what he had seen in the 21-year-old Swede and pushed others on the team’s staff to pick him.

So give Ferguson some credit, but there was a lot of luck, too.

After all, Alfredsson had already been ignored by every team in the 1993 draft, when the Senators took Alexandre Daigle first overall, and he was left to languish in 1994 until after the Senators had already selected Radek Bonk, Stan Neckar, Bryan Masotta and Gaffney.

So it’s not as if any team had Alfredsson on its scouting list as a can’t-miss prospect because sure things usually don’t hang around.

It turns out, though, that’s what Alfredsson was: a sure thing, a virtually automatic Hall of Famer who was the best thing to happen to the Senators after they rejoined the NHL in 1992.

WELCOME TO OTTAWA
Just before the Senators drafted Alfredsson, coach Rick Bowness asked Ferguson what kind of player Alfredsson was.

Ferguson compared Alfredsson to Thomas Steen, whom he had drafted and signed for the Winnipeg Jets and whom Bowness coached for a year in 1988-89.

It was a high compliment. Steen was one of the best players ever to play for the Jets.

“Thomas, when I had him in Winnipeg, was a tough Swede,” said Bowness, who was recently hired as an assistant coach by the Tampa Bay Lightning. “He competed every night, he was fearless, and he had the skills to back it up.

“And Alfie was just as tough. Fearless. You knew he was going to play.”

From the moment he saw Alfredsson in training camp, Bowness didn’t have a doubt that Alfredsson would play in the NHL.

Still, even though he dominated the rookie games and was the best player in camp, there was a problem. It would be a familiar one over the next 10 years: money. The Senators didn’t have enough to play him.

“When we brought him to the main camp, I remember thinking, ‘This kid is going to start in the minors,’ because we didn’t have a lot of money and he had a two-way contract,” Bowness said.

“But we got him into a couple of exhibition games, and he was the best player we had. (Alexei) Yashin was sitting out that year (over a contract dispute) and Alfie was a very competitive, fearless kid.”

So, not exactly bursting with talent, the Senators couldn’t send their best player — who would go on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie — to the minors.

“From a coaching perspective, he was one of those low-maintenance guys,” Bowness said. “Just show up and play.

“He has been a great ambassador for the team, the city, and the game.”

IS THERE A SENATORS RECORD HE DOESN’T HAVE? (NO)
Alfredsson scored his first NHL goal on Oct. 13, 1995, beating Mark Fitzpatrick in a 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers in Miami.

With one goal and five assists in his first five games, Alfredsson was the hottest player on a lousy team that would burn through two coaches (Bowness and Dave Allison) and one general manager (Randy Sexton) and even prompted Alfredsson to question whether he should be wasting his time with this team.

At around Christmas, he talked to his father, Hasse, about returning to Sweden, but decided to stay, a decision made easier with the hiring of Pierre Gauthier as general manager and, subsequently, Jacques Martin as coach.

It’s a good thing he did, too, since he was the one bright light in another bad season.

Since the turmoil of that season, which ironically was the team’s best since joining the league in 1992, Alfredsson went on to claim every significant team record: goals (426), assists (682), and points (1,108) power-play goals (131), short-handed goals (25), game-winning goals (69), shots (3,320) and games (1,178).

Along the way, the seven-time NHL all-star won or was nominated for a roomful of awards.

In addition to Calder Trophy, he won the King Clancy Trophy in 2011-12, and the Mark Messier Leadership Award this year, and he finished second and fourth in Lady Byng Memorial Trophy voting in 2003-04 and 2005-06, respectively, third in Selke Trophy voting as the best defensive forward in 2005-06, and third in voting for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2011-2012.

What the awards and the numbers don’t tell is the central role that Alfredsson’s milestones played in the team’s modern history.

While the highlights have been many, the top 10 moments in his career might look like this:

1. May 19, 2007: In overtime, Alfredsson scores the game- and series-winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres to send the Senators to the Stanley Cup final for the first and only time.
The shot deflected in off Sabres defenceman Brian Campbell, and many U.S. fans didn’t see it because NBC switched to coverage of the Preakness Stakes thoroughbred horse race when the game went into overtime.
Still, it was sweet vindication for Alfredsson, who was on the ice the year before when Sabres forward Jason Pominville sped past him and scored a short-handed goal to eliminate the Senators.

2. Oct 22, 2010: Alfredsson scores his 1,000th point.
Against the Sabres, Alfredsson put his third goal of the night into an empty net, becoming the 78th player to score 1,000 points and only the 16th to do it with one franchise.

3. Dec. 30, 2011: In overtime, Alfredsson scores his 400th goal to beat the Calgary Flames 4-3.
While on a power play, Alfredsson took a pass from Erik Karlsson and fired a one-timer past goaltender Leland Irving at 3:31 of overtime.
“I don’t think you could dream about a better way to do it,” Alfredsson said.
“In overtime, playing at home and to be able to share that with teammates that you fight with every day, and also my family that’s here and the fans, it’s special.”

4. April 6, 2010: In a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers, Alfredsson becomes the 264th player to play 1,000 games and only the 23rd to do it with one franchise.
The only drawback was that the game was played in Sunrise, Florida. Ottawa fans would have to wait four days, until the final game of the regular season against the Buffalo Sabres, to salute his accomplishment.

5. Jan. 24, 2008: Alfredsson scores three goals and four assists to set an all-time team record in an 8-4 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Of his three goals, one came at even strength, one came on a Senators power play, and one came with the team short-handed.

6. April 17, 1997: Alfredsson scores the first playoff goal in the franchise’s modern history.
Unluckily, that goal was the only one the Senators could score in a 3-1 loss to the Sabres.

7. The 100-point season of 2005-06.
Alfredsson set career highs in goals (43), assists (60), and points (103), tying Dany Heatley for the team scoring lead. They became the first Senators players to score 100 points in a season.

8. Oct. 5, 2005: Alfredsson scores the NHL’s first shootout goal.
In Ottawa’s first game of the 2005-06 season, which followed a season-long lockout, Alfredsson scored twice to send the game to a shootout, and then, as the first shooter, scored the NHL’s first shootout goal.
It wouldn’t stand as the winner, though. The Maple Leafs would score twice and the Senators would need shootout goals from Martin Havlat and Dany Heatley, who was credited with the game winner, to win 3-2.
The sticks of Alfredsson and Heatley went to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

9. Jan. 9-16, 2007: Alfredsson scores the game-winning goal in four consecutive games.
In scoring to beat the Boston Bruins, the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, and Washington Capitals, Alfredsson became just the second player to score four consecutive game winners since Montreal’s Newsy Lalonde scored five in a row in 1921.

10. April 28, 1998:
Alfredsson scores the Senators’ first playoff hat trick.
In a 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 4 of the series, the Senators would need every one of Alfredsson’s goals.
He would also score a hat trick in the next round against the Washington Capitals (a 4-3 win in Game 3), but the Senators would be eliminated in five games.

BAD LUCK WITH INJURIES
For someone who plays as hard as he does, Alfredsson was a durable, but not invulnerable player.

In 11 of his 17 seasons, he played 70 or more games, including all 82 in his first season and 47 of 48 in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season.

In five other seasons, however, significant injuries, mainly to his knees, shoulders and back, kept him out of the lineup for long stretches.

His worst stretch was from 1997-98 through 2000-2001, when he missed 90 games over the four seasons.

This period not only prompted fears that he was too fragile for the NHL, but also raised started a debate about the merits of trading him.

Was it worth keeping someone who was injured all the time?

Alfredsson was as frustrated as anyone.

In 1997-98, he lost eight games to an ankle injury and 14 to a broken fibula. With the six games he missed at the beginning of that season before signing a new contract, he played just 55 games.

The next season, an abdominal pull, a sprained left knee, a cut over his right eye and a torn ligament in his left knee cost him 24 games.

In 1999-2000, a bruised left foot, a minor left knee sprain, and a torn ligament in his right knee kept him out of 25 games, and in 2000-01 an injury to his right wrist and a recurring right hip flexor injury cost him 14 games.

So, after getting off to the fastest start of his career in 2001-02, with two goals and four assists in his first six games, he wryly noted: “Now all I have to do is stay healthy.

“But I feel good, and I’m not worrying about it.”

Turns out he didn’t have to. That season was a turning point.

In every subsequent season until 2010-11, when a back injury ended his season in February, he played 70 or more games.

After having back surgery in the summer of 2011, he bounced back to play 75 games in 2011-12 and was a finalist for the Masterton Trophy for his perseverance.

In recent years, he has also developed a reputation for being a quick healer, returning earlier than expected from what initially looked like several serious injuries.

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In October 2008, for example, he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and returned less than a week later, and in February 2009, he returned from a broken jaw after missing one game.

After he suffered the injury in the third period of a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, it was thought he’d be out as long as four weeks, but he returned three days later wearing a full cage to protect his jaw.

Over his career, Alfredsson received three concussions: one on April 3, 2008, when Toronto Maple Leafs centre Mark Bell caught him with a shoulder; and two in the 2011-2012 season, the first during an Oct. 29 game against the New York Rangers, when he was hit by forward Wojtek Wolski, and the second during the second game of the playoffs when he was hit by Rangers forward Carl Hagelin.

After the Hagelin hit, Alfredsson returned after missing three games, but questions were raised whether he had returned too soon after the most uncharacteristic behaviour of his entire career: a skate-stomping, stick-throwing tantrum in Game 6.

In a newspaper article two days later, Dr. Philippe Souvestre, a Vancouver sports medicine specialist, said Alfredsson’s outburst looked like a warning sign that the concussion was lingering.

“In my clinical experience, people suffering from a concussion often exhibit various forms of loss of cognitive control, including outbursts of anger, anxiety and even depression,” Souvestre said.

However, concussion expert Dr. James Kissick, who at one time was the Senators’ team doctor, disagreed, saying the circumstances of the game also played a role in the outburst.

“While we see emotional symptoms in concussions — depression, nervousness, anxiety, irritability — it would be hard to attribute (Alfredsson’s outburst) to that, especially given all the other stuff going on in Game 6,” Kissick said.

Alfredsson, after all, had been benched earlier in the game during a power play and, just before he snapped, took a hit from Rangers forward John Mitchell.

Not to mention the stress of the game itself, in which the Senators failed to finish off their top-seeded opponents.

Alfredsson dismissed the notion that he had returned too early, though he apologized the next day, saying he lost it when Mitchell hit him.

“I had pretty good control of everything until I got hit and then I just lost it,” he said.

“I can’t explain it in any other way,” he said.

If there were any doubts about his health, though, they faded with his decision to join Sweden for the world championship tournament just days after the series against the Rangers ended.

Alfredsson, the Swedish captain, was anxious about the chance to win a gold on that stage, which he had never done.

When the Swedes were eliminated before the medal round by the Czechs, on a goal in the final seconds by Senators teammate Milan Michalek, Alfredsson had suffered his second crushing loss in a matter of weeks and sounded as if he had had enough.

In a Swedish radio interview immediately after the game, he suggested he could have played his last competitive game.

“I do not know if the power is still there,” he said. “I think we all feel a cruel disappointment. I felt that this team had the capacity to go all the way.

“There is a wonderful work ethic in this team. It gave us a chance to get into the game again, but it wasn’t there.”

It wasn’t until two months later that Alfredsson would confirm he’d be back for a 17th season. On. July 31, 2012, one day after he told Senators general manager Bryan Murray, he said publicly that he’d play at least one more season.

“I think I’ve had the intention of playing (next season) from the beginning, but I had to go through the process to really know for sure,” he said.

“With my back problems. … I haven’t really been able to work out as I would have liked for the last probably four years.

“With the surgery last summer, having to do a lot of rehab and I didn’t get the proper training in, I didn’t know where I stood physically and mentally.

“It took some time, but the training has been going well. I’ve really enjoyed it, so I’m really happy that I feel this way in the process of getting ready for another camp.

“I could probably have made my mind up a little quicker if I felt the team needed to know for whatever reason, but I also feel this is a good time.

“The training the last two weeks has gone into another phase, more heavy lifting, and that has gone well. I probably could have waited for another month, but this feels right.”

WEARING THE CAPTAIN’S C WAS NEVER EASY
Alfredsson became captain of the Senators on Oct. 2, 1999, during a troubled time for the franchise. Former captain Alexei Yashin decided to sit out the 1999-2000 season and was subsequently suspended by the team, so Alfredsson was given the C.

That was merely a warm-up for the turmoil Alfredsson would have to guide the team through over the next 13 years, from the team’s bankruptcy in 2003 to Heatley’s request for a trade in 2009 to the coaching turnover between 2007 and 2011.

It just never got any easier.

Yashin’s holdout was Alfredsson’s first big challenge.

Other Senators players were universally furious.

“You honour your contract,” said forward Vaclav Prospal, the most outspoken.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a problem with what Yashin did. I think he let the whole team down, not just me. If he cannot play for $3.6 million, OK, no one is holding a gun to his head.

“But he was not thinking about the team, he was thinking about himself, and at the time he was the captain. There’s no captain in the NHL that lets his team down like that.”

Alfredsson remained diplomatic. He knew that Yashin would eventually be back and that they would all have to get along.

“If he was committed to play 100 per cent and follow our system, we would want him here,” Alfredsson said.

“Of course, there would be (some awkwardness), but there’s nothing you can’t talk about. You have to play with open cards. In the long run, everyone wants to win.”

Yashin would return the following season, unrepentant (“I’m here because I can’t play hockey anywhere else in the world,” he said), but he would not get the captaincy back.

The worst thing that would happen to the Senators over the next two years was that they lost twice to the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs, but in 2002-03, they would experience a season they would never forget.

It should have been a season for celebration.

It was the team’s best ever, with outstanding performances from Marian Hossa, Alfredsson, Patrick Lalime, Todd White and Martin Havlat, and they would come within a goal of going to the Stanley Cup final, losing to the New Jersey Devils in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference final.

This, though, was the year that then-owner Rod Bryden was forced to declare bankruptcy and the team was eventually sold to present owner Eugene Melnyk.

The most embarrassing moment came on the night of Dec. 31, when the team returned from a two-game road trip to be met at the airport, surprisingly, by Bryden.

It wasn’t to wish them a Happy New Year, but to tell the players they wouldn’t be getting their paycheques the next day, as scheduled.

It made the Senators the laughingstocks of the league. Everywhere they went, the first question was not about their fabulous season, but about whether they had been paid yet.

When a number of them rented bicycles for an trip around Stanley Park during a road trip to Vancouver, the locals wondered: Was this the Senators’ new means of transportation?

However, thanks to cool heads such as Martin, assistant captain Curtis Leschyshyn and Alfredsson, the Senators kept it together and finished first overall in the NHL’s regular-season standings.

“Obviously, it is a distraction, no question,” said Alfredsson, who started the season by signing a new two-year contract.

“But I think we’ve handled it well. In a perfect world, we’d be the richest team and we wouldn’t be worried. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be an issue.

“But it’s there and we have to handle it the right way and make the most of it. If we keep winning, it makes it all easier.”

Alfredsson was a role model for his teammates, with his best season ever to that point. He had 27 goals and 51 assists in the regular season, plus four goals and four assists in the playoffs.

The Melnyk era brought stability to the team, for at least another season, until Melnyk would go sideways after the team lost to the Maple Leafs in the first round again.

This came after Melnyk told a Toronto reporter that “We’re gonna kill them,” after the Senators beat the Leafs in Game 6.

The loss in Game 7 would lead to the dismantling of the team, with the firing of Martin and the trading of Lalime, Radek Bonk and, eventually, Hossa.

It would at first look as if then-general manager John Muckler had made all the right moves.

The year after the lockout, 2005-06, Dany Heatley, Hossa’s replacement, had 50 goals and 53 assists. Alfredsson tied him for the scoring lead with 43 goals and 60 assists, and the Senators would get past the Tampa Bay Lightning before losing to the Buffalo Sabres in the second round of the playoffs.

The most controversial, or stomach-turning, moment of the season might have come during an October practice in Carolina, where Alfredsson bet goalie Ray Emery $500 he wouldn’t eat one of the cockroaches running around the dressing room. Emery did.

The next season was even better, with the team advancing to the Stanley Cup final before losing in five games to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Alfredsson didn’t endear himself to Anaheim fans when a slap shot at the end of the second period hit Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer.

Even though Alfredsson later explained he was only shooting quickly in an attempt to beat the buzzer, Anaheim fans didn’t buy it, and have, like Toronto fans, booed him at every opportunity.

Still, that summer would usher in a four-year nightmare that wouldn’t end until the summer of 2011, when Paul MacLean was hired as head coach.

In between, the Senators churned through three coaches — John Paddock, Craig Hartsburg, and Cory Clouston — while having to deal with Heatley’s demand to be traded.

The Senators made the playoffs in only two of those seasons, 2007-08 and 2009-2010, breaking a streak of playoff appearances that had started in 1996-97, and critics called them “coach killers.”

After Hartsburg took the fall, Alfredsson said everyone was to blame: coaches and players.

It’s never fun (when a coach is fired),” he said.

“It’s part of the game. We didn’t get the results we were expected to get, and we’re all responsible for the results we have. Usually it’s the coach that pays the price.

“Everybody is held accountable.

“I think we’ve all been frustrated with each other. The coaches with us for not playing well enough, and us with the coaches, as well, because you’re always trying to find out what’s wrong, asking, ‘Why aren’t we getting better?’ ”

Still, Alfredsson, who lived and played through every coaching change since the team’s return to the NHL, didn’t hesitate to stick up for his teammates, as he did in early January 2011, when Clouston said the players needed to work harder, “I don’t agree with that at all, to be honest,” Alfredsson said.

“In some games, I can understand it looks that way, but to say that about us, especially lately, I can’t agree with that at all.”

If there was any doubt that Clouston had lost the dressing room, it was over with those words from the captain, who had never so forcefully disagreed with a coach.

For the team, Heatley’s discontent, first expressed in the spring of 2009, was as trying as Yashin’s holdout.

Asked about Heatley, many Senators had sharp responses, along the lines of this one from winger Chris Neil.

“If Dany is in our dressing room when training camp rolls around, it’s because he wants to be here,” he said.

“Anyone who shows up and wants to be here, we’d welcome. But, if he doesn’t want to be here, then don’t bother showing up. I’ve said that from Day 1.”

Alfredsson, though, was in the uncomfortable position of having to balance the interests of both sides. It was tough and he had a particularly frustrating time with Heatley.

He tried to play peacemaker by phoning Heatley during the summer, but Heatley, in a stunning display of disrespect, didn’t return his calls.

Then, when Alfredsson, Chris Phillips, and Heatley talked over breakfast just before training camp, Alfredsson left feeling that Heatley had held something back.

“All I know is that he has his reasons,” Alfredsson said.

“I’m not sure if he has told the whole story, or if there is something else.

“We didn’t talk about not returning the phone calls, but I asked him about what was bothering him, what was wrong, what could we do, if anything, and we didn’t get a full explanation, either.

“He said the hockey decision was the biggest factor in it, and then there was other stuff, and that’s where he left it.”

He said if a trade couldn’t be made and Heatley had to return, he’d have to address Senators teammates and clear the air.

“Obviously you can’t just put it under the rug and go on,” Alfredsson said.

Eventually, though, like Murray, the team’s general manager, Alfredsson decided it would be best just to trade Heatley.

“It would be the best scenario for everyone,” he said.

It was, too, but it would be three years before equilibrium would be fully restored to the Senators.

After becoming the first foreign-born captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup final, Alfredsson became the longest serving active captain in the NHL on July 8, 2009, when former Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu signed with the Anaheim Ducks and former Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic announced his retirement.

THE SENATOR THAT LEAF FANS LOVED TO HATE
For all the love he was shown by Ottawa fans over his 17 years with the Senators, Alfredsson was shown an equal amount of enmity by Toronto fans, primarily because of several misadventures from 2000 through 2004, when the Senators were playing — and losing to — the Maple Leafs in the playoffs four times in five years.

The first happened late in the fifth game of the 2002 Eastern Conference semifinals, when Alfredsson checked Darcy Tucker into the boards, stole the puck and scored what would be the game winner.

“They gotta call that,” CBC analyst Harry Neale said. “That was a hit from behind.”

However, the referees did not call it and the Senators took a 3-2 lead in the series, which they promptly squandered two nights later in one of the worst losses in franchise history.

With a 2-0 lead after just 12 minutes and seemingly on their way to the conference final, the Senators unravelled after defenceman Ricard Persson was ejected for dumping Leafs winger Tie Domi head first into the boards.

Bryan McCabe and Gary Roberts scored during the five-minute major and the Leafs went on to win 4-3. They blanked the Senators 3-0 in the seventh game.

To Alfredsson, the sixth game was the turning point.

“If Tie Domi had better balance, we would have won the series,” he said.

If by this point in his career, Alfredsson wasn’t already thoroughly despised by Toronto fans, he assured himself of a dark place in their hearts when he appeared to mock their beloved captain, Mats Sundin, in a regular-season game in Toronto on Jan. 8, 2004.

Two nights before, in a game against the Nashville Predators, Sundin’s stick broke as he took a shot. When he threw the stick away, it cleared the glass and went into the crowd.

That earned him a one-game suspension, which he served against Ottawa.

During that game, with the Senators on their way to a 7-1 win, the same thing happened to Alfredsson: He broke a stick while attempting a shot.

Instead of quickly tossing the shift of the stick aside, though, Alfredsson faked a toss into the stands.

The reaction was swift and bitter from players as well as fans.

Alfredsson said after the game he wasn’t trying to mock Sundin, a good friend.

“I understand players not being too happy, but I know Mats,” he said. “I was trying to make a joke, but it was bad timing.”

The apology notwithstanding, Toronto fans would never forget. They would boo him, home or away, every chance they got.

Alfredsson always maintained that it never bothered him, that it was just part of the game.

“I appreciate the rivalry we have with Toronto and it is a lot of fun,” he said.

“Their fans are really passionate, as are ours. They’ll do anything they can to help their team, and so will our fans. It’s a good rivalry.”

OLYMPIC GOLD TOPS INTERNATIONAL CAREER
If Alfredsson’s biggest disappointment as an NHL player is that he hasn’t won a Stanley Cup, he reached the top internationally as part of Swedish’s gold-medal winning team at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

It was the only time in 13 appearances for Sweden that he won gold, and he played a big part in the victory, getting five goals and five assists while playing on a line with Sundin and Henrik Zetterberg.

“This is just such a special moment,” Alfredsson said following the 3-2 win over the Finns in the final.

“I’m not sure that it has sunk in yet. I just know that chances like this don’t come along very often and when you get a chance like this, you want to be able to take advantage of it. To win the gold, with these players, feels pretty special right now.”

The Swedes also won Olympic gold in 1994, but Alfredsson wasn’t part of that team.

He didn’t make his international debut until the 1995 world championship, when he scored a dramatic overtime goal that beat Canada in the semifinal game.

Unfortunately, Sweden couldn’t go on to win the gold, losing to archrival Finland in the final.

Alfredsson hoped to make up for that loss by delivering the gold in the 2012 worlds, part of the reason he decided to play in the tournament shortly after losing to the Rangers in the NHL playoffs.

“Being able to go back to the place where my career really started was a big part of the decision,” he said.

“Everything just took off after the 1995 championship and I signed with the Senators after the tournament.

“This would of course be the perfect scenario after all those years: to beat Finland in on their home ice.”

Unfortunately, Sweden was eliminated by the Czech Republic when Michalek scored with 29 seconds remaining in regulation.

In post-game interviews in Sweden, Alfredsson made the comment that he thought the contest might have been his last, but he amended that somewhat when he returned home, saying he got caught up in the heat of the moment.

“Once we lost out and we started doing interviews, it kind of hit me, ‘This could be it,’ and I got a little bit emotional,” he said.

Turns out it wasn’t even close to being his last game, though. During the 2012-13 season, he showed everyone he had made the right decision to return.

To reduce the wear-and-tear of the compressed 48-game schedule, he often skipped practices in favour of “maintenance” days, and that extra rest allowed him to remain one of the team’s top players.

He ranked second in ice time with an average of 19:20, including a season-high 24:02 in a Feb. 18 game at New Jersey, and he was third in scoring with 10 goals and 16 assists, just three points behind team-leader Kyle Turris.

In the playoffs, Alfredsson was the team’s leading scorer with four goals and six assists, giving him 100 career points in 121 playoff games.

Still, the biggest prize — the Stanley Cup — eluded him once again.

If he received only praise for his play this past season, which he called “mentally draining” because of the compressed schedule, Alfredsson was a harsh judge himself, barely awarding himself a passing grade.

“I thought I was OK (during the regular season),” he said. “When you play on a team that worked as hard as we did, you get a lot of great play from a lot of great players. It makes everybody look better.

“In the playoffs, I felt I was able to improve on that a bit and play better than I did in the regular season.”

The minutes he played and the goals he scored over the past 17 seasons, though, are just small measures of Daniel Alfredsson’s contributions to the Senators.

The struggling franchise needed a face, an identity, and found it in an unlikely sixth-round draft choice from Gothenburg, Sweden.

“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” Turris said as players packed up after the Senators were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by Pittsburgh.

“I’ve had the past year and a half to learn from him, to see him every day and what kind of person he is. He’s a role model that everyone looks up to. It has been a privilege to learn from him.”

Now he’s off to Detroit, where the final chapter in the career of Daniel Alfredsson will be written.

Daniel Alfredsson’s team records:

REGULAR SEASON<
Goals: 426
Assists: 682
Points: 1,108
Power-play goals: 131
Short-handed goals: 25
Game-winning goals: 69
Shots: 3,320
Games: 1,178


PLAYOFFS

Games played: 121
Goals: 51
Assists: 49
Points: 100
Power-play goals: 25
Game-winning goals: 11
Shots: 367

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