Team, family will dictate Alfredsson’s future with Senators

It’s difficult to tell whether Daniel Alfredsson is planning to return for a 17th season with the Ottawa Senators. Right now, though, the team captain is having fun.

Team, family will dictate Alfredsson’s future with Senators
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators handles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. — It’s difficult to tell whether Daniel Alfredsson is planning to return for a 17th season with the Ottawa Senators. Right now, though, the team captain is having fun.

He has had a remarkable and memorable season, if not just for the way he was celebrated by Ottawa and the hockey world during the all-star weekend.

Senators centre Jason Spezza likes to say that the best way to convince Alfredsson to return for the 2012-13 campaign is to keep winning, to which Alfredsson responds, “Of course.”

It’s a little more complicated than that, though.

Even if Alfredsson, who turns 40 on Dec. 11, feels fine and can practise and skate without the need to take days off for “maintenance,” it’s not just about him.

“The three major factors,” he said, “are do I feel I still have it within me to play, to go through another summer of workouts and training camp and playing another year, then health-wise, then family.

“When I thought about it last summer, I just wanted to come back and see what I could do if I was healthy and if I could get healthy.

“I’ve been able to do that, and it has been really encouraging throughout the year. It has been a lot of fun up to this point and hopefully the best is yet to come.

“But those three things, I think, will be the things I evaluate before I make it official.”

Before this season, the wild cards were Alfredsson’s health and the team.

Would off-season back surgery restore power to his right leg and allow him to skate the way he once did? Would the team be competitive?

Heading into a rebuilding season, there was a lot of doubt about that, and Alfredsson — even if owner Eugene Melnyk assured him he would be a “Senator for life” — was getting ready to be asked the inevitable question: Would it be in his and the team’s best interests for him to be traded to another team to give him a chance at the Stanley Cup and to bring in return a young player for the future?

It was a relief that the question never had to come up.

“I was just real happy that I didn’t have to make that decision,” said Alfredsson, the Senators’ third leading scorer with 22 goals and 25 assists this season. “We didn’t know what to expect with the team, but we put ourselves in a position where we have a really good chance of making the playoffs, and then being able to come back and be healthy.

“It’s incredibly frustrating when you feel you still can do something but physically you’re not able to.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean looks at Alfredsson and sees a player very much like one he coached in Detroit: 41-year-old defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom.

MacLean sees them as players who can play as long as they would like.

“Alfie’s conditioning level is at an elite level, much like Nick Lidstrom’s is, and they can play as long as they want to because they’re good enough players,” he said.

The other similarity between the two Swedes, MacLean said, is more important and will matter when goals and assists are forgotten.

“The tremendous amount of respect they’re held in by their own countrymen is really similar and it speaks to the kind of people they are.”

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