Alfredsson coming back strong
Saturday, 11 August 2007
Originally published on EuroReport.com in 1999
By Lucas Aykroyd
After the Ottawa Senators were swept in the first round of the NHL playoffs last year, Daniel Alfredsson had a big weight to carry on his back all summer.
He didn’t whine. He made the most of it. Alfredsson pumped up his leg squat to six repetitions at 405 pounds during fitness testing at the start of training camp.
That extra strength should serve the 26-year-old Swedish forward well as he tries to achieve his best season ever.
“I worked out with my old team, Frolunda, in Gothenburg,” said Alfredsson, who stressed the importance of off-season preparation after two injury-plagued seasons in Ottawa. “Twice a day, five days a week. Only off-ice stuff till August: weights in the morning, aerobic training in the afternoon. It’s paid off.”
In a wild 6-5 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place on 15 September, Alfredsson was Ottawa’s strongest forward. Twisting and wheeling, dishing off backhanded passes to his linemates, he looked like the offensive threat with a defensive conscience who won the 1995-96 Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie.
The 5-11, 195-pound right winger was rough on Canuck goalies in more than one way. Halfway through the first period, an Alfredsson setup in front of the Vancouver net caused Kevin Weekes to strain his groin as he lunged to make a blocker save. Eight minutes later, Alfredsson fed defenseman Chris Joseph for the game’s opening goal against a startled Christian Bronsard.
All night, Alfredsson did the three things he says he must do to be successful: working hard, shooting the puck, and creating open space for his teammates.
The key to maintaining this high level of play is simple, he told EuroReport: “Stay healthy. Last year it was very tough. I missed the first seven weeks. It’s very tough to come back, especially at this level where the games are so close. I didn’t have the jump that I usually have. I was fighting it all year long.”
Alfredsson’s struggles weren’t mirrored by his team, though, as Ottawa enjoyed a franchise-best 103 points in the regular season. Many NHL observers are dubious about the team’s ability to repeat that success.
“It’s too early to say,” Alfredsson acknowledged. “But we have built a really solid foundation. The coaching staff has done a great job. We play as a team, and even though we had a lot of injuries last year, we kept up the pace. If our goaltending can keep going like last year, I don’t see why we can’t have another big season.”
A pessimist would retort, “Because Alexei Yashin took his puck and went home.” The malcontent Russian center, now holding out in hopes of renegotiating his contract into the $10 million-plus stratosphere, was an MVP candidate in 1998-99. If Yashin comes back, he’s the main man in Ottawa. Right now, he’s a distraction and the new poster boy for greed in professional sports.
Alfredsson didn’t sound much happier than the average fan when asked for his views on the Yashin debacle: “It’s his thing. I can’t really comment. I don’t know everything about it. But my personal view on it all is, if you’ve got a contract, play it out.”
Alfredsson may become Ottawa’s next captain if Yashin fails to return, but he said he will not let the uncertainty get to him: “We can only do our best every game. We can’t worry about things we can’t control. Hopefully something will be resolved.”
Defensive specialist Magnus Arvedson is expected to have his contract negotiations settled soon, and then Ottawa will boast three Swedish forwards: Alfredsson, Arvedson, and Andreas Dackell, who finished third in team scoring last year. Similar to the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s who became popular in Finland with Finnish stars such as Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen, the Senators are big news in Sweden today.
“I especially noticed it this summer when I went back,” Alfredsson said. “They’re getting more and more coverage of NHL games in Sweden, and Ottawa is one of the most covered teams. Young guys in Sweden know who we are.”
Ottawa’s multi-ethnic roster must pull together this season if the Senators intend to erase the humiliation of what Dominik Hasek did to them last April. And Alfredsson can’t wait to go after the Stanley Cup again.
“Sometimes it feels like 82 regular season games are too much and you just want to start the playoffs,” Alfredsson said with a grin. “It’s exciting, all the hype with the media and the fans really getting into it. That’s when the fun starts.”
Indeed, the best way for Ottawa fans to get their minds off their club’s troubled financial prognosis would be a great playoff run in 1999-2000, led by Daniel Alfredsson.