Daniel Alfredsson still hasn’t made a decision about his future in the NHL. He has said that if he plays this season, it’ll be in Detroit. Ken Holland has essentially said the door is open for Alfredsson to play for the Wings, but the question is: do the Wings need Alfredsson?
Based on his stats alone, the answer is a definite maybe. He led the team in points with 49 last season, but that was in 68 games. The Wings’ normal point leaders Zetterberg and Datsyuk played only played 45 games each, and Zetterberg was only 1 point behind Alfie in the team’s scoring race. With another year added to Alredsson’s career, it’s safe to say his point total will most likely decline as his point per game average has always dipped after a season where he had higher than 0.70; not to mention the man is 41 years old.
If Alfredsson felt good come training camp, and signed a contract, where would he fit? In the last few weeks, I looked at potential lines for the Wings (link) and left Alfredsson out of all of them. The Wings have something of a log-jam of forwards, most of whom are on 1-way contracts. Alfredsson would most likely get power play time (easy time on ice) where 28 of his 49 points (57%) came last season, and could fit with Helm and Abdelkader much like he did last season. However, with Babcock announcing that he would try Helm on Datysuk’s wing this season, that leaves Alfredsson’s line partners a little up in the air.
At this point, it may look as though the Red Wings could live without Alfredsson. However, Gustav Nyquist and Niklas Kronwall have both expressed that they hope that Alfredsson plays with the Wings again this season. Alfredsson’s leadership would be paramount for this younger team, and the idea of Alfredsson mentoring fellow Swede Gustav Nyquist gives me that tingly feeling you get when you climb the rope in gym class. When the leaders on your team, and the younger players on your team are both are hoping for a return from the 41 year-old, I think it’s safe to say that the Wings need Alfredsson. Assuming he doesn’t teach Nyquist how to interact with fans.
With a decent production of points, fairly good power play usage, and unquestionable leadership and likeability from the former Senators captain, the ball is completely in Alfredsson’s court. There is a chance that Alfredsson plays a schedule much like that of recent retiree Teemu Selanne, where Alfredsson plays only one of every back-to-back game in order for his body to recover. At this point, I think the Wings could go for a schedule like that, especially since that gives a lot more chances for young players to make their way into the lineup. When key players on your team are asking for a certain player to come back, it would be tough to say no. Assuming all is healthy with his body, expect to see 41 year-old Daniel Alfredsson back in a Red Wings uniform this season.
I’m Osgood’s Bucket, keep your stick on the ice.