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Why Daniel Alfredsson’s heel turn could be a good thing for the Ottawa Senators

Harrison Mooney
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"Take me with you, Sidney. Don't tell anyone I said that."

I'm not much for stereotypes, so in one sense, I was pleasantly surprised by Daniel Alfredsson's decision to thumb his nose at 17 years in Ottawa and bolt for what he perceived to be the greener pastures of Detroit on Friday.

"Swedes aren't supposed to do that!" a confused Senators fan told me shortly after hearing the news. It's true. Swedish hockey players are the good guys, known for laying down roots and staying in one town. They're hockey's turtle doves, mating for life.

Alfredsson, as it turned out, was a lobster -- an animal most think mates for life but actually doesn't.

On Friday, Alfie turned heel, all but donning a black bandana and shades and hauling ass to Detroit on a motorcycle, shouting "Up yours!" at Ian Mendes as he peeled away. It was a complete shock, fully overshadowing the Senators' acquisition of Bobby Ryan, far and away the biggest swap of the day.

The despair in the Senators' fanbase was intense -- Satan in Book IV of Paradise Lost intense. If the fall of man hadn't already happened, you got the sense that an anguished, sorrowing Senators fan would have set it into motion yesterday. In a world without evil, today might be mankind's first day in pants.

But while Ottawans spent Friday night in sackcloth and ashes, I couldn't help but think that, at least in a sense, this actually worked out pretty well for them.

In their hearts, Daniel Alfredsson will be missed. This is, after all, a surprise divorce after 17 years.

On the ice, however? Not so much.

The Senators got better, and not just a little better. The acquisition of Bobby Ryan could mean the second coming of the Pizza Line. And as for Alfredsson's lost production, Clarke MacArthur, signed for two years at $6.5 million as opposed to Alfredsson's $5.5 million for one year, might be able to replace that for cheaper.

MacArthur may not have had the best time under Randy Carlyle, but that might be the Carlyle effect. Plugs seem to thrive under him while skill players struggle (which may be evidence that he's bad at this, I don't know). Plus, unlike Alfredsson, MacArthur wants you right now, Ottawa.

The Senators' youth movement, expedited due to injuries last season, just got another boost. They're getting a new captain, and other, younger players will be stepping up to fill the rest of the leadership void. Furthermore, no longer is the team in "Win it for Alfie" mode. Now they can continue their development into a top-tier contender without that added pressure. Plus they get the motivation of their new mode: "Win it instead of Alfie".

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Being loyal to Alfredsson may have been the goodly thing to do, but there's a cold, clinical argument no one wanted to hear for doing exactly what Ottawa wound up doing yesterday.

Fortunately, Ottawa doesn't have to make that argument. This wasn't their call.

Alfredsson owned the exit completely, even dropping the "S" word in his explanation of why he'll be playing out his career elsewhere. “It came down to a selfish decision,” he told the media. “I feel with Ottawa, they’re getting closer and closer. Definitely going in the right direction. But I don’t have the time to wait for that.”

In other words, this is all him, even amidst rumours that the Senators somehow screwed something up. From Y!'s Nick Cotsonika:

Owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray mishandled the Alfredsson situation, rejecting his opening offer and then offering a blank check when it was too late. So now Alfie, once the most popular figure in Ottawa, will chase the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings, the Sens’ division rivals next season. A shame.

Perhaps. But honestly, if we're looking to pinpoint the moment Alfredsson decided to leave Ottawa, I'd go further back in time, say, to his odd moment of candor in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

Asked if the Senators could still win the seven-game series with the Pittsburgh Penguins after falling behind 3-1 thanks to a brutal Game 4, Alfredsson replied, "Probably not."

All of us in the hockey media tried to spin that, to make it line up with the Alfredsson we thought we knew, the one who bled red not because that's what humans do, but because that's the Senators' primary colour.

It never really jibed with old Alfie. But with this new heel Alfie, who we assume will now spend 10 minutes badmouthing the city he's in before his matches, it totally does.

In retrospect, that seems to me like the moment Alfredsson decided that he was going to have to leave Ottawa to win a Stanley Cup. He was going to have to be the badguy.

That's where this is great news for Ottawa. This could have been an uneasy breakup. Instead, Alfredsson opted for the affair that makes the whole process that much easier. It was nasty and underhanded and a little bit shameful. But he took all the blame, and now you don't have to feel bad about your organization going in a different direction.

I mean, I know you still will, Ottawa, but in the words of a great emperor: use your anger. It's Alfredsson's parting gift to you.

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