Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson should receive a measure of commendation for being exceedingly honest.
He should also, by virtue of the exact same words he spoke, be looked at as someone who did something immeasurably boneheaded. In essence, Alfredsson has given up — a Cardinal sin in the machismo-filled, testosterone-fueled, we-ain’t-ever-gonna-quit world of sports.
And this all happened with one little comment; just 14 words.
Wednesday night, just after the Senators had their collective hats handed to them, 7-3, by the Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals — with Pittsburgh taking a commanding 3-1 series lead — Alfredsson said the following when asked if his team could win three in a row to win the series:
“Probably not,” he said, “Their depth and power play right now, it doesn’t look too good.”
Boneheaded? Even more so.
Alfredsson (who incidentally looks as if he could Randy Johnson’s twin) is the captain of this Ottawa Senators hockey team and his words signify the guy who is tabbed to be the leader, essentially, abandoning ship.
He’s also 40 years old and played in his first NHL game in 1995. In short, this isn’t some young, naïve guy popping off, rather a veteran who has been through the skirmishes and conflicts in the past, with an understanding of all you are supposed to do on the ice and then, in turn, say to the assembled media.
How do you think a guy such as Chris Neil — who we hate in Pittsburgh — took to those words? Neil is a player who with one breath left would use it to muster enough energy to make an opponent’s life a living hell, and then somehow find a way to haunt that opponent from the grave.
What sort of message do Alfredsson’s words send to the fourth liners on his team?
How about the owner, the billionaire bizarre one Eugene Melnyk? Certainly a strange bird, one can never discount Melnyk’s unwavering want to win. Think he took Alfredsson’s candor nicely?
What’s that say to some young defenseman who wears a Senators sweater; a guy taught to scratch tooth and nail in every series with every ounce of perseverance you have until the end-of-series handshake line?
If I’m on Alfredsson’s team, I largely judge him by his actions, but I look at his words curiously and think he has a bit of quitter in him.
Again, that’s just an honest opinion to counter Alfredsson’s honest opinion.
And that isn’t even entering the fan realm.
How, if you are an Ottawa Senators fan in good faith and conscience, do you muster any of that faith for Game 5 on Friday night? Heck, if the captain of your team thinks the road ahead is impossible, there probably isn’t any reason for you to believe anything differently.
To me, if I were a guy plunking down a bunch of money for tickets all season, or just a guy headed to an Ottawa bar to watch the Game 5 in Pittsburgh, I would be less than overjoyed that the gentleman leading my side had pretty much flapped the white flag.
When asked the question late Wednesday night about his team’s chances, Alfredsson definitely told the truth. Anyone can see as much. The Senators almost-certainly cannot win three in a row.
The thought here, however, is he didn’t need to say it.
He could have lied and said he had a ton of confidence in his team.
In this instance, it would have been better for people to look at Alfredsson as someone who had some Pinocchio in him, as opposed to some quit in him.
Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here (http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/personality/colin-dunlap/)