by Chet Sellers

Daniel Alfredsson has been taken to task for his comments following game 4, where he suggested the Senators have little chance to rebound from a 3-1 deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  But is that fair? Let’s find out!

Coming off a 7-3 loss, Alfredsson was asked whether he thought his team could win three in a row, and responded:

“Probably not. With their depth and power play right now, it doesn’t look too good.”

He qualified his comments later, but the damage was done. Call it pessimism, call it realism, call it a tactic, but many called it uncaptainly behavior. Some contrasted it with comments from Mark Messier, on the occasion of his team trailing the Devils 3-2 in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, where he guaranteed a game 6 win. The fact that Alfredsson has been nominated for Messier’s own leadership award provided no end of irony.

Is Messier the appropriate comparison, though?  Is he the archetype by which captains should be judged, or do we glamorize him on account of our short memories? As someone who knows his way around microfiche, I did a little research on the subject. I think you’ll be surprised.

Let’s start with the old Western Men’s League. When asked about his team’s ability to come back from a 4-0 deficit in 1957’s best-of-nine Shop ‘n Save Cup, Yorkton Haymakers captain Salts Taylor responded:

Absolutely not. In fact, I guarantee we’ll lose.”

Or what about the old Volunteers League? In 1938, the Spokane Lumberbarons were staring down a 2-0 deficit against the now-defunct Kelowna Gadabouts in a battle for the prestigious Dutch Plate. Spokane’s captain, Tick Nettleford, offered the following assessment:

These guys are monsters. I hate this. I want to go home, apologize to the good folks of Spokane, and never play iced hockey again.”

Closer to modern day, who can forget trailblazer Jméno Příjmení, the first European captain of the Mobile Clamrollers in the old Deep South League? In 1972, the beefy Czech was asked about his team getting run out of its own barn by the cross-town Shrimpers in game 1 of the Bob’s Food Store Invitational, and pulled no punches:

You see them. They hit my face, they take my stick, they tell me wife shave arms and go dancing with them. Then I go home and wife not there, just hair in sink. What do I do? I go back to Brno, run family landfill, maybe breed weasels. Later crackers.”

When we take the appropriate historical perspective, Alfredsson isn’t a pessimist or a quitter, he’s an inspiration, and a legend always. See you for game 5.
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