I’ve written it before: there must be some sort of fountain of youth they hide somewhere inside Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings, for years—decades, really—have been the repository of players who are closer to collecting Social Security benefits than goals and assists. Yet, for the most part, the oldsters have worked.
I went looking for the fountain back in 2008, covering the Stanley Cup Finals after Game 2, when the Red Wings took a 2-0 series lead over Pittsburgh with their second straight shutout.
Chris Chelios, 46 years old, was on that team, and had a strong season. But even though Chelly didn’t dress in the Finals, Chris Osgood (35 years old), Nick Lidstrom (38 years old), Kris Draper (37), Kirk Maltby (35), Tomas Holmstrom (35) and Dallas Drake (39) did, and they were handling the younger Penguins. The backup goalie for Detroit was 43-year-old Dominik Hasek.
The Red Wings won the series, 4-2, although they led Game 5 before the Pens scored the tying goal with less than 30 seconds to play. Pittsburgh won that game in three overtimes. Detroit captured the Cup in Pittsburgh a couple nights later.
The Red Wings’ Cup win in 2008 recalled, for me, the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs, who were by far the oldest team in the NHL at the time. The ’67 Leafs remain Toronto’s most recent Stanley Cup champion.
The fountain of youth has been dusted off. And Daniel Alfredsson is slurping from it.
Alfie is 41 years old and after a sluggish start after being signed away from Ottawa last summer, the RW is posting numbers that are pretty much in line with recent years.
Alfredssson, in 38 games, has 11 goals and 19 assists. He’s plus-5, has 3 PP goals and is third on the team in SOG with 88. The 30 points are good for third on the team as well. He’s been far from a poor signing or over-the-hill.
Compare this year’s production with the last full NHL season of two years ago, and you’ll see that Alfredsson is pretty much on pace for the 27 goals and 32 assists he amassed for the Senators that year.
To put it more plainly, Alfie is on pace to reach 20+ goals for the 14th time in his 18-year career.
The Red Wings inked Alfredsson for one year, and it was understood that he wouldn’t play beyond that. But while he’s been slowed by groin issues this season, I’m sure the Red Wings are hoping that his consistency might egg him on try one more year after this one.
Regardless, Alfredsson—one of the team’s precious few RH shots—has quietly filled a void that the Red Wings were hoping he would when they stunned the NHL and signed him away from the Senators, the only NHL team he’s ever known.
And with the Red Wings decimated by injury all season, the team has relied heavily on the veteran on a nightly basis, probably more than they would have preferred.
It’s amazing how players are able to come to Detroit—or stay in Detroit—and be so productive in their Golden Years. Again, must be that fountain.
But this has been a tough go for the Red Wings this season, with the injuries and the uneven play in net. They actually picked a good time for a drop-off, this being their first year in the inferior Eastern Conference.
It remains to be seen how Alfredsson will play as the season moves along and the grind of a return to a full 82-game schedule after a one-year break starts to take its toll. But halfway through what is likely to be his only season wearing the Winged Wheel, the Red Wings have to be satisfied.
Coach Mike Babcock, shortly after Detroit signed Alfredsson, called the acquisition “unbelievable.”
That might be the word to describe the consistency and dependability that a 41-year-old winger has provided Babcock’s team.