Okay, so looking at this year, it's pretty easy to say we're doing well. The team is sitting in fifth (though every other team near us in the standings has about 30 games in hand, thank you schedule makers), and the players on all lines are thriving in the current environment. It's beginning to look like BM wasn't just trying to cover his butt last year when he was saying that the energy of younger players is what will make us competitive in the future.
So far, it would be easy to say our rebuild is almost finished. Give guys like ZBad, Stone, Borocop, Weircioch and Silvferberg a year or two to grow into NHL players, and we're only going to improve on where we are now? And if where we are now is a solid, middle of the playoff pack team, then the improvement would mean we're genuine contenders, right?
But not so fast. One thing needs to be factored into every discussion of a completed rebuild. It's the thing I hate to say more than anything in the world.
Daniel Alfredsson is almost done. Sure, he may come back next year, maybe even some more after that, but lets be honest here. The shelflife on our beloved Alfie ain't what it used to be.
And where would we be this year without Alfie? In the past few weeks he's gotten 2 OT goals, which automatically would have us two points lower. How many more important goals/assists of his this year would have cost us points in the standings without them? How many more points in the standings would we have dropped without his veteren leadership? How many times does Alfie trigger those come from behind wins that all us Silver Seveners love to talk about?
I don't think it's unfair to say that without Alfie, we'd be at least 10 points back of where we are now. Where does that put us? 44 points. Tenth in the east. A game below .500. 3 points up on Buffalo, giving Buffalo 3 games in hand. A point back of Winnepeg, giving Winny 2 games in hand.
Something to think about when Brian Murray starts talking about adding another piece at the deadline. Sure, we're pressing strong right now, but we're not ready for Alfie's retirement, and if we abandon the rebuild for a playoff run that is not particularly likely to get us the cup, the pain of the day Alfie hangs up his pads is going to hurt even harder than it needs to.
Either way, though, it's going to hurt a lot.