The Ottawa Senators Made The Right Decision

The Senators organization handled the Daniel Alfredsson situation about as poorly as they could. That doesn't mean they were wrong.


It's something fans don't have. And it's understandable. Passion and rationality rarely go hand-in-hand. One is emotional; one is logical. Emotions are what we feel. Logic is what we know. Some mornings I feel like sleeping in. But I know that if I don't get out of bed, I'll lose my job and then I won't eat. I feel in my heart that I'm going to win the lottery on Saturday because I really need the money. That doesn't make the odds of hitting the jackpot less than 1 in 175,223,510.00. But believe me when I say I'm passionate about winning the lottery.

Passionate decisions are not necessarily bad ones, though. The best decision I ever made was out of passion, and literally everyone I know told me to do the opposite. No one was on my side. It was the loneliest I've ever felt. And I have no regrets, even if there's just one person in the world who knows what I'm talking about right now.

But there are times when passion can be your enemy, too. In matters of law, for instance, the presumption of innocence is crucial, because the court of public opinion isn't known for fairness of judgement. There's a simple, straightforward list of requirements to receive an organ from a donor. Not because not everyone deserves one, but because there aren't enough to go around. So how do you decide who gets one? Can't ask the potential recipients--what dying person doesn't think they need a cure the most? The only fair approach is an impartial list that eliminates emotion from the equation. It doesn't feel fair to the guy at the bottom of the list, but that's emotion coming back into play.

Yesterday, Daniel Alfredsson's press conference brought new information about his departure from the team to light. In a nutshell, he wanted a larger salary to compensate for his diminished salary last season.

The optics of this favor Alfredsson. He was the longest-serving captain in the NHL, and a living legend in Ottawa. More importantly, the team had the cap room to accommodate him. That they didn't makes them look like the bad guys. There's no denying that Alfredsson simply was the identity of this team. He will be the first member of the modern franchise to have his number retired, and likely the only one to do so for a very long time. If the team wasn't willing to find common ground with the ultimate team player, what will they do in two years when Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan's contracts expire?

So the narrative goes.

So much has been made of team owner Eugene Melnyk's financial situation this year that it's practically okay that Alfredsson left--something else has already reached mythical status in the Senators' fan universe. Virtual fiscal lynch mobs have emerged. Don't tell Atticus Finch that you have no idea what the team's operating expenses might be! Instead, merely express, with cynical confidence, that you know the team's financial situation based on the limited public financial records available. Be confident in the assumption that the team's spending is a reflection of its owner's financial solvency. And so, that owner who bought the team when it teetered on the brink of collapse and returned it to stability, who has had the unmitigated temerity to not spend as much money as you think he should, has had to put his word against the Internet's. Break out the pitchforks.

It's true that if the Ottawa Senators were a cap team, they'd have the space to have comfortably met Alfredsson's request. It's also true that they are not a cap team. The reasons are irrelevant. They are not a cap team. And because they are not, they are forced to place a value on the dollars they spend on salary--to judge the return on their investments. And because they are forced to do that, we're forced to a conclusion that defies everything we feel as fans; one whose truth requires nothing but the unemotional, unflinching eye of objectivity to see.

Daniel Alfredsson is not worth six million dollars.

Alfredsson's history is irrelevant. His past contracts are irrelevant. Even his intangibles are irrelevant. Objectively, what matters is what Alfie can do for the team. Just look at what the Senators could get for a similar cap hit: John Tavares, Phil Kessel. Marian Hossa. Evander Kane. Jamie Benn. That's the caliber of player the team should expect for the kind of money Alfredsson was asking for. (Oh, and David Clarkson. Whoops.) And while Alfredsson was once that kind of player, he no longer is.

Of course, the team ultimately spent that money, in a roundabout way, on new winger Bobby Ryan. Ryan has said all of the right things since his arrival in Ottawa, and brings the kind of skill the team so desperately needed. Now, there's no doubt that the Senators would be a better club with both Ryan and Alfredsson in its top six. But if the question is, "Which player is a better use of $5M?" the answer is Ryan.

This is not meant to disparage Daniel Alfredsson. His decision in no way diminishes his accomplishments, what he has meant to the franchise, nor what he has meant to me personally. But that is the emotional fan side speaking. The objective side of me knows that fiscally sound teams don't pay players for what they have done, but what they can do. The opposite approach is what leads to compliance buyouts.

As fans, we're not objective about the entire situation. Hearing Alfie's side of things re-opens new wounds that were just starting to heal. But as a team with a specific budget and millions of dollars invested (and millions more dependent on on-ice success) the Senators don't have the luxury of a decision based on passion. For their own future's sake, they're bound to the realm of objectivity--it's the only way they can be successful. It's not fun. It was painful to experience. It's been a public relations nightmare. But none of those things make it wrong.

Daniel Alfredsson priced himself out of the Senators' reach. That was the right decision for him. The Senators chose not to hamstring themselves for nostalgia's sake. That was the right decision for them. Objectively, there's no other way to look at it.

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