Ben Fraser The Hockey Writers
Ottawa Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson: Hall of Fame Worthy?
In the almost 30 years that the modern-day Ottawa Senators have existed, they have yet to have a player inducted into the Hockey Hockey Hall of Fame. While many fantastic players have donned the Centurian, none have been deemed worthy of entry into those hallowed halls.
One can, however, make the case that a certain Senators legend deserves his spot in the Hall of Fame. Daniel Alfredsson, the most iconic player in franchise history, has the stats to back his claim. His lengthy NHL career, from his rookie season in 1995-96 to his twilight in 2013-14, is full of accomplishments that warrant punching a ticket to hockey immortality.
Alfredsson has been passed over since he became eligible in 2017. While his numbers were not worthy of being inducted in his first year, not having his name called after three is perplexing. Considering who has been voted in over the last decade, Alfredsson should be a member before long.
Crunching His Numbers
In Alfredsson’s 18-year NHL career, the Gothenburg, Sweden native compiled 1,157 points in 1,246 games. This includes 444 goals, good for 63rd all-time. He ranks 54th all-time in NHL points. If not for the league-wide lockout during 2004-05, and the shortened 2012-13 season, he would likely have eclipsed the 1,250-point mark. This, of course, is hypothetical, but it’s based on his 1.11 points-per-game average during his peak years from 2001 to 2008.
Related: Full Story: Daniel Alfredsson’s Road to the Rafters
When his numbers are adjusted for his era, they’re even better. His goal total jumps to 492, which would be 45th all-time. His assists grow to 796; 36th all-time. He might have reached 1,261 points, which would put him inside the top-40 all-time. This would surpass Hall of Famers like Dave Anderchuyk, Maurice Richard, and Bobby Hull.
Adjusting for an NHL era, based on complex analytics, is an interesting way to evaluate players who may not have the pure point totals as others, but played in a more defensive era. For a great explanation of era adjusting, Hockey Reference has the information that guides you through it.
Alfredsson also has his fair share of awards. He began his career with a bang, winning the Calder Trophy for the 1995-96 season, and was selected for the NHL All-Rookie Team the same year. He was selected to the NHL All-Star Game six times, most notably in 2012, when he captained “Team Alfredsson” when the Senators hosted the game.
At the tail end of his career, his leadership was rewarded when he won the King Clancy Award for sportsmanship during the 2011-12 season and followed that up with the Mark Messier Award for leadership in 2012-13.
In the playoffs, Alfredsson also showed that he could be relied upon. In 121 playoff games, he scored 51 goals and 100 points. When the Senators made the Stanley Cup Final during the 2006-07 season, he also stepped up to the plate, leading the playoffs in goals and points.
Alfredsson’s International Career
The Hockey Hall of Fame is not just for NHL players. Several members of the Hall of Fame never played in the NHL but had lengthy careers playing internationally. When you factor in Alfredsson’s Swedish international play, his case for induction into the Hall of Fame gets even better.
Before joining the Senators in 1995, Alfredsson played for Frölunda HC in the Swedish Elite League. During the NHL lockout of 2004-05, he returned to Frolunda where he was a part of the greatest season in their history. He established a team record for playoff goals in a season with 12, as Frölunda won the Swedish League championship.
Related: Frölunda HC: The Gold Standard of NHL Prospect Development
Alfredsson also represented Sweden’s international team with distinction over his career. He played in 14 international tournaments, including five Olympics where he won a Gold Medal in 2006, and a Silver in 2014. His 16 Olympic goals and 28 points are second all-time in Swedish history.
In all, Alfredsson played 88 games for the Swedish National Team. In those games, he scored 74 points and took home a total of seven medals, including two Silvers at the IIHF World Championships. Adding these stats and medals to his already fantastic resume makes it clear, that Alfredsson is worthy.
Comparison to Other Hall of Famers
I am a stickler for reserving Hall of Fame inductees for the most deserving. Admittedly, if the voting committee was more reserved in their nominees, I would argue that Alfredsson doesn’t deserve a place in the Hall.
As I write this, there are 271 players in the Hockey Hall of Fame; so while it’s a distinct honour to be inducted, it is by far the easiest induction compared to the four major North American sports. Alfredsson deserves his spot based on both his stats and who has already earned a spot.
When evaluating those eligible for the Hall of Fame, you must consider their place within the greatest players of all time. While Alfredsson never won a major award outside of the Calder, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he was one of the best right wingers during his time in the NHL.
Related: Carbonneau, Wickenheiser Headline Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019
Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov, who had very similar numbers to Alfredsson, with only 22 more points in his 18-year career, played on much better teams during his time. This is including his 13 seasons as a member of the Detroit Red Wings dynasty of the 1990s and early 2000s, while also playing very well for the Soviet Union/Russia internationally.
While Fedorov was an amazing player, can you honestly say that he was one of the greatest players of his era? He did win the Hart, Selke and Pearson trophies in 1993-94, but outside of that season, his only other award was his second Selke in 1995-96.
While Alfredsson never won anything like that, he was by far a more consistent player during his career than Fedorov, whose 120-point season in 1993-94 and 107-point season in 1995-96 was far ahead of his usual output during the majority of his career. Once he left the Red Wings, his scoring totals fell off a cliff.
Comparing Daniel Alfredsson and Mats Sundin
One member of the Hall of Fame I would compare to Alfredsson is longtime Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin. Both are Swedish, but the two have more in common than people think.
Related: What Mats Sundin Meant to Toronto Hockey
Both players came to prominence during the dead puck era of the late 1990s and put up similar stats during their peak years. They also became icons of their respective franchises, as they are the team leaders in goals and in points. Both of them also captained their team for more than a decade and brought them both to the brink of winning the Stanley Cup, without reaching the ultimate goal. Sundin and Alfredsson also shared the ice internationally, Sundin having played for Sweden alongside Alfredsson in many tournaments. He also captained the 2006 Swedish Olympic team to a gold medal.
Another comparison is the quality of their supporting cast. In his career, Sundin put up more points and was a better goal scorer then Alfredsson. This may have been a result of his time with the Quebec Nordiques with Joe Sakic and Owen Nolan, where Sundin had his best season point total of 114 during the 1992-93 season. Of course, when you play with better players, you will get more points. Playing with Sakic was amazing for Sundin’s career, and he would not play with anyone like Sakic for the rest of his career.
In Toronto, Sundin was an incredible player, but his overall scoring went down because of a weakened supporting cast. This is not to take away from Mats as a player. His spot in hockey lore is well deserved, as his drop in points had nothing to do with him as a player. The Maple Leafs spent years trying to get him a winger but never did. He had to carry the Leafs on his back, and while he was successful, his point total was reflective of that.
Alfredsson experienced the same during his career but in reverse. Aside from his rookie season when he won the Calder, it took him some time to reach his peak. He was a pretty consistent 60 to 70-point player during the mid-1990s, but his best years were when the Senators became the juggernaut of the league during the early to late 2000s. Alfredsson had the benefit of playing alongside Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, which also may have inflated his statistics.
What this says about both players is that while they were both consistent players, they both benefited and suffered from the quality of their teams. This is not to say that Sundin or Alfredsson relied on their teammates, or that Sundin doesn’t deserve his spot in the Hall of Fame. It is just highlighting the fact that their careers are so similar.
The Case Against Alfredsson
While Alfredsson had an excellent career, he came up short of winning the Stanley Cup. Not every player in the Hall of Fame has a Cup, but in most cases, if they don’t, they need to be exceptional to get in. While he has a Calder, he never won a Hart, Conn Smythe, or Lester B. Pearson Trophy during his career. These individual awards can be the difference between am amazing career, and a Hall of Fame career.
Related: Renaming the NHL Awards: What They Could Look Like
His individual stats, while impressive, are also indicative of his longevity. He eclipsed 100 points once, which was then the standard of a truly great offensive season. While he was quite consistent, he didn’t really have the same star power as some other Hall of Fame players.
The Final Verdict
Considering that Alfredsson is within the top 60 in all-time goals scored and points are indicative about how well Alfredsson played during his career. While there are players with more points then Alfredsson that are not in the Hall of Fame like Jeremy Roenick and Vincent Damphousse, he was clearly a better player both domestically and internationally than those mentioned.
When you factor in his consistency across his 18-year career, his amazing play during his peak seasons; the case only gets stronger. While the analytic side usually doesn’t factor into the decision, it’s something that must be considered in today’s game. Combining this with his international play does add the qualifications that he did not receive during his NHL career.
While the Hall of Fame continues to be free with its inductees, it’s only a matter of time before Alfredsson gets his name called. The stats are there, and it may take a few years. Expect to see Alfredsson as the first Ottawa Senator to have his plaque in the Hall of Fame.
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