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Saturday, March 1, 2008


Euro Curve appears Saturdays on Illegalcurve.com and chronicles the latest international hockey news.

Daniel Alfredsson became the first European captain in the history of the National Hockey League to lead his team to a Stanley Cup Final series last season when the Ottawa Senators captured the Eastern Conference championship. The Senators were defeated in five games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks and thus Alfredsson was unable to reach his penultimate zenith.

With less than a quarter of the 2007'08 regular season remaining, Alfredsson -who has a remarkable 78 points this season- remains Europe's best candidate to finally break the (continental?) barrier. The Senators have experienced their fair share of internal bickering this year, struggling to perform like a team who started the season winning 15 of their first 17 games. But the one constant, aside from the annoying horn heard at Scotiabank Place, has been the meritorious play of Alfie.

After dropping two games to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins by a combined score of 9-0, the Senators axed ex-Winnipeg Jets head coach John Paddock in favour of GM Bryan Murray. The move was made in part because of the perfunctory play of some of the team's veterans. The micromanaging of the trials and tribulations of 1A goaltender Ray Emery could have been another reason.

This week, local hockey writers and insiders waited in anticipation like a bunch of Hannah Montana fans as Murray decided not to move Emery at the NHL's trade deadline. Instead, Murray acquired three-time Stanley Cup winner Martin Lapointe and gave Emery a supreme boost of confidence. Along with the acquisitions of Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore, Ottawa is now brimming with championship-winning leaders.

Amidst controversies surrounding the team's goaltending and coaching situations, Alfreddson has been diplomatic and level-headed. He has let his play on the ice do the talking. And that's why he is a good candidate to take a page out of Lars-Erik Sjoberg's book. The book of European captains who have won a major championshio that is. Sjoberg was an uber-talented Swedish captain who was flanked by all-star linemates. Sjoberg captained the Winnipeg Jets to three Avco Cup championship in the 1970's playing alongside Ulf Nilsson and "The Golden Jet" Bobby Hull.

Alfredsson faces many obstacles, particularly history, in his noble quest, as Brian Leetch remains the only non-Canadian to have captained his team to a Stanley Cup championship (New York Rangers, 1994). Another hurdle facing Alfie is the high competition level in the Eastern Conference as teams like the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils continue to push for high playoff seeding.

Will Alfredsson lead the Sens back to the Stanley Cup Finals to battle the stacked Ducks or will Detroit Red Wings captain Niklas Lidstrom steal the European championship belt? We'll have to wait just like those pre-teen Miley Cyrus fans.

For Illegal Curve, I'm Ezra Ginsburg

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