Though July 5, 2013 will forever serve as the date of record relative to Daniel Alfredsson becoming a Detroit Red Wing, his baptism into the faith that is Hockeytown won’t take place until April 18, 2014.
Now, this isn’t to say that this is because playoff hockey is as important to being a Detroit Red Wing as is wearing the winged-wheel—though it is.
And this notion isn’t just a nod to the fact that being a part of a playoff team means something wholly different than appearing on the roster throughout the regular season—though it does.
No, the reason Alfredsson won’t really be a Detroit Red Wing until next Friday is because that will make his decision to abandon his legacy as an Ottawa Senator—officially—worth it.
Alfredsson decided to come to Detroit because he wanted a chance to play for the first Stanley Cup of his career. While no NHL player truly has that opportunity until his team enters the Stanley Cup Final, there is no doubt that will be the prize Alfredsson and his team will fix their eyes on when the puck drops in Boston.
Alfredsson was recently counted among a select few players identified by head coach Mike Babcock as making a difference this season when it mattered most. As reported by Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press:
I don’t want to take anything away from Pav and Z because they’re a huge part of our team. But Nik Kronwall set the tone for this team this year because he did it every day, right, all the time. Alfredsson gave him another support guy, and with the Mule, in my opinion, because those other guys weren’t available to us to lead. To me that group did the lion’s share of the work, leadership-wise, and that’s so critical.
While Alfredsson’s leadership was surely a factor in what was a tumultuous regular season in Detroit, it is now that Alfredsson’s wisdom, experience and determination will truly be tested.
Alfredsson wore the “C” in Ottawa for 13 of his 17 seasons as a Senator. While no one, not even Alfredsson, will be able to replace Henrik Zetterberg as Detroit’s captain, he is certainly one who must be counted on to carry some of that load.
There will be a moment, if not several, during Detroit’s first-round tilt against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Boston Bruins that will require a depth of leadership and wisdom that only a player of Alfredsson’s NHL tenure can draw upon.
Perhaps it will be a critical power play that will tie a game, or the series. Perhaps it will be a calm bit of advice on the bench to one of Detroit’s younger players. It could be a game-saving speech between periods—whatever the moment, whenever the time, it will come.
In that moment, Alfredsson’s true commitment to winning will be tested and his legacy as a Detroit Red Wing will be defined.
When that moment does arrive, it may do so with a fair amount of irony.
After all, though Alfredsson’s final destination was Detroit, Boston was the other team he considered before making his decision.
Should Detroit face elimination against Boston at some point and a locker room rallying cry be needed to battle back from the brink, one hopes that Alfredsson would be first to stand up and open his mouth.
Alfredsson joined the Detroit Red Wings over nine months ago. However, his opportunity to define his legacy in Detroit has only just arrived.