One good thing about last night’s Ottawa loss to the Thrashers?
Danny Alfredsson scored, breaking up a 10-game goalless slump.
Ottawa Coach Cory Clouston was never able to diagnose the reason for the slump, but in general, seemed fine with Alfredsson’s opportunities and effort.
I don’t think effort or opportunities are the issue, though. I suspect the issue might be age. Alfredsson just turned 38. He’s not a young guy anymore. Yet he’s averaging 19 minutes per game this season, about three minutes of which takes place on the power play and about two minutes of which takes place on the penalty kill.
That kind of ice time seems to be wearing down Alfredsson.
If you look at Alfredsson’s career, he’s always played big minutes. Over the past eight seasons, he’s never played less than 77 games and he’s never averaged less than 19 minutes per game. That’s a lot of hockey.
While Alfredsson’s average ice time this season is slightly below his career average, it’s still too much for someone of Alfredsson’s age. Especially given that Clouston still depends upon Alfredsson for offense.
It’s time for Clouston to dial down the ice time and to teach Alfredsson to do more with less. Rather than forcing Alfredsson to survive 19 minutes a night, Clouston should focus on getting Alfredsson to make the most of something more like 15 minutes a night.
Playing less would keep Alfredsson more rested for each shift. It would make him more effective at even strength, where he has just three goals this season.
It’s hard to roll back the ice time on a player like Alfredsson. He’s talented and versatile, and even when he’s not scoring, he’s the kind of player a coach wants on the ice.
If Clouston doesn’t want to reduce Alfredsson’s ice time, he needs to reconsider his role, and instead use Alfredsson as more of a checker, assigned to shut down other team’s top lines.
But Clouston needs to acknowledge Alfredsson’s getting older. He’s still a solid player, but he’s no longer 25. Or even 35. The Senators can pretend Alfredsson isn’t aging, but that’s not going to change anything.
It’s better to have a more effective Alfredsson for less minutes than a less effective Alfredsson for more minutes.