Daniel Alfredsson’s kids should be happy. And so should be much of Ottawa and Sweden with the team the Senators captain put together in making his selections in the NHL All-Star draft on Thursday night.
Alfredsson completed a double sweep, picking all available Senators and Swedish-born players in building a roster that will take on Zdeno Chara’s team in the skills competition on Saturday and All-Star game on Sunday.
”I’m happy with our team and pretty confident we’re going to have the crowd behind us,” said Alfredsson, who noted that even his kids had influenced his selections, particularly his first pick of Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. ”I know they’ll be happy now.”
Chara loved playing in Ottawa, but has grown accustomed to playing the role of villain in Canada’s capital since signing with Boston in 2006.
That certainly showed when the Bruins captain’s picks were booed by a partisan Senators crowd following the selections of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, who play for Ottawa’s cross-provincial rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
”It’s going to be great for the fans,” said Chara, who wasn’t going to interfere with Alfredsson’s drafting strategy. ”I think it’s fair enough to have the team of guys together, especially for Ottawa fans. … They can have their home team players on the same team.”
Chara won the ”puck flip” and opened by taking Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk.
”He’s an unbelievable player. I really admire the way he plays the game and the way he acts on and off the ice,” Chara said. ”That was my individual goal to get him first, and I was happy that I could do it.”
He then turned his attention to the Bruins, showing support in selecting Tim Thomas with his second pick. The goalie created a stir this week by not going to the White House with his teammates, who were honored for winning the Stanley Cup.
”It’s important to pick any player, but to pick Timmy, I think it’s obvious that he is a great player,” Chara said. ”He’s a tremendous goaltender, and he deserved to be picked second.”
Chara avoided any mention of the controversy that led Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to suggest that the snub showed disrespect toward the presidency. Thomas provided a terse ”No comment.”
The American-born Thomas declined to elaborate on the explanation he provided on his Facebook page for skipping the visit, when he wrote: ”This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country.”
On Thursday, Thomas said: ”Everything I said in my statement was what I believed to be the absolute truth. I don’t think I need to revisit something that I stated so clearly.”
The made-for-TV draft was held at a hotel adjoined to a casino in Quebec, just across the Ottawa River from Canada’s capital. It marked the second straight year the NHL has had team captains draft players in a bid to generate an additional day’s interest in its midseason classic.
The suspense lasted until the end when the distinction of Mr. Irrelevant fell to San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture, who was the last of the 38 players selected. For being the last man standing, Couture won a car and will have $20,000 donated to a charity of his choice.
The final pick came down to either Couture or Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn. Chara went with Benn after crediting the player for competing in the All-Star game after having an appendectomy.
Couture took a light-hearted approach, noting that Sharks teammate Joe Thornton had already sent him several humorous texts.
”Jumbo’s all over me. He was the first guy to text me and got trainers texting me. He says he needs a new car,” Couture said.
Alfredsson scooped up the Senators, including forwards Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. He also concentrated on getting players with Ottawa connections, including Flyers forward Claude Giroux, who grew up in nearby Orleans, Ontario, and Blues goalie Brian Elliott, who previously played for the Senators.
Spezza was pleased with Alfredsson’s picks.
”It worked out how we wanted it to. We wanted to play together in front of our home crowd,” said Spezza, who didn’t mind being selected behind Karlsson. ”No, definitely not. Erik’s part of Alfie’s family, so you’ve got to pick family first.”
Karlsson spent his rookie season living with Alfredsson.
Alfredsson completed the Swedish sweep by taking all four countrymen, including Vancouver’s twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
Then again, there were questions whether Chara would pick a Canucks player after the Bruins beat Vancouver in a heated seven-game Stanley Cup finals series last spring.
Chara opened with offense in taking Datsyuk and used his third pick on Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, the NHL scoring leader. He also took Bruins teammate Tyler Seguin and a few of his former teammates, including Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa and Kessel.
By selecting Kessel 15th, Chara ensured the Maple Leafs forward wouldn’t be the final player selected for a second straight year.