Daniel Alfredsson has served as the captain of the Ottawa Senators for more than a decade now, but he's never had to worry about assembling the team around him, just playing for it.
Things will be a little bit different next Thursday night, when Alfredsson's first responsibility as one of the captains for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game will be to select the rest of his roster at the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft.
Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, who appeared as a guest on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman," has more than 30 years' worth of experience as both a coach and general manager. Will Alfredsson be soliciting advice from him prior to putting together his team?
"I think he has it figured out," Murray said. "I'm not sure, I've heard some rumors what his plans are, but he'll do a good job. Alfie's very aware of the League, he follows the game around the League very carefully and closely. I don't think he'll be asking a lot of opinions, maybe of one player, but that's about it. I think he'll just take it and run with it."
The excitement in Ottawa grows by the day as All-Star Weekend approaches -- and the Senators continuing to climb in the Eastern Conference standings. Alfredsson will have several of his own teammates to consider when the time comes to draft, as Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson were voted into the game by the fans, and rookie Colin Greening was added by the League for the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
Murray addressed the contributions of each player, who have helped the Senators to a 26-16-6 mark and 58 points, good for second in the Northeast Division and fifth in the East entering their game Thursday night in San Jose.
"Daniel Alfredsson has been such a key guy for the franchise for a number of years," Murray said. "He's a terrific man, he's a terrific player, he's helped us with the young people. I think before you make changes and go young, you go to your core players and Alfie was a guy I went to and told him what our plan was, try to retool the organization back to where we can start building with young people again, and he was on board.
"Erik Karlsson is one of the young guys -- he's a superstar, I think, in the making. He's leading the League, defensemen anyway, in the point category.
"Jason Spezza's been a big-time player and a very high-skill player for a number of years in the League, and he's having a real breakout year for him.
"And Milan Michalek, he's an All-Star for sure. We've been waiting on this to happen. He had some injuries in the past years, but this year has taken off. He was leading the League (in goal scoring) until he got a concussion but now has bounced back and played well.
"Colin Greening … a guy we waited on a little bit, he played in the minors a big part of last year but has really made a huge step this year and plays on the line with Spezza and Michalek. So it's an exciting time for our team with a lot of kids, but it's an exciting time for some of our veteran guys to be selected as part of the All-Star Game as well."
Murray understands hosting such a signature event is an opportunity for Ottawa to showcase itself to fans around the world, and he thinks they'll enjoy what they see.
"The big focus in the All-Star Game, other than the game and the skill competition, is downtown, so people that come into the city are going to be, I think, very, very impressed with the downtown core," Murray said. "Everything's within walking distance, for the most part. The fans are super on board. … I think it's just going to be a terrific weekend. I think there's going to be excitement. I have to say, for people who have never been to Ottawa, with Parliament Hill and all the good things around the (Rideau) Canal, it should be a lot of fun and should be something they'll remember for a long time."
If the Senators continue to come together as a team and play well, there's a chance Murray will be able to say the same thing about this season when he looks back down the road. Under new coach Paul MacLean, the team has rebounded from a 74-point season in 2010-11 that saw Ottawa finish last in the Northeast and 13th in the Eastern Conference.
"We were not rated to be one of the top teams at this time of year, obviously," Murray said. "We had a tough year last year, a frustrating year. A lot of our veteran players weren't very good. Some of the free agents that I had signed certainly didn't get to the level we thought they would. We made a lot of changes. We traded a number of veteran players that were good people, but at that time weren't fitting, and changed the coaching staff.
"I think Paul MacLean has come in with his staff and really opened the lines of communication and put in some structure, worked the players harder in training camp, and a lot of our young players who had played in Binghamton last year and won the Calder Cup grew up and came in and have fit very nicely along with the leadership of Alfredsson and Spezza and (Chris) Phillips. We've really taken some big strides. Hopefully it continues."