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Friday Four: Farewell to Alfredsson, love for Sabres

by Kevin Weekes

Each Friday throughout the regular season Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four in his Weekes on the Web blog. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, trends or really four of whatever in the NHL that have caught his eye.

This week I'm looking at a big night in Canada's capital city and three teams, with some good and some bad mixed in:

1. Alfie's big night in Ottawa

I spoke to a few people in the Ottawa Senators hierarchy earlier this week and the big thing for them was there were great lines of communication between general manager Bryan Murray, owner Eugene Melnyk and Daniel Alfredsson. The communication was honest, respectful, and collectively they decided that what happened Thursday made the most sense for Alfredsson.

Obviously he's a lifetime Senator and they really wanted to do this for the organization, for the player/person that Alfredsson is, and for their fans. They really felt like this was the right thing to do, especially with them being a relatively young franchise comparatively speaking to other teams in the League.

The Senators are building history and everything that transpired Thursday, especially having Alfredsson skate in warm-ups, is significant to the history they are trying to establish. It was a fantastic moment for Alfredsson, the organization and the fans.

Like everyone else, I want to know what this means going forward in terms of his involvement as far as a management position. I asked that question and all they're saying now is all options are on the table, but the focus had been on allowing him and his family and the fans to enjoy his night, his retirement celebration.

Ultimately there is thought that he is going to move back there in time. I don't know if people know this, but he sold his house to Robin Lehner. I wouldn't be surprised if in due time his family settles back in Ottawa. And I can definitely see Alfredsson taking some type of managerial position at some point in the future after spending some time with his family.

Also of note is they talked about him potentially signing a real contract to play in the game and taking one shift at 11:11 of the first period to honor his number, but they couldn't do that and ultimately Alfredsson said he didn't want to be a distraction or to take away a roster spot from anybody.

2. Seeing Stars in Dallas

Let's just say they've been a disappointment. They should be much better, especially when you consider they have one of the best duos in the NHL in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, who have not been a disappointment.

Their goal differential is minus-19 heading after a 5-2 loss Thursday to the Detroit Red Wings. They are  last in the NHL in goals-against per game (3.58). That's just mind-boggling based on that team and the players they have.

The Stars are giving up way too many shots (32.6 per game). They're sloppy, really sloppy. I love the fact they play that high-octane game with pace and skill, but that's too many shots and too many goals against per game. They've gotta tighten it up.

You're not going to win, especially playing in the Western Conference, when you're giving up so many shots. The West is so unforgiving. When they give up that many shots that means more shots for players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and more. That means these guys are getting a lot of looks against you. No team wants that.

Kari Lehtonen needs to be better. He can steal games on his own. But that being said, those guys are porous in front of him. There are too many gaps.

If you're that fast to attack, and the Stars attack with a lot of speed, you should be that fast to recover. That's the frustration. They're using their speed at one end of the ice. On isolation plays they're getting beat, but if they're great skaters one way they have to be going back the other direction as well. That's why it doesn't make any sense.

3. Buffalo love

Let's hand it to the Buffalo Sabres. They are showing their pride. Good for them.

Zemgus Girgensons has really been impressive. For a 20-year-old playing on a team that is rebuilding and struggling, to be a plus player with good numbers says a lot about what the Sabres have in him as a future star and leader.

Remember too that Girgensons went from the United States Hockey League and the World Juniors to playing for Rochester in the American Hockey League for 61 games and then to Buffalo. He didn't play major junior, college or pro in Europe. He went right from the USHL to Rochester to Buffalo. That's an unreal trajectory. That's nuts.

I spoke to a player on the team Wednesday and he was just raving about how good their room is even through the tough times. He was saying how fun it is to come to the room even when they were losing because of the quality of guys in the room. He was raving about coach Ted Nolan and assistant coach Bryan Trottier, and how much they like playing for them.

Teddy has a good feel for players and he has done a lot for a lot of players. And Jaromir Jagr says this all the time, that he learned the game from Mario Lemieux but he was taught the game by Trottier. That puts things into perspective.

4. Wild cards

The Minnesota Wild are a mixed bag to me right now.

Let me say that I like their team, I like the way the team is built, some of the pieces they have, and I think Darcy Kuemper is an impressive young goalie who has helped stabilize that position while establishing himself as a No. 1.

Let me also say that Zach Parise is doing his part as a point-per-game player with 19 points in 19 games. What we expect from Parise, he is delivering.

But when you talk about Jason Pominville, who I like a lot, he should be more productive. He has only five goals. Thomas Vanek has two goals. Ryan Suter has one goal. Charlie Coyle has two goals. Mikko Koivu has three goals. Mikael Granlund has three goals.

Those are problems because those are players that are counted on to score. What I have noticed is a lot of those guys aren't jamming the net. They're too far away. Parise goes there relentlessly, but how many guys are going there as consistently as they need to go there? Not many.

The upside to that is Jason Zucker. He's young and he's playing well with 10 goals. He's in the mentality where he is going to shoot. The same goes for Nino Niederreiter, who has 11 goals.

Zucker and Niederreiter have picked up the slack in the absence of production from other guys.

The power play is an obvious problem at nine percent, but it's not about a lack of weapons. They have the weapons. They have the arsenal. But they are not decisive enough when they have the puck on the power play.

Watch them, they're not snapping it around, making a play, taking a shot, and getting it back, recovering and trying to do it again. Any indecision on the power play allows the penalty killers to get set and it's harder for you to use your advantage. That's a huge difference.

All in all I like the team and the direction general manager Chuck Fletcher has them going in, but they can be and should be playing much better than they have been playing.

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