It may be hard to believe, but it wasn't that long ago that Ottawa Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson harboured serious doubts about whether he even belonged in the NHL.
"If I go back four or five years ago, or before the lockout, I had a couple of seasons where I was very disappointed in my own play," said Alfredsson at the Senators' golf tournament Monday. "I was frustrated. I didn't foresee a long future in this league for me."
That all changed following the lockout, however, when the Senators teamed Alfredsson with sniper Dany Heatley and set-up man Jason Spezza, creating one of the most dynamic lines in the NHL.
In the past three seasons, Alfredsson has put up point tallies of 103, 87 and 89 and scored 40-plus goals in two of those years. Even more impressive, Alfredsson has blossomed into one of the more dangerous forwards in the NHL well after celebrating his 30th birthday - a time when most professional athletes see a decline in their production.
"He seems to be getting better. I hope when I'm 35, I keep getting better like him," marveled forward Mike Fisher. "He works hard, he takes care of himself. He's such a smart player that he's been able to maintain his feats."
Spezza attributes Alfredsson's success to the benefit of experience.
"You always learn more and more as a player, it doesn't matter what age you are. I think Alfie is getting better and better as the years have gone on. I imagine he's going to keep getting better and better until his body tells him not to."
And while last season might have been a statistical success for Alfredsson, the Senators once again came up short when it mattered most, in the postseason. Ottawa was swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs last season.
"I think we underachieved last year," said Alfredsson.
Despite the Senators' failures, Alfredsson doesn't expect the pressure to be any less in the nation's capital. "I think we are definitely a top ten team in the league. Expectations should be higher on us."
If the Senators are to forget their recent playoff failures, the team will once again need the very best out of Alfredsson.
"I feel like I'm getting better. It should be an interesting season."