Alexandre Daigle says he’s been watching his former team in the NHL playoffs since he returned to North America after wrapping up his season in the Swiss Elite League a couple weeks ago. “That’s the team I follow the most, for sure,” Daigle said in an interview from his off-season home in Mont-Tremblant, Que. “I started there, I was really young, a lot of good things happened for me there.”
Only a few of his old teammates are still playing in Ottawa. Daniel Alfredsson, Wade Redden and Chris Phillips were members of the team in 1997-98, Daigle’s final season with the Senators.
“I wish good things for those guys,” he said.
One might expect Daigle to feel the opposite after his turbulent five years with the Senators, but the 32-year-old forward is happy to see that Ottawa is having a splendid playoff run.
“It’s a great thing,” said Daigle. “It’s really exciting for anybody who has been involved with that organization. They went through some tough times at the beginning. There’s a lot of good people in that organization, it’s well run.”
Daigle, a junior scoring sensation for the Quebec Junior Hockey League’s Victoriaville Tigres, joined the expansion Senators in their second season (1993-94) as an 18-year-old phenom after being the NHL’s first overall pick in the June 1993 entry draft. He was never able to live up to the hype.
“The worst was the media,” Daigle says in recalling those years. “But you know, when you’re young it’s tough to swallow those things. I’m not a person who wants bad things for anybody so when bad things are said or written about you, it’s tough.
“I don’t care who you are, that’s not an easy thing to go through.”
Daigle has watched from afar over the past decade and seen his former team become an NHL powerhouse, although one that routinely fell short in the post-season.
“I felt really bad for them,” Daigle of Ottawa’s playoff struggles in the last several years. “I was watching those games, they’d be losing 1-0 or 2-1, it was tough to see. And it seemed to always be against the same team (Toronto).”
Then came last summer when the Senators lost Zdeno Chara to free agency and traded Martin Havlat.
“I also felt bad that, with the salary cap, they lost some key players and I thought they might struggle,” said Daigle. “But they made some good moves. Joe Corvo was a good move, Tom Preissing, too. When you finish plus-40 and you’re making $600,000 (Preissing), you have to tip your hat to the general manager or the scouting staff.”
While he’s cheering on the Senators, Daigle is also busy getting ready for his wedding this summer.
His fiancee Genevieve is from Montreal. They’ll both return to Davos, Switzerland, come September. He’s found the Swiss Elite League to be a good fit.
“It was a good move for me,” said Daigle. “And I just signed on for four more years.”
After 616 NHL games and 327 points (129-198) with Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, Daigle may end his pro career in the Swiss League.
“The hockey is really good,” said Daigle. “The lifestyle is way different because you only have a 45-game regular season. You only play on weekends in the regular season, which also makes it different.
“For me, it was the right time. I ended up on a good team and it was definitely an easy transition.”
Daigle placed second in league scoring this season with 61 points (22-39) in 44 games and helped Davos with the league championship.
“It was really good for my confidence,” said Daigle. “But it’s like anything, when you play on a good team and play with good players, it’s easier.”
Daigle put up decent numbers with the Wild in 2003-04 with 20 goals and 31 assists in 78 games, but his ice time dipped after the lockout and following a 28-point season with Minnesota in 2005-06 he figured he needed to go in a new direction.
“Battling for a spot wasn’t how I wanted to finish my career,” said Daigle. “I wanted to play and have fun.”