STOCKHOLM — Michael Andlauer seems to only have one regret about his trip to Sweden with the Ottawa Senators last week.
“I wish I had arrived on Monday,” Andlauer said.
Speaking to The Athletic during the first period of Ottawa’s game against Minnesota, Andlauer says he had other business to attend to back home which prevented him from chartering with his hockey team to Stockholm. Instead, he took a midweek commercial flight from Toronto and arrived in time to see Ottawa’s wild 5-4 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday evening at Avicii Arena.
His time in Stockholm was rather compressed, meaning Andlauer didn’t have a chance to take in any museums or too many of the sights of the city. Around the two games, his schedule was jammed with dinners and meetings with key corporate clients and partners who also made the trek to Stockholm. The only real downtime he enjoyed was the two hours he spent before Saturday’s game walking the cobblestone streets of the Gamla Stan district.
“It was just beautiful. And I think I underestimated how beautiful this place is,” Andlauer said.
As his first overseas trip was concluding, Andlauer seemed to genuinely appreciate this opportunity for his hockey club — although he did point out that this could put his team at a competitive disadvantage down the road.
“There are two ways of looking at these trips. From a bonding standpoint, getting the team together and spending time away like this is always good,” Andlauer explained. “From a hockey standpoint, the only problem is that it’s a lot of time off for our players. Which means in the second half of the season, there are going to be a lot more games, which might be tougher on the players.”
But all things considered, Andlauer seems satisfied with the way this visit to Stockholm unfolded. While his team did technically play two home games at Avicii Arena, the Senators will be financially compensated for this trip. They will eventually be reimbursed for the gate receipts and revenue from the average of two home games at the Canadian Tire Centre this season.
If Senators players don’t suffer a hangover from this trip on the ice, Andlauer seems open to having his team return to Europe down the road. The Senators have now played a total of six games in Stockholm, with visits in 2008, 2017 and 2023.
He was asked specifically if he would consider a trip to Germany so the league could showcase one of his superstars in Tim Stützle.
“We’ve been to Sweden three times, why not Germany now, right?” Andlauer said.
During the conversation, Andlauer also acknowledged the anecdote from The Athletic last week in which it was revealed that Daniel Alfredsson personally prepared a homemade meal for the Senators owner during their first meeting this summer. Andlauer said that he couldn’t recall another instance in which somebody cooked for him prior to a meeting.
In his native Sweden, Daniel Alfredsson opens up about his return to the Senators
Alfredsson made Swedish meatballs from scratch with a side of potatoes, pickled cucumbers and creamy brown sauce.
“I thought it would be a fun idea,” Alfredsson said. “I wasn’t nervous. If the meatballs do turn out dry, you just make sure you give them a little extra sauce.”
So how did Andlauer rate the Hall of Famer’s culinary skills?
“It was awesome,” Andlauer said. “It was my first time with him and I was too embarrassed to ask for seconds.”
Sens get four out of possible four points
Andlauer said his schedule was so tightly packed in Stockholm that he also didn’t have time to do any shopping.
“The only thing I’m going to declare at customs is four points — hopefully,” he said with a laugh.
Andlauer made that comment as the Senators-Wild game was just starting on Saturday. And while it certainly wasn’t pretty, Ottawa eventually escaped with a 2-1 shootout victory over Minnesota. The Senators secured all four points during this overseas trip, which was their objective entering the week.
“We’ve got to go back and bring this game home,” coach D.J. Smith said after Saturday’s win. “You hope this is the turning point.”
As is often the case, there are two lenses through which you can view the Senators right now.
Following their Stockholm sweep, they’ve now won four of their last five games, which represents their best stretch of the season. Since things seemed to be going off the rails two weeks ago, Steve Staios has helped steady the ship with a message preaching calmness and togetherness.
“It is a business trip and we got four out of four points,” Josh Norris said on Saturday. “I thought we battled and I’m really happy for the team.”
But you can also take the alternate view of the two games in Stockholm. The Senators squandered a 4-0 lead and handed a point to the Red Wings on Thursday. They also were held scoreless for almost 45 minutes by a Minnesota team that is really struggling in all facets of its game. Minnesota’s league-worst penalty kill managed to stifle the Senators power play four times. And Ottawa’s second-period issues haunted them again in Stockholm, as the Red Wings and Wild outscored them 5-1 in the second frame.
We always pointed to the Sweden trip as a natural delineation mark for the Senators this season. They’ve played 15 games and there is enough of a sample size to adequately judge most aspects of their game.
Their 8-7-0 record feels like the bare minimum acceptable for this fan base. Anything less would have certainly been unsatisfactory. But at a .533 points percentage, the Senators are currently on pace for 87 points — which would essentially leave them in the same spot they finished in last season. So it’s hard to sit here and make a concrete case they’ve taken a tangible step forward.
Ottawa doesn’t play again until Friday against the Islanders, which means it won’t be climbing in the standings. And because Ottawa has only played 15 games — tied for the fewest of any NHL team to begin with — it is going to have plenty of games in hand. (Senators fans may want to consider using the ‘points percentage’ column to sort the standings for the next month to get a more accurate picture of where Ottawa sits.)
An 8-7-0 record probably hasn’t infused a ton of confidence and swagger into this fan base, but it’s the best-case scenario after Ottawa had a 4-6-0 record just two weeks ago.
The next 15 games will be taxing for Ottawa, as it includes two sets of back-to-back games and a lot of instances where the Senators play every other night. By the time the Senators hit the 30-game mark on Dec. 27 in Toronto, it definitely feels like they need to at least have 17 wins if we want to take them seriously as a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.
Adventures in babysitting for Josh Norris
Norris scored the shootout winner on Saturday, but his second-period goal against the Red Wings on Thursday might have been even more special for the centre.
That’s because Norris’ childhood babysitter — Daniel Reguengo — was in attendance to watch him play at Avicii Arena. Reguengo babysat for the Norris family when Josh’s father Dwayne was playing in Frankfurt in the early 2000s.
“That was great to play in front of him,” said Norris.
When Norris was 6 and 7 years old, Reguengo would often sit in the stands with the family to watch Dwayne play his pro games.
“We would always reserve an extra ticket for him,” says Norris. “He was just like a fourth brother to us.”
So once it was announced the Senators would be coming to play in Stockholm, Reguengo and his girlfriend decided to make the trip from Germany to watch Norris play in person.
Regueno was 16 years old when he started babysitting for the Norris family and there was a lot of hockey being played when he was in charge.
“We played a ton of street hockey. We would just throw the net out there,” says Norris. “And we would do mini sticks in the living room.”
Norris insists he was an easy kid to look after, claiming he never got in trouble for misbehaving when Reguengo was on the clock.
“I wasn’t a troublemaker. I was always quiet and reserved,” says Norris. “I think it took me 22 years to come out of my shell.”
On Wednesday evening, Norris, Reguengo and his girlfriend went out for dinner in Stockholm, giving Norris an opportunity to brush up on his rusty German language skills. When he was growing up in Frankfurt, Norris says most of his banter with Reguengo was conducted in German — including the chirping during street hockey games.
“When I do see him, I try and speak German as much as I can, because I’ve lost a lot of it,” says Norris. “This just brought back some good memories. It was just so cool to see him.”
(Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT News Agency / AFP via Getty Images)