The Ottawa captain is out indefinitely with a concussion.
But fans in New York got to see Wojtek Wolski play Monday in the Rangers' 5-2 win over San Jose. They can see him again Thursday against Anaheim, Saturday against Montreal and Sunday against Winnipeg. Ottawa fans will even get to see Wolski next Wednesday when the Rangers visit. They can only hope Alfredsson will be back on the ice by then.
It was Wolski who elbowed Alfredsson in the head when the clubs last met on Saturday. Wolski received a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head, but no further discipline from the league.
It should be shocking that the NHL's new czar of discipline Brendan Shanahan didn't find cause for further discipline when he's spent his first couple months in the position handing out suspensions like candy to trick-or-treaters.
But then again, to be shocked by the league's inaction on what should have been a slam-dunk example of enforcing the revamped Rule 48 — governing shots to the head — would entail forgetting the league's long history of inconsistency in discipline. That was supposed to change with Shanahan in charge, but it's becoming clear that it's still business as usual in the NHL offices.
The lack of a suspension to Wolski and also to Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin for a hit on Nashville's Mike Fisher has led to renewed confusion about the league's stance on head shots. Fisher responded to a report of the Senators being upset with the Wolski decision by Rogers Sportsnet's Ian Mendes by tweeting to Mendes, "[P]layers are really confused. I'm out because of a similar play and no dice as well. I don't get it!"
Some of that confusion could be caused by the apparent continued double standard of discipline in the league, where a player's role on the team often appears to factor into the decision more than his actions in the incident in question.
Wolski isn't an enforcer or tough guy. Despite his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame, he provides little in the way of physical presence, except apparently for the occasional sneaky elbow at a vulnerable opponent.
Shanahan had no trouble throwing the book at the likes of heavyweights and frequent fighters like Jody Shelley, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Brad Staubitz and Daniel Carcillo, but a player like Wolski with one fighting major in 398 career games skates free.
And it's not as if Wolski really deserves the star treatment. He's yet to score a goal this year in five games and was a healthy scratch once already this season despite a $3.8-million cap hit.
Shanahan has been more than willing to suspend other players, already handing out 13 bans totaling 28 preseason and 39 regular-season games, with more pending as the final length of Edmonton defenseman Andy Sutton (45 career fights, including three already this season) has yet to be announced. Sutton had an in-person hearing with Shanahan on Monday for his check to the head of Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog on Friday.
The fact that the NHL is trying to crack down on the dangerous head shots and hits from behind is laudable. But unless Shanahan is willing to apply the standard fairly to all players regardless of their roles or reputations, it won't have the desired effect of taking such cheap shots out of the game.
"I thought in preseason some of the suspensions made it very clear the stand we were going to take," Senators general manager Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Sun. "I'll have a chance at the GM meeting in mid-November to discuss it further with Brendan, but at this moment I'm not exactly sure what is a suspendable hit to the head."
In the meantime, NHL fans will be deprived of seeing Alfredsson having a chance to add to his impressive career totals of 393 goals and 1,030 points for the indefinite future.
But at least they'll get plenty of chances to see Wolski try for his first goal of the season, or maybe even try to get away with another cheap shot.