Senators 101: A Short History of Nearly Winning

To everyone who knows me, it may come as a surprise that I have taken on this role as the Ottawa Senators correspondent for this fabulous hockey site. Allow me to explain, albeit briefly. For the majority of my young life I have been a Brodeur fan first, a Devils fan second, and a Sens fan third. However, this past March when I attended a game between the Devils and my hometown Senators (back when NHL games were actually a legitimate possibility), Brodeur wasn’t in net and I noticed myself subconsciously cheering for the Sens.

And so, I am officially now a Brodeur fan first and a Sens fan second. Considering the fact that Brodeur will be retiring soon, I may as well hop on the Sens bandwagon now. Besides, the Sens have Erik Karlsson. THAT I can get behind. So, seeing as how this season is about as doomed as a squirrel trying to make its way across ten lanes of highway traffic, how about we tell a little story of the goings on in the nation’s capital this millennium? I’ll go into detail about our current situation, but first let’s recap how we got here:

2000-2004: The “I think I just choked on a Maple Leaf” era

For those of you who don’t know, the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t have a very friendly history. This fact reached its apex during this time. Unfortunately, well… it didn’t go so well for Ottawa (which might be part of the frustration that created this game). The era can be summed up as follows: 

Pros

Cons

Rivalry between Toronto-Ottawa as strong as it has ever been. Toronto knocked us out of the playoffs in 2000… and 2001… and 2002… and 2004.
We had a strong team, a high-scoring team, a President’s Trophy winner in 2003! We lost an absolute heartbreaker to the New Jersey Devils in the 2003 ECF.
We actually had a single head coach during this era. That coach was Jacques Martin, and the style of play was often boring.
This. Chara Bangs up McCabe This. OTT-TOR 2004 NHL Playoffs G7

Another big Pro: Alfredsson’s hair!

Coaches: Jacques Martin

Starting Goalies: Tom Barasso, Patrick Lalime

2004-2007: The “we were so close… I need a drink” era

How do you accurately describe this period in time in Sens history? A number of songs could do it. Try Linkin Park’s In The End, for instance. The climax, of course, saw the Sens fall to Brian Burke’s Anaheim Ducks. The Sens coach at the time was Bryan Murray, a painful irony, considering that, even though the majority of the credit goes to Burke for piecing together his championship team, Murray was the GM that drafted the likes of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf for the Ducks in 2003. This probably explains why Murray was so dejected in his interview afterwards.

Pros

Cons

We managed to sign one of the greatest goalies of all time in Dominik Hasek to a one year deal. This was our first elite goaltender. Hasek, despite his box being clearly labelled as “fragile”, came back from the 2006 Olympics in several pieces. He didn’t resign.
We traded for a pure goal scorer, a bona fide sniper in Dany Heatley. We chose to resign Wade Redden instead of Zdeno Chara. REDDEN OVER CHARA.
We rolled through the 2006-2007 playoffs, winning the first three rounds 4-1. We were rolled over in the Stanley Cup Final, losing the series 4-1.
  Did I mention Redden over Chara?

 

Another big Pro: Antoine Vermette

 Coach: Bryan Murray

Starting Goalies: Dominik Hasek, Ray Emery

                                                                                         

2007-2011: The “what the @#$% is this crap?” era

Bryan Murray was a great coach who had chemistry with the team in front of him. So, naturally, we told him to be our General Manager and to hire someone else to be the coach. Well, at least the first three choices he made to find his replacement wouldn’t be a failure, right?… Right?… Guys? Oh, and then there was Dany Heatley… 

Pros

Cons

Dany Heatley continued scoring goals for us, albeit at a much slower pace. He demanded to be traded in 2009… then, when we had a deal in place with Edmonton, he enacted his no trade clause to stop it. Awkward… 
If we try every goalie we can think of, one of them will work, right? No, none of them did.
Fans started to set all new attendance highs for the city. The team couldn’t make it out of the first round, when they actually made the playoffs.
  We traded Antoine Vermette.

Another big Pro: Erik Karlsson

Starting Goalies: Ray Emery, Martin Gerber, Pascal Leclaire, Brian Elliot

Head Coaches: John Paddock, Bryan Murray, Craig Hartsburg, Cory Clouston

                                                                                                                                                               

2011-present: The “where did these guys come from?” era

The 2010-2011 season was going downhill fast. Leclaire was a bust. Kovalev a bust. Gonchar seemed to be wavering under the increased pressure; Cory Clouston was perceived to have driven Dany Heatley out of town; and now it was rumoured that Jason Spezza wanted out.

The fans, needless to say, were upset and were calling for Bryan Murray’s head. That’s when the fire sale began. Gone were Kovalev, Fisher, Kelly, and Elliot. In was a goalie by the name of Craig Anderson and a bevy of new draft picks. The freed NHL roster spaces led the team to call up the standouts from our AHL squad down in Binghamton. The result? The team closed out the season going 12-7-1 with Anderson posting an 11-5-1 record, along with a .939 SVP and a 2.05 GAA with his new team. In comparison, Elliot (who we traded for Anderson) went to Colorado and posted a 2-8-1 record with a .891 SVP and a 3.83 GAA. When the NHL season concluded, we sent the kids back down to the AHL, where they wound up winning the championship. It provided the Sens Army with what seemed like a false sense of hope. Hey, maybe these kids could keep this up for a whole season, maybe this goalie is the real deal, maybe we will actually make the playoffs next year.

The off season saw us go out and hire a new coach, Paul Maclean, and for this hockey fan, it was respect at first sight. I mean, come on, this mustache commands respect. It says “I am a bad-ass, now let’s play some hockey”. The season saw a rocky start with the tam opening 1-5-0. A streak of 6 wins brought us to 7-5-0, but the roller coaster continued, seeing the team reach December 14 with a mediocre 14-14-4 record. Three days later, we traded for Kyle Turris, giving the team a solid second line center. That is when the team started to win, and we never looked back, finishing 41-31-10 and clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Anderson? Oh, he went 33-22-6 with a .914 SVP and a 2.84 GAA. Refreshingly solid numbers. Paul Maclean? He was nominated for the Jack Adams Award (coach of the year). The boys made us proud in the playoffs too, taking the conference’s number one seed New York Rangers to a nail-biting seventh game. Things were looking up. 

Pros

Cons

You know how we got Milan Michalek in the package for Dany Heatley? 2011-2012 stats:                                                    Michalek:  35 goals, 60 points.              Heatley:    24 goals, 53 points. Chris Kelly played his role in helping the Boston Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup. You know who else did? Their captain, Zdeno Chara.
Anderson was consistently solid in 2011-2012, stealing games throughout the season and putting on a show against the Rangers. He had a disagreement with a kitchen knife after a game towards the end of the season. The knife won the argument. Thankfully, he was healthy again in time for the playoffs.
We now have a bevy of prospects, literally prospects everywhere. Because of this surplus, quality grinder Zenon Konopka left in the 2012 offseason for the Minnesota Wild. I really did enjoy watching him win face-offs with his hands…

Another big Pro: We signed Karlsson for 7 years- Bryan Murray’s gift to admirers of the male gender everywhere.

Goalies: Craig Anderson, Ben “oh @#$% Anderson damn near cut his finger off with a knife, go out and get someone quick” Bishop

Head Coaches: Cory Clouston, Paul Maclean

                                                                                  

The New-And-Improved Lockout (2012-2013 Style)

There really are more questions than answers for the current Ottawa Senators. A fan base that has always had their great expectations fail to be matched is skeptical about our team’s new-found success. Were the last year and a quarter a fluke? Will the likes of Mika Zibanejad, Jakob Silfverberg, and Mark Stone develop in time to justify the departures of guys like Nick Foligno and Bobby Butler? Only time will tell. One positive that Sens fans should hang on to: a year in the minors brought Jason Spezza into his superstar form during the 2004-2005 lockout. Hopefully our present day young guns may see the same sort of development.

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About scottheggart

19 year old university student. I make videos on youtube, am part of the #NoMoreBullies tour, and am a proud contributor to the @youcanplayteam project.
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2 Responses to Senators 101: A Short History of Nearly Winning

  1. Quizzical Quorum says:

    “About resign vs re-sign
    Athletes who renew their contracts re-sign with their teams (note the hyphen). If they were to resign they would do the opposite—leave.”

    Otherwise ok article. The Heatley comparison with Michalek this year is wobbly since we had a healthy team throughout and the Wild? Not so much…Dany does seem to be Declining Dany Heatley though, but we still lost that trade by virtue of having to take Jonathan Cheechoo while supplying the Sharks with a pick as well.

    Looking forward to more from you, make sure you read the Senators blogs (SilverSevenSens and The6thSens among the best) as well.

  2. Doug says:

    I like the pictures. A lot.

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