A brief intro about my team's history?
Well according to Leaf fans the Ottawa Senators have no history. (Heeyo, try the fish!)
The Ottawa Senators 2.0 were an expansion franchise awarded in 1990 by then NHL President John Zeigler, possibly while drunk, and began play in the 92-93 season along with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Many thought Hamilton was the front-runner for this franchise as their bid was superior to Ottawa. Theirs was a cash bid by a prospective owner with deep pockets (Ron Joyce of Tim Horton's fame). On the other hand Ottawa, led by local real estate impresario and general gadabout, Bruce Firestone, offered up a slick PowerPoint presentation, smoke and mirrors funding and a kick *** marching band. Oh, and did I mention that Firestone and two buddies cooked up the whole "Let's Go Get Us A Team" thing over post beer league pints? Naturally, the NHL chose Ottawa over Hamilton.
To say that Ottawa got off to a rough start for the first few years is an understatement on par with saying a small bit of ice gave the Titanic a spot of bother. With a philosophy based on patience and building a team through the draft and the development of young prospects rather than filling a roster with experienced veterans and expensive free agents. (Hi Mister Burke!) The early results varied from dismal to apocalyptic, with the team finishing at or near the bottom of the League for four straight seasons (or as we early Sens fans remember it ... Super happy fun time!) But eventually that philosophy paid off with a sustained run of 12 straight playoff appearances, beginning in 1996-97 and not ending until 2009, which included two Eastern Conference Final's and one glorious, if unsuccessful, Stanley Cup Final appearance. So here we are today.
Onto the candidates...
Alexei Yashin(notes) - Drafted second overall in 1992 entry draft. Ottawa's first draft pick ... ever. Yashin, on the ice, was a great player for the Senators:
504 GP, 218 G, 321 A, 539 PTS.
Except in the playoffs.
26 GP, 6 G, 9 A, 15 PTS ( I just threw up in my mouth a little bit)
Off the ice ... not so much. Yashin did little to endear himself to the media, fans or even his own teammates. Miraculously, despite the fact he was a recluse and a jerk he somehow managed to get himself named team Captain. Whereupon his first act of unquestioned leadership was to hold out for a better contract. In fact, he held out (while under contract) on 2 separate occasions, the last and most famous of which resulted in him sitting out an entire season, being stripped of the "C" and playing his final year under the order of an NHL arbitrator. In the end Yashin's biggest contribution to the franchise had nothing to do with what he did on the ice but instead it was what he brought back in a trade with the Islanders. In a signature Mad Mike Milbury deal, Bill Muckalt, a young up and coming behemoth of a defenceman named Zdeno Chara(notes) and the second overall pick in the 2001 entry draft who ended up being Jason Spezza(notes) all came back to the Senators for former Captain Cashin. (Thanks Mike!) Yashin was there on day 1 and remnants of the deal that saw him leave town are still with the team today, 16 years later.
Alexandre Daigle - Drafted first overall in 1993 entry draft. Ottawa's second kick at the draft can. Most notable for donning a nurse's uniform and saying: "I'm glad I got drafted first, because no one remembers number two." Daigle set a record for the largest entry-level deal which helped pave the way for a rookie salary cap introduced a few seasons later. Notable for frequent guest appearances on Pamela Anderson's bed. On ice it could be surmised Daigle was a bust. Even though his numbers weren't god-awful, they certainly weren't what you expect from a "can't miss" prospect.
Regular Season - 301 GP, 74 G, 98A, 172 PTS
Playoffs - 7GP 0 PTS
Daigle's struggles were a close parallel to those early years for the Senators . While many people would point to Daigle as the biggest first overall bust in NHL history, I present this in way of a rebuttal.
Oh and that second pick in the 1993 entry draft? Chris Pronger(notes). Karma's a [Gretzky].
A Goalie To Be Named Later - For much of the Ottawa Senators (brief) history there is one constant: Goaltending. Constant in the fact that they always come back to pointing at the guy between the pipes as one of the biggest factors they could never overcome to get them over the hump. The Ottawa Senators had their guy in Patrick Lalime(notes) until Joe Nieuwendyk hung his jock in the rafters during Game 7 of the 2004 playoffs. They had their guy in Dominik Hasek(notes) until the 2006 Olympics in Turin. (dollars to donuts, Sens Army is the only fan base in the NHL that knows exactly what an abductor muscle is and why Dominik Hasek is an unqualified nut job). They had their guy in Ray Emery(notes) until he decided that ... ummm... the KHL was a much more attractive option than the NHL.
Daniel Alfredsson(notes) - The Captain. Senators all time leader in games, points, goals and assists. Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year 95-96 and almost a point a game player in his career.
1002 GP, 375G, 617A, 992 PTS
Playoffs 107 GP, 45G, 43A, 88PTS
Not bad for a guy drafted 133rd overall. Named captain during Yashin's (second) hold out year. It wasn't always an easy job for Alfie. The role grew on him over time. Early on he wasn't as vocal as some might have wished. The blame for many of the Senators early playoff failures, particularly to the Leafs, was placed on his svelte Scandinavian shoulders. On more than one occasion the usual baying calls to "blow up" the team included running the floppy haired captain out of town on a rail. Over time however, sanity would prevail and things would change. When Marian Hossa was shipped out of town for troubled winger Hewhoshallnotbenamed, things turned a corner for Alfredsson. That move brought a sense of legitimacy to the Senators and saw a change in The Captain. He went from being a puck dangling, east/west skater to a puck carrier who would move north/south and dominate play in the other team's zone. No longer did Alfredsson appear as if he had no option but to carry the entire team on his shoulders. The trade gave the Senators one of the best lines in all of the NHL and from then on it was a new Alfie. The first year after the trade Alfie would post his first 100+-point season and go on to have his 3 best statistical seasons. In that time suddenly Alfie went from being the target of fan angst to being the pillar of both the team and the community. Alfredsson has spent many seasons watching player's come and go. Watching guys lead and he watching guys follow. He watched players be greedy and he watched players make sacrifices. Alfredsson watched, and then Alfredsson learned. He learned what it takes to be a captain in the NHL and in the end he will probably retire the captain of the only team he's ever played for in a city that will forever be grateful. That is truly a rarity in today's NHL.
There are many other players who put on the Senators uniform over the years and had some great seasons with the team but none made contributions I would call historical. Chris Phillips(notes) was drafted first overall, but underachieved for a player taken with the first pick. Zdeno Chara was dominant on the back end, but he went onto win the Norris with Boston. Wade Redden(notes) was an elite puckmover until he imploded then swindled a feeble old man (often confused as the GM of one of the leagues most prestigious teams) to the tune of $39 million and will soon be enjoying the twilight of his career as a member of the Hartford Wolf Pack. Hewhoshallnotbenamed... shall not be named. When I think of my Mount Rushmore of Ottawa Senators I'll always think of Yashin holding out, Daigle being a bust, the goalie always being the goat and Alfie will always be the Captain.
I'd also like to thank the fellow members of the OBC (Ottawa Bloggers Collective) who made a contribution to this project.
Free Willig http://hockeyschlock.wordpress.com/
Sherry (my co-blogger) www.scarlettice.blogspot.com