We all miss those days and it’s ok. Number 65 standing behind the net, eyeing Mark Stone or Kyle Turris’ position up at the neutral zone, he says a word or two to his goaltender Craig Anderson before taking off at full speed in three smooth strides. He dances through half the opposing team as he makes a long bomb pass to one of his forwards or puts a bomb from the point on net.
Erik Karlsson was a special player in an Ottawa uniform, and it’s OK to miss that sight which occurred multiple times in a night in the 2010s. San Jose Sharks fans wish they got to see that sight more regularly. Fortunately, the trade we all hated at the time turned out to be one heck of a haul, one so good that no one who watches hockey or knows how to evaluate contract value would consider bringing Karlsson back for even one of Tim Stützle or Josh Norris, especially while he’s making $11.5 million a year. Still, the sight of Karlsson earlier this week confidently chewing an apple and giving curt three word answers to dumb questions in post game interviews did make me miss having the guy around.
It also got me thinking, who else do I miss from the Senators who are now plying their trades elsewhere?
For this thought exercise, we’ll be forgoing the obvious choices like Vegas captain Mark Stone, Rangers offensive dynamo Mika Zibanejad, or Vezina nominee Robin Lehner. Those guys are too obvious. We also won’t go so far into the other direction and bring up has beens and NHL hangers on like Kyle Turris, Matt Duchene, or Derrick Brassard. No, we’re specifically zeroing in on role players and productive former Senators who would fit very distinct roles on this team right now, as currently built. Spoiler alert as well, Mark Borowiecki isn’t on this list, as one assist and a -2 in 22 games with Nashville means it would be a sentimental pick more than a reasonable one. So without further ado, here are five former Senators I miss and would gladly bring back to help the young guns flourish.
1) Craig Anderson – Let’s get the most controversial one out of the way. Craig is past the back nine of his career and is currently emptying his remaining golfballs on the driving range of his career. Still, is he any worse right now than Matt Murray or Marcus Hogberg have been this season? Would he be making pennies on the dollar compared to Murray? Would he provide leadership and guidance in another rocky season? You betcha. He’s not an NHL caliber goalie anymore, as evidenced by his .853 save percentage in two appearances this year, but his intangibles make him a strangely better option than our designated 1 and 2 right now. The Senators wouldn’t have Murray’s monolithic contract blocking the way for guys like Daccord and Gustavsson in the coming seasons. It would also do wonders for the team’s image to have more than just Chrises Phillips and Neil as the only two legacy players to actually finish their careers with Ottawa without hard feelings or painful departures. 2) Chris Driedger – Fine, fine, I get it. I’m crazy for even suggesting Craig Anderson come back, and you’re currently questioning whether I even watch hockey and understand what a puck is. So how about we bring back a 26 year old goalie who’s currently sporting a 9-4 record for the surprising Florida Panthers, with a sparkling .927 save percentage and 2.18 GAA while supplanting the $10 million dollar man they’re currently paying to be a number 1? Best of all, Ottawa let him walk away as a free agent because they already had *checks notes* Mike Condon around. Ouch.
3) Jakob Silfverberg – The centerpiece going the other way in the Bobby Ryan deal with Anaheim in 2013, at least before we realized the first round pick the Senators sent would end up being 9th overall (Nick Ritchie), Silfverberg has carved out a real nice niche for himself in Anaheim. No, he’s never cracked 50 points there, but he’s money in the playoffs, as his 45 points in 69 career games being better than any one season on his resume. He’d fit in perfectly here as a middle six winger, even 7 years after his departure. 4) Jason Spezza – Ok, I’m cheating a little bit here, because everyone remembers Spezza’s time in an Ottawa uniform, a career so fruitful it should get him at minimum a ring of honour salute when his career ends. Putting aside the disgusting image of him plying his trade in a Leafs jersey, a duty he loves so much and takes so seriously that he threatened to retire if another team picked him up on waivers, he’s still a very useful player at 37 years old. No, he’s not effortlessly dancing around defensemen and racking up 90 point seasons these days. But what he is doing is chipping in some good offense with 19 points in 35 games, still winning face offs, and still baffling goalies with his 16.3 shooting percentage. Throw in a hat trick he scored earlier this year, and I’m just grateful that the Senators have Nick Paul to show for an otherwise baffling trade for a player that’s continued to be a great teammate, leader, and producer since he left Ottawa. 5) Dylan DeMelo – It’s slightly less pressing now that Ottawa has signed the RHD of the future in Jacob Bernard Docker, but replacing the affable DeMelo as Thomas Chabot’s partner with Nikita Zaitsev and then dumping him to Winnipeg for a 3rd round pick was not a wise move. A move made even worse by replacing him with the likes of Erik Gudbranson and Josh Brown, who try as they might, look like they’re skating in roller skates on molasses out there. While Artem Zub checks a lot of the boxes DeMelo brought to the table, DeMelo remains someone that could have been a valuable contributor on the bottom pair for this team for years to come. A right side of JBD, Zub, and DeMelo would look a lot better than what the team was putting out in the early parts of the season.
Bonus Honourable Mention: Ben Blood. The guy just had an awesome name, and I envy the Finnish Tappara announcers that get to say his name every time he touches the puck.
By Andrew Sztein | Sens Nation Hockey