Like myself, most of Sens Nation is beyond thrilled to see the team back on the ice playing actual games. Even more exciting was seeing Matt Murray play a game like the Matt Murray that gutted the Sens in a 2017 Game 7 OT. he game against the Flames even featured Connor Brown playing his best game of the season…..with a broken jaw!
With the late John Madden having just passed away, I thought it might be nice to do a 25-year reflective on the best 20 Senators players the team could dress for a season with a couple of healthy scratches and a full coaching staff. If there was an All-Madden team, why can’t there be an All-Senators team?
My minimum criteria for being on All Senators team are:
Must have played a minimum of 250 regular season games as a skater or 100 regular season starts as a goalie.
Thus, anyone on today’s team is not eligible.
Must have played in the regular season and playoffs.
Tiebreakers will be for playoff performance.
Bonus points for being a good corporate/community citizen.
It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t as simple as picking the highest scoring players. Teams need seven player profiles and have roles to fill.
Head Coach – Jacques Martin (692 G, 341 W, 188 L, 96 T, 20 OTL – 49.3% PCT)
Martin had his detractors because he was a defense first coach who played conservatively. He also coached in four seasons where an OT game that was decided didn’t carry a loser’s point which meant it was risky to “Go For it”.
He turned the Senators into a team that was very difficult to play against and was one goal from a trip to the Cup Finals in 2003. No other coach has been as impactful.
Assistant Coaches – Perry Pearn, Roger Neilson and Don Jackson
Perry Pearn, in particular, rode shot gun to Martin for his entire run in Ottawa and was often singled out for his work on special teams. The late Roger Neilson will always be remembered fondly but his motivational speech when the Senators were down 3-1 to the Devils in 2003 nearly turned the series around.
LEFT WING CENTER RIGHT WING
Dany Heatley Jason Spezza (C) Daniel Alfredsson
Shawn McEachern Kyle Turris (A) Marian Hossa
Milan Michalek Mike Fisher Mark Stone
Magnus Arvedsson Jean-Gabriel Pageau Chris Neil
*Healthy Scratches – Martin Havlat, Mika Zibanejad
LEFT DEFENSE RIGHT DEFENSE
Zdeno Chara (A) Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips (A) Anton Volchenkov
Wade Redden Marc Methot
*Healthy Scratch – Jason York
Daniel Alfredsson (1,178 GP, 426 G, 682 A, 1,108 PTS)
I hope we are all in agreement on this one. There has never been a better player at any position in a Senators uniform than this guy. The only thing missing from his resume is an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Senators have never successfully replaced him as captain. Here’s hoping Brady Tkachuk will do just that.
Jason Spezza (686 GP, 251 G, 436 A, 687 PTS)
It might seem odd to have him on an All-Senators team that would be coached by Jacques Martin. Spezza only really began to flourish after Martin’s departure after the 2003-04 season. Martin was a defense first coach and Spezza was not a defense first player. His high risk/reward approach was frustrating when it didn’t work. However, he was a work horse who went up against the other team’s number one defense pair every night. In his prime, Spezza was elite, and the Senators have known no better center.
Dany Heatley (317 GP, 180 G, 182 A, 362 PTS)
I know this is not the most popular name in team history because of his abrupt departure. However, for the four seasons he did play with Ottawa, his production can’t be questioned at better than a point per game. He was an important part of the PIZZA line. He was also a huge part of the run to the finals in 2007. You need to give credit where it’s due.
Marian Hossa (467 GP, 188 G, 202 A, 390 PTS)
When you think of the career he had after he left, it’s hard, despite the success Dany Heatley had in his time with Ottawa, to not think of how things might have gone post lockout had the Senators not moved Hossa. He was durable, fast, hard on the puck, intelligent and excelled in the post season.
Kyle Turris (407 GP, 117 G, 151 A, 268 PTS)
You hear a lot about the Senators trades where they are believed to have been fleeced. However, in this case, the Turris for Rundlad deal with Arizona was a lopsided one for the Senators. His best years in the league were spent here and he was a solid #2 center. Playoff performer who played in all three zones.
Shawn McEachern (454 GP, 142 G, 162 A, 304 PTS)
It’s been a long time since anyone said his name at a Senators game. However, when he did play here, he was a good combination of speed and finish. He didn’t have a great deal of playoff success in his time with Ottawa and that was likely because he was playing too high in the lineup.
Mark Stone (366 GP, 123 G, 188 A, 311 PTS)
For a guy who went in the 6th round of his draft year because of his skating, he had all the intangibles to overcome it. His stride may not be pretty, but he gets there, and his goal celebrations are epic. He is a playoff performer with great intensity and a testament to the Senators drafting and development process.
Mike Fisher (675 GP, 167 G, 181 A, 348 PTS)
Fisher was a coach and fan favourite who played hard nosed and gritty and got bigger in the playoffs. He was tough on the draw and could kill penalties and could go up and down the lineup as needed. On this team, he would have been a #3 center which would have been a position he could dominate in.
Milan Michalek (412 GP, 115 G, 109 A, 224 PTS)
In the aftermath of the forced Dany Heatley trade, Michalek proved to be a reliable player who took the sting off having to deal a 1st line winger. This is particularly true when Heatley began to wane. In addition to decent offensive skills, he could play along the boards and had the speed to be effective.
Chris Neil (1,026 GP 112 G, 138 A, 250 PTS)
Like Mike Fisher, Neil was beloved by the fans and his coaches and was also a huge community pillar. He kept opposing teams honest and had decent offensive numbers. He never fit the description of a goon because he could be effective when he played. His spot in the lineup was never a wasted one. Lots of players in team history on the right wing had more points that Neil. He had intangibles that couldn’t be measured.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (428 GP, 87 G, 95 A, 182 PTS)
I know people would see him higher up in the lineup in today’s NHL. However, he was a defense first player, taking care of his own end before thinking about scoring. The Montreal Canadiens might think he was a first line player the way he performed against them in the playoffs. He could play up in the lineup if needed but on this depth chart, he would have been the best 4th line center in the league.
Magnus Arvedsson (393 GP, 92 G, 118 A, 210 PTS)
Arvedsson was a physical freak of nature with the highest vo2 max test results in training camp on a yearly basis. He was a two-way winger who could skate and score. It’s hard to forget that horrible injury he suffered in Philadelphia that he never fully recovered from. His years in Ottawa were very productive and he was a big part of that run to the conference finals in ’03.
Martin Havlat (298 GP, 105 G, 130 A, 235 PTS)
The Senators right side has been historically stronger than its left or Havlat would have made the starting lineup. His speed and ability to beat defensemen off the rush were his two primary assets. He had the ability to finish as well. He began his career with the Senators in the clutch and grab era and he only played for them in one season after the ’05 lockout. He was a cap casualty. He had solid numbers in the playoffs and was part of that ’03 run to the conference finals. It would have been nice to see him with no red line for an extended period.
Mika Zibanejad (281 GP, 64 G, 86 A, 150 PTS)
The Brassard trade never felt good as I always thought Zibanejad had more to give and that the Senators gave up on him too quickly. Had the Senators made the Stanley Cup finals in 2017 and even won, I might give over on this one. He wasn’t playing at a level worthy of being dressed on this roster. Had he stayed, there is no doubt he would have been behind Spezza on the depth chart. He is a big player who is tough on the draw and can finish. He was worth waiting for.
Zdeno Chara (299 GP, 51 G, 95 A, 146 PTS)
In my humble opinion, this is the best defenseman to ever wear a Senators uniform. He was a five-tool player who played as big as his frame and even bigger in the playoffs. I would have loved to see how he would have handled Pronger after his hit on Dean McAmmond in the ’07 finals. I wonder if Pronger would have even had the courage to do it knowing there would surely have been a reckoning. I believe in the cap era, a decision had to be made between keeping Chara or Redden. Respectfully, they chose wrong.
Erik Karlsson (627 GP, 126 G, 392 A, 518 PTS)
In the new NHL, Karlsson was so good offensively that you could overlook his defensive lapses. He was THE prototype puck moving defenseman who had freakish stamina and played big in the big games. Two Norris trophies, a strong playoff resume and typically playing anywhere between 25-30 minutes per game is how he should be remembered by fans, media and teammates. Sens fans saw the best of what he had to give.
Chris Phillips (1,179 GP, 71G, 217 A, 288 PTS)
The Big Rig came to Ottawa as a #1 overall draft pick, and he lived up to that billing and then some. He was known for his defensive play first, yet he had a knack for scoring big goals when you least expected it. He played big in the playoffs and never took a night off.
Anton Volchenkov . (428 GP, 12 G, 63A, 75 PTS)
Volchenkov made a name for himself playing alongside Phillips as one of the hardest hitters and best shot blockers in the league. They formed the best shutdown tandem during the Senators hay day. He didn’t adjust to the post lockout NHL particularly well given the speed he encountered after leaving for New Jersey in free agency. However, for his time in Ottawa, there were few who defended better than him.
Wade Redden (838 GP, 101 G, 309 A, 410 PTS)
Redden was an extremely steady player when in his prime. He made the good outlet pass and his decision making was excellent. He came to Ottawa as the #2 overall pick and it’s fair to say he lived up to billing. His play declined abruptly after the run to the finals in ’07. However, his resume speaks for itself, and he also played a role in the community hosting a box for sick children in the Ottawa area for Senators home games.
Marc Methot (304 GP, 14 G, 55 A, 69 PTS)
Erik Karlsson would likely support this selection more than anyone. Methot was the steadying influence that allowed Karlsson to do what he needed to do. He also threw the best hip checks in the league. He was an important part of the Foligno trade. Solid defensively and played big in the playoffs.
Jason York (380 GP, 25 G, 99 A, 124 PTS)
York was a local product who was another player who could contribute offensively but was appreciated by Jacques Martin for being reliable and intelligent. Senators’ fans might not have always noticed him, but that was the trademark of his play. If one of the top six on this lineup went down, York would be a great option to lean on.
Craig Anderson . (534 GP, 202 W, 168 A, 46 OTL)
Speaking of trades that went the Senators way, acquiring a #1 goalie from the Colorado Avalance in exchange for Brian Elliott was a coup for Sens management. He could handle the workload and made the big saves. The big games did not intimidate him, and he helped expedite the Senators ’09 rebuild.
Patrick Lalime . (283 GP, 146 W, 118 A, 30 T)
Game 7 in ’04 is what people tend to remember about Lalime other than the Marvin the Martian on his mask. However, his body of work can’t be overlooked. He carried the load in the Jacques Martin era, which did not include shootouts. His legacy might be even better if not for that game and the Jeff Friesen dagger in Game 7 of ’03 in the Conference Finals. He was steady and consistent, and his playoff performance was by and large quite respectable.
It’s nice to wonder “What If”? from time to time and look back at Senators history and see how close they came to achieving what their expansion brothers in Tampa have done three times now. I strongly suspect some of these names are going to be bumped in the years ahead…or should I say, THEY BETTER.
By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey