“Yay and Nay”: The Sens fan’s rooting guide to the 2021 playoffs
Boy, it sure feels like the emergency brakes got pulled on a rollercoaster ride doesn’t it? After a killer last two months of the season, the Sens are out of this year’s playoffs. But, your hockey addiction still needs filling. So while we won’t be seeing what kind of damage the Sens could do and what surprises they could muster after a dominant finish to a season done in by a pathetic start, there’s still plenty of rooting interest out there for the Sens fan in these playoffs. Today we’re going to go team by team and identify what former Senators are around there, history between the two teams, and whether or not you should make them your temporary team in these playoffs. We’ll rank them in categories of “Absolutely Not,” “Hmmm, Maybe,” and “Let’s go jersey shopping.”
The "Absolutely Not" Category: Toronto Maple Leafs Former Senators on the roster: Jason Spezza, Nick Foligno, Stefan Noesen, Alex Galchenyuk. Playoff history with Ottawa: 4-0 in favor of the Leafs, all four series coming between 2000 and 2004, making my high school life a living hell. Yay: They have a trio of first round Sens picks, all from a decade or more ago, which should tell you how old this roster is outside of their big four. Jason Spezza was great in Ottawa, and deserves a cup. Foligno really made his name in Columbus, but is also fondly looked upon in Ottawa. Stefan Noesen is also around, best known for his inclusion in the trade that brought Bobby Ryan to the Sens. Nay: Are you kidding? It’s the freaking Leafs. That should be enough. Turn in your Sens fan card if you root for the Leafs. They could have 20 Jason Spezzas, and I wouldn’t trade being able to tell Leaf fans that it’s been 17 years and counting since their last playoff series win for all the giggly Jason Spezza cup lifts in the world. Montreal Canadiens: Former Senators on the roster: None Playoff history with Ottawa: 1-1, with Ottawa winning a hilariously lopsided 5 game series in 2013, and Montreal solving and chasing the Hamburglar from the net in six games in 2015. Yay: They’re playing against the Leafs in round one. They gave Ottawa Victor Mete for free. They drafted Jesperi Kotakniemi one spot ahead of Brady Tkachuk. Ummmm, they also wear red? Nay: Are you kidding? It’s the freaking Habs. That should be enough. Turn in your Sens fan card if you root for the Habs. However, because they’re playing the Leafs, I imagine most Sens fans will reluctantly hate-root for the Habs in their series against the Leafs before rooting for a blowout from Edmonton or Winnipeg in the next round. Pittsburgh Penguins: Former Senators on the roster: Cody Ceci Playoff history with Ottawa: 4-1 in favor of Pittsburgh. Ottawa blew out Fleury and Crosby’s first playoff appearance on the way to the cup finals in 2007 in the first round. It’s been all Pittsburgh since, with the Penguins taking series wins against Ottawa in 2008, 2010, 2013, and most painfully in a 7 game, double overtime eastern conference thriller in 2017. Yay: They’re not Toronto or Montreal. Going from the bottom of the barrel in the mid 2000s to 3 cups and 4 finals in 13 years should give Ottawa fans hope for a similar trajectory. Sudden Death is one of the greatest Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Other than that, I’ve got nothing. Nay: Are you kidding? It’s the freaking Penguins. That should be enough. Turn in your Sens fan card if you root for the Penguins. 2 of their finals appearances went through Ottawa, and hardly any franchises have won more. No franchise is more responsible for more Ottawa heartbreak than Sidney’s Crosby’s Penguins. This franchise has won more than enough, and having Cody Ceci on their roster isn’t enough to move the needle, and for many fans, may actually pull the needle further back. Tampa Bay Lightning: Former Senators on the roster: Fredrik Claesson, Curtis McElhinney Playoff history with Ottawa: 1-0 in favor of Ottawa, who wiped them out in the first round in 2006 in five easy games. Yay: Tampa seems like a nice and fun place. They might be the best chance to knock out the Leafs in the third round. Nay: They’re outright cheating by all of a sudden bringing on $17 million in salary over the cap off of LTIR JUST in time for the playoffs, as if that’s actually a thing. I don’t care, bringing on two hart trophy finalists that you didn’t have to pay or fit under the cap all season onto your playoff roster is outright cheating. This is seriously like that time Mr. Burns replaced his employees with MLB All-Stars in the company softball tournament. This is a loophole that the NHL needs to close, because it’s a joke. They also won just last year. Worst of all for Sens fans, Ottawa’s expansion cousin from 1992-93 has two cups to Ottawa’s none, and 3 finals appearances to Ottawa’s 1. Freddie Claesson holding on to his NHL career by the skin of his teeth and former Sens backup McElhinney (or as I call him, CTRL-V, because I cannot spell that name from memory) doesn’t move the needle in terms of former Sens to root for. They’re also playing against the Panthers who are one of the ultimate underdogs. Do you really want that young up and coming team booted out by a bunch of recent winners who are cheating their way to a non-compliant cap situation? No you don’t. Only root for these guys if they’re playing against one of the previously mentioned teams. Next. The “Hmmmm, Maybe” Category Edmonton Oilers: Former Senators on the roster: Kyle Turris, Tyler Ennis Playoff history with Ottawa: None Yay: Connor McDavid is the greatest player in the NHL right now, full stop. Leon Draisaitl is the Malkin to his Crosby. These guys deserve to win a cup. Former Senator Kyle Turris is a fan favorite that anyone should be able to get behind, despite his terrible 5 points in 27 games and -11 rating. Ennis was also a good soldier in his limited time in an Ottawa uniform. They’re fun to watch and play a very entertaining freewheeling game. They’re a solid pick to come out of the North division. Nay: Their 9-0 record against Ottawa is the biggest reason why the Sens didn’t compete for a playoff spot this year. That’s a tough one to reconcile, as so much of their success this year came at Ottawa’s expense. Even a 4-5 record against the Oilers would have put the Sens right in the thick of the hunt for a playoff spot. There’s also the whole angle of “my team needs to be the one to break the Canadian Stanley Cup drought since 1993”, and screw the rest. Minnesota Wild: Former Senators on the roster: Ian Cole (sort of) Playoff history with Ottawa: None Yay: They’re a completely inoffensive and forgettable team, and let’s be real, the Ottawa Senators of the Western conference. Their fanbase is essentially limited to the local rooting interest, and one of those teams you forget even plays in the NHL. They have a deep and balanced roster that’s short to elite top end talent, which can be hard for defenses to zero in on. That makes them ripe for an upset over the Vegas Golden Knights in round one. Every playoff year seems to have at least one hyped up juggernaut getting caught unaware by an underestimated opponent, and that’s always fun to root for. Their fanbase has also suffered enough that I wouldn’t begrudge them any success they can come up with. Nay: I’ll bet you didn’t even realise they made the playoffs this year. Even though they’ve taken game 1 against Vegas, they’re in tough to win three more against them. You’d likely be choosing another team to root for by this time next week. There’s no former Senators to root for here either, unless you want to count Ian Cole, who never suited up for the team during his three days with the franchise after coming over from Pittsburgh in the Derrick Brassard deal that brought Jacob Bernard Docker and Filip Gustavsson to Ottawa. St. Louis Blues: Former Senators on the roster: Mike Hoffman, Vladimir Tarasenko (if you’re still bitter about trading that first round pick for David Rundblad, but he doesn’t actually count). Playoff history with Ottawa: None Yay: Everything I said about Minnesota applies here, or at least it did until they managed to win a Stanley Cup two years ago. They also go into these playoffs as an underdog against Colorado, but without the feel good narrative of never having gotten there before. You’ll forgive me for forgetting they even won, as I was too busy riding the Toronto Raptors championship bandwagon at the time. Nay: No Senators fan can root for Mike Hoffman. Way too much baggage there. End of story. There isn’t another former player to pique a Sens’ fan’s interest otherwise. Their recent cup win means there’s better underdog options out there. Colorado Avalanche: Former Senators on the roster: None, unless you count Shane Bowers (never suited up for Ottawa after being drafted and not on the active Avalanche roster) or Bowen Byram (drafted with Ottawa’s 4th overall pick in 2019 from the Duchene trade) Playoff history with Ottawa: None Yay: I’ll let you in on a secret, the Avs were my other favorite team in the 90s and early 2000s. I just loved Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Sandis Ozolinsh, Patrick Roy, Adam Deadmarsh, Adam Foote, and Ray Bourque that much. They’re a fun, young, hyper-talented team that showed the rest of the league how to punch the gas on accelerating a rebuild. They’ve gone from a historically bad dead last season to prime cup contenders in a few short years. It’s a template that Ottawa hopes to follow, right down to selling a superstar to a contender on the verge of collapse in exchange for what became a top 5 pick. If they can do it, Ottawa can too. Nay: I wouldn’t blame you if you’re bitter about how that whole Duchene trade business went down. Also, let’s be real, MacKinnon and Rantanen are great players, but don’t carry the same universal clout that a Sakic and Forsberg did in their heyday. A fine choice, but not the choice for everyone. Carolina Hurricanes: Former Senators on the roster: Cedric Paquette Playoff history with Ottawa: None Yay: A completely inoffensive pick, with no real reason for a Senators fan to root against them. A young, up and coming team from a small market that’s been taking the next steps the past two seasons. That’s something Sens fans could get behind. They’re poised to go on a decent run this year. They were kind enough to take Paquette and Galchenyuk off our hands in exchange for Ryan Dzingel this past season Nay: They’re every bit as forgettable as a franchise as the aforementioned Wild and Blues. No former Senators to root for, unless you really got attached to Cedric Paquette’s 1 goal performance in 9 games earlier this year. Boston Bruins: Former Senators on the roster: Curtis Lazar, Mike Reilly Playoff history with Ottawa: 1-0 in favor of Ottawa, who knocked out the Bruins in round 1 of 2017 in six games. Yay: The lost to Ottawa in the middle of a multi-season stretch where they repeatedly knocked out the Leafs multiple times in embarrassing fashion. Curtis Lazar and Mike Reilly are very likable former Senators who are easy to get behind. It’s easy to root for a team that lives rent free in the minds of Leaf fans around the world. Nay: Boston as a sports market has won way too freaking much in the last decade across all their major franchises. Let someone else win for once. They’re also up against a team that we’ll discuss in the next category. Vegas Golden Knights: Former Senators on the roster: Mark Stone, Robin Lehner Playoff history with Ottawa: None
Yay: It’s Mark freakin’ Stone. How could you not root for him? Robin Lehner is a great personality in a league that could sorely use more of it. Marc-Andre Fleury is the most likable player in the league. Their standard home and away jerseys are gorgeous and among the league’s best.
Nay: Fleury also led the Penguins to multiple series wins against Ottawa. The Mark Stone trade is still too fresh a wound and will have plenty of more chances to win one. Robin Lehner doesn’t seem to think highly of his time in Ottawa for obvious personal reasons. Google it. This franchise started their existence on third base with a far too generous expansion draft that allowed them to skip that whole “actually build a team from scratch” thing. Their fans don’t know suffering, even with losing out on a bogus five minute major penalty to the Sharks in 2019 in game 7. That’s simply not fair. They drafted Marc Methot from Ottawa in the expansion draft and then traded him to Dallas for pennies on the dollar, which really sucks for Sens fans. Their alternate jerseys and shiny gold helmets are embarrassing and among the worst looks in the league. This is the pick that will divide the fanbase down the middle. I say go for it, but there are still better options for a Sens fan to get behind.
The “Let’s go Jersey Shopping” category
Former Senators on the roster: Anthony Duclair, Chris Driedger
Playoff history with Ottawa: None.
Yay: The ultimate underdog rooting interest in the NHL. After wandering the NHL wilderness for literal decades since their unlikely 1996 Stanley Cup finals run, you could always reliably count on them to finish near the bottom of the standings. They’re up against a Tampa team that’s firmly in the “Absolutely Not” category. Anthony Duclair has been humbled since his contract impasse with Ottawa, and remains likeable to Sens fans. Former Sens goaltending prospect Chris Driedger broke out in a big way and is also the kind of underdog story any hockey fan loves. Their fanbase (they DO have a fanbase right?) has suffered more than almost anybody. They have an even worse “middle of nowhere” arena situation than Ottawa does. There’s no playoff history or bad blood between the franchises. They had and got rid of Mike Hoffman.
Nay: There are better former Senator rooting options around. They’re likely in tough against a Tampa team that cap rules don’t apply to.
Former Senators on the roster: Matt Duchene, Ben Harpur, Mark Borowiecki, Erik Gudbranson.
Playoff history with Ottawa: None, but they got their hearts broken in the Stanley Cup finals by the same Pittsburgh team that broke Ottawa’s heart one round earlier in 2017. It was a winnable series for Ottawa in the finals that year.
Yay: They have two local products and former Sens in Borowiecki and Gudbranson. Boro in particular is that heart and soul player who gave everything he had to the Sens and deserves a cup. Ben Harpur has finally come into his own and had a good season. Matt Duchene is a neutral, aided along by Ottawa getting a great return from trading him. They have one of the best fanbases in the league, who much like Ottawa, have seen their team come tantalizingly close to a cup, only to have to ruined by Pittsburgh in 2017, and have only seen one cup final in their existence. There’s a lot of parallels that Sens fans can sympathize with.
Nay: Mustard Yellow is a horrible color for a hockey jersey. The surgeon general warns that watching too many Nashville Predators games may result in color blindness. They’re in tough against a good young Carolina team and likely won’t be going on a deep run this year.
Former Senators on the roster: Dylan DeMelo, Nate Thompson
Playoff history with Ottawa: None
Yay: Dylan DeMelo is probably the most likable player to suit up for Ottawa in the lost seasons of 2019 and 2020. Nate Thompson played his 4th line role well in the 2017 run for Ottawa. Winnipeg has no natural geographic rivals in Canada, making them a nice safe choice for any Canadian hockey fan to get behind once their team is out. They face a lot of the same obstacles that Ottawa deals with in terms of market size, weather, and attracting top talent. They have a great and passionate fanbase Their jerseys are among the league’s best and it’s an excuse to pull my vintage Teemu Selanne jersey out of my closet. They play an exciting, up tempo game and are backstopped by one of the league’s best in Connor Hellebuyck. The league is simply a better place with Winnipeg in it.
Nay: They’ve been in a nose dive in the second half of the season and are in tough against Connor McDavid’s Oilers. Also, have you ever been to Winnipeg? Gross. No matter how long they play there, they will never completely wash off the stink of being the Atlanta Thrashers. There’s also the whole angle of “my team needs to be the one to break the Canadian Stanley Cup drought since 1993”, and screw the rest.
Former Senators on the roster: Craig Anderson, Zdeno Chara
Playoff history with Ottawa: 1-0 in favor of the Capitals, who knocked out a young and hungry 1998 Senators team in the second round.
Yay: No former Senator deserves a Stanley Cup more than Craig Anderson, who went from third string goalie to Game 1 winner just shy of his 40th birthday. The man was a fan favorite and veteran backbone for the Senators for over a decade, and should be any Sens fan’s number 1 former player rooting interest this year. It’s also okay to root for Zdeno Chara again now that he’s no longer “the guy that got away” in Boston and is playing against them in round 1. Alex Ovechkin is one of the most likable players in the league, and you’re a liar (or a Pittsburgh fan) if seeing his summer romance with the cup in 2018 didn’t warm your heart, especially since they went through the Leafs to get there.
Nay: Tom Wilson still plays for this team. Sigh. Nobody’s perfect. They’ve also won a cup recently.
New York Islanders:
Former Senators on the roster: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Braydon Coburn
Playoff history with Ottawa: 1-0 in favor of Ottawa, who knocked out Alexei Yashin’s Islanders in five games on the way to the ECF in 2003.
Yay: Paaaaagggeeeaaaau, Paaaagggeaaau pageau pageau! Paaaaggggeaaaauuuuu, Paaaaaggeeeaaauuuu. If the idea of rooting for Tom Wilson blocks you from getting behind Craig Anderson, here’s the next best thing. JGP is a heart and soul guy who won the hearts of Ottawa fans for years, and he went full Chicken Parm mode in Game 1 against the Penguins with three points. They’re playing against the Penguins who are firmly in the “Absolutely Not” Category. Much like Winnipeg, they face a lot of the same obstacles that Ottawa hopes to overcome to overall team success. Their fanbase younger than age 40 has likely suffered worse than any other in NHL, from terrible teams, arena issues, awful ownership, and not winning a single playoff series in a 25 year stretch. They even have a beloved former superstar now playing for the Leafs. Those seem like things Ottawa fans can sympathize with.
Nay: You know what? I got nothing. The Islanders are the ultimate pick for a Senators fan to root for in this year’s playoffs.
Who are you rooting for in this year’s playoffs? Are you still watching hockey without the Sens taking part? Let us know in the comments!
By Andrew Sztein | Sens Nation Podcast