In the 30 years of Ottawa Senators hockey, many fantastic players have taken the ice for the club. You could easily put all of the best players together and create an uber team that would look great on paper.
In practice, a team of 20 players only with offensive skills may not be as successful as you think. This is why I am going to build a team of Ottawa alumni who I believe could compete for a Stanley Cup.
Keep in mind, this team isn’t necessarily made up of the best players in Senators’ history. They are in their spots based on cohesion in the lineup. This means that players have their place in this team based on their handedness, position, and other intangibles. Here is what I believe to be the most balanced roster that the Sens could have ever delivered.
With the forwards on this team, it is important to note that they are here because of their talent, but also their roles and positions. So if you see a player you believe should be here, it is likely because they didn’t play the right position, or fit the specific role.
Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson
The first line of this team is a pretty obvious choice. The “Pizza” line or “CASH” line was vital to the success of the mid-2000s. They were the ideal players to set your offensive pace and carry the load when other players have their struggles.
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Dany Heatley still is the best pure scorer the franchise has ever had. His back-to-back 50-goal seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07 remain the only time a Senator has scored 50. Alongside his team record in goals for a season, he holds the franchise record for points. His presence as the premier scoring winger will be the key to this team’s goal-scoring.
There isn’t much I can say about Daniel Alfredsson that hasn’t already been said. He is the face of the franchise, and the player you think of when you think of the Senators. His play during his nearly 20 seasons in Ottawa was nothing short of incredible. The team leader in goals, points, and assists is the captain of this proposed team and the easiest choice of whom to have on the first line.
Jason Spezza is the perfect playmaking centre. The anchor for this line would be even more successful as part of this amazing team. He’s the ideal first-line centre for any situation. The centre is the key to any good first line, and Spezza is the key to this offence.
Marian Hossa-Alexei Yashin-Mark Stone
The second line has to be made up of a collection of players that can contribute offensively, but also be able to play some good defensive hockey from time to time. This is why this line combines some of the most offensively gifted players the Sens have ever had, with arguably the most well-rounded player in franchise history.
In his relatively short tenure as a Senator, Marian Hossa was an offensive dynamo. It isn’t often spoken about, but in the 2002-03 season, Hossa set the franchise record for goals. His 45 was the record until it was surpassed by Heatley in 2006. Hossa would be the scoring winger that would provide the second line with the depth scoring from a well-balanced team.
Say what you wish about Alexei Yashin, but he was the face of the franchise until Daniel Alfredsson established himself. The talent that he had with the puck was incredible, and his lack of effort would be overshadowed by both of his wingers who can and would carry the load. Yashin’s attitude may have been problematic, but he has too much talent to not be included on this team. (from ‘Holdout Yashin owes Senators year of service,’ Globe and Mail, 06/29/2000)
Mark Stone is the answer to two largely offensive-minded players on this line. Stone was one of the best two-way players to ever wear the Senators jersey. His Selke-level defensive play balances out the offensively-minded Hossa and Yashin. Stone is no slouch with the puck either, as he was a major contributor to the offensive attack while he was in Ottawa.
Martin Havlat-JG Pageau-Mike Hoffman
This third line was the most difficult to construct. The third line needs to have the talent to succeed, but also be able to play the defensive game and win the battles that the other lines cannot. This is why I believe I have created the ultimate third line of Sens alumni who can fulfill this role.
Martin Havlat’s tenure in Ottawa is often a forgotten one. As a Senator, he was an excellent two-way player who wasn’t afraid to be physical. He fits in perfectly with his teammates, who can keep the line grounded but also contribute offensively. Havlat is perfectly placed here because of his role. He doesn’t have the pure offensive ability to be in the top-six but can play on the third line.
Including Jean-Gabriel Pageau was the toughest decision I had to make with this lineup. I almost included Kyle Turris in his place, but kept him in because of his role. Pageau is suited to a more defensive role against weaker opposition. His offense is not his strongest asset (despite his career-high 26 goals in 2019-20). Having him in the third-line centre role will allow him to play his game while being a faceoff specialist.
Hoffman, like Yashin, has some controversy attached to him. Also similarly, he has too much talent to be left off the team. A four-time 20-goal scorer with the Senators, he was not afraid to fight for the puck in the corners. He provides the shot that this line needs when they need a goal.
Shawn McEachern-Mike Fisher-Chris Neil
The fourth line of this team is the heart and soul, the character line that every good team needs. Made up of some real fan favourites from over the years, this line would hypothetically not get much ice time, but they would make their presence known when they get their shot.
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Shawn McEachern was one of the overlooked players of the late 90s to mid-2000s. (from ‘McEachern signs $9-million contract,’ Globe and Mail, 03/29/2000) While he was a point producer for the era he played, I believe on this team, he would be best suited in a bottom-six role with lesser minutes. His skill with the puck is a benefit, as is he the most offensively gifted player on this line.
Mike Fisher is the quintessential bottom-six centre. I almost had him on the third line, but his defence and faceoff ability is more useful on the fourth line. His career 50.7 faceoff percentage (only tracked since the 2007-08 season) as a Senator and his toughness is perfect for a limited role.
Chris Neil is the ultimate fourth-liner. The franchise’s leader in penalty minutes, and third in games played, fits his role perfectly. He can keep the ice open for his linemates while keeping his opponents in check. He is the tough guy of the team, and despite the changing ways of the National Hockey League, every team needs to employ some muscle.
This is where it will become very difficult to choose this team. I prioritised the position of each defenseman as well as their talent. So some big names may be left out here. Left defensemen are on the left side, and right defensemen are on the right side. I still believe that this is the most well-constructed roster of Sens alumni.
Zdeno Chara-Erik Karlsson
Zdeno Chara, often forgotten about when discussing the Senators, is easily in the top two of alumni on the back end. As a result of his blazing slapshot, his defence, or physical play, you want him on this team.
Erik Karlsson is the best defenseman to play for this organization. Not having him on this roster would be a criminal offence. The two-time Norris Trophy winner would be the king of the first pairing, he can control the play with his vision and puck skills while having the speed to recover from his eventual mistakes.
The ultimate pair of defensemen. This is a dream pairing of not only Sens alumni, but of any players in NHL history. Chara’s physical defence and blistering shot are the perfect complements to Karlsson’s incredible puck-moving skills and playmaking ability. Putting these two together as your top pairing would all but guarantee success. This would be one of the best pairings in hockey history. It does help that Chara is left-handed and Karlsson is right-handed, so they wouldn’t have to play on their off-hand.
Wade Redden-Joe Corvo
Joe Corvo’s tenure with the Senators was a short one, but very memorable. Like Redden, he was a more offensive-minded defender but was capable of doing both. He didn’t get much time as a Sen, only appearing in 152 games over two and a half seasons in Ottawa. However, he scored 74 points and posted a gaudy 62.5 percent Corsi in his final year in Ottawa.
Wade Redden’s play regressed in his final years in Ottawa, still, one cannot deny his impact on the Sens. He was a large part of the defensive core of the team for many years. He was a premier offensive defenseman in the NHL, and his place would be welcomed as the second-pairing man.
Having Wade Redden and Joe Corvo on a pairing together would be an excellent second pairing. Obviously, the biggest weakness of this pairing would be the structurally sound defence. However, when used in combination with the bottom-six forwards, this paring can get away with less than stellar defence, and use its puck-moving skills to lead the pace of play.
Chris Phillips-Jason York
Chris Phillips, whose number was just retired after a wonderous career in Ottawa, is the anchor to the third pairing. His offence is obviously the big thing missing, but with limited minutes in a defensive shutdown role, it wouldn’t matter. Even though his defence is the main reason he is here, his leadership is just as important.
Jason York is an underrated member of Ottawa alumni. A Senator from 1995-96 to 2000-01, he served his purpose well. He established career highs in goals, assists and points while with the team. He is the perfect partner to play with Phillips. In limited minutes, York will be allowed to play his game and chip-in offensively.
Putting Phillips and York together would be an excellent third-paring because of the balance it brings to the team. While individually lacking, together they can form an effective counter-balance that can play the tough minutes when you need to stop the momentum and get the game back in control.
A lot of goalies have played in Ottawa over the years. A handful of goalies made a significant impact. That’s why I had such a hard time selecting the goalies on this team.
Craig Anderson is the greatest goalie in Senators’ history. There is no doubt in my mind that he has cemented his place on this team. He has 200 career wins as a Senator, alongside a .914 save percentage.
With his playoff success, his chances for a spot on this team only increase. Out of all the goalies to play for this organization, Anderson is the one who I want in the crease to lead this team.
The first great goalie to play for the Senators is a great choice to back up Anderson. He is second all-time in wins, and first in goals against for those who have played at least 55 games. While he didn’t end his tenure in Ottawa well, he still has a place in franchise history. He would be best suited to play 20-25 games a season and would be capable to start if an injury would occur.
I have added three players to this roster who have the talent to make this team but didn’t make the cut. I added Marc Methot and Kyle Turris to the roster, but not to the lines. Methot doesn’t make this team for a multitude of reasons, including his position as a left defenseman in a team where the left side is stacked as it is. Methot is very talented, and if he was a right defenseman, he would be playing. For Turris, his talent is enough to get playing time, but only as the third line centre. He is not suited to play that role, and would only make it as a top-six. Spezza and Yashin both have him beat in this regard.
Overall, there may be some players here that I left out that may be more talented. However, I stand by the players I chose, and I believe this is the best overall Senators team that can be constructed.