With only two jerseys retired in the history of the revived Ottawa Senators, there could stand to be some new additions. It could take some time, though.
Defenseman Chris Phillips’ No. 4 jersey just got retired alongside long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson’s (No. 11). Admittedly few others come close to matching their contributions to the team, with Phillips leading in games played (1,179) and Alfredsson just one behind (1,178), not to mention his accomplishment of having scored the most goals (426), assists (682) and points in team history.
However, if the Florida Panthers should arguably retire a few new jerseys themselves, the same argument can be made for the Sens, in spite of their lack of championship success. Which Senators should get the call?
3. Craig Anderson (No. 41)
Goalie Craig Anderson probably has the slightest chance of the players on this list of eventually getting his number retired. It’s ironic in the sense he may be the closest to actual retirement, as his two-year, $9.5 million contracts runs out at the end of this season (whenever that will be, due to COVID-19).
Nevertheless, the soon-to-be 39-year-old would end his career with the Senators as the franchise wins (202) and games played (435) leader among goalies. Assuming the season gets cancelled, Anderson would also retire tied with Robin Lehner as the leader in save percentage (.914) (over a significantly longer time frame). Anderson actually put together a handful of legitimately elite-caliber seasons such as in 2016-17 when he went 25-11-4 with a .926 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average.
That season the Senators obviously came within a goal of reaching what would have been the second Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, losing in double overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7.
However, whereas the late Ray Emery backstopped them to their only Final appearance (2007), Anderson undeniably had much more of an impact on the organization from a historical perspective. Anderson’s nine-plus seasons effectively triple up Emery’s three full campaigns. His 40 playoff appearances also blow Emery’s 30 out of the water.
Anderson admittedly trails Patrick Lalime (41) in that category. However, considering the latter’s legacy of renowned playoff struggles, Anderson more than gets the edge over Lalime. If one Senators goalie must get his jersey retired, it has to be Anderson.
2. Jason Spezza (No. 19)
Whereas Anderson was traded to the Senators (for Brian Elliott) as he approached age 30, forward Jason Spezza was a homegrown success story, having been drafted by the Senators at No. 2 overall in 2001.
Spezza’s also approaching retirement at 36 going on 37 years of age, after having signed a one-year deal as an unrestricted free agent to play for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. While he now has more of as sense of how the other side in the Battle of Ontario lives, his time with the Senators will arguably forever define his time in the NHL.
Spezza admittedly took longer than expected for a high pick to arrive. However, by the time he did in 2002-03, he almost immediately became an impact player, scoring 55 points in his sophomore 2003-04 season. He hit 90 the next in 2005-06 (after the 2004-05 lockout), finding chemistry between Alfredsson and Dany Heatley to form the Pizza Line (because of the free pizza fans got when the Sens scored five goals).
Spezza trails only Alfredsson on the team’s all-time scoring list. Admittedly, Alfredsson eclipses him by a wide margin (1,108 to 687), in other categories as well. Alfredsson will go down as probably the most influential and popular captain in Senators history, further justifying his retired number.
In comparison, Spezza served as captain for a single season in 2013-14. He then got traded to the Dallas Stars in the offseason, with a year left on his deal, with the divorce going down less than smoothly, considering he had vetoed a deal with the Nashville Predators first.
To be fair though, controversial departures from the Senators should not be a disqualifying factor. In fact, they can’t be, considering Alfredsson has his jersey retired. He stunned almost everyone by not staying with the Senators in 2013 and leaving for the Detroit Red Wings, including then-general manager Ken Holland.
In fact, the rights to draft Spezza were only acquired following a contract dispute with Senators great Alexei Yashin (alongside Zdeno Chara and Bill Muckalt). Yashin also served as Senators captain for a single season. So, why should Spezza make the cut and not fellow-star-center Yashin? Mainly because Yashin’s tenure with the Senators was so tumultuous to the point that he sat out a complete season.
Like him or leave him, Spezza always showed up (both physically and arguably mentally). The relationship also never degraded to the point that Spezza had his captaincy stripped, like Yashin. Regardless of how things ended, there should always be room for Spezza in Senators history (for the right reasons).
1. Erik Karlsson (No. 65)
Of course, Spezza and Yashin (and Afredsson) aren’t the only players to leave the Senators under less-than-ideal circumstances. It’s unfortunately a recurring theme in Senators history and defenseman Erik Karlsson follows the trend, including as a homegrown success story, having been drafted by the Senators at No. 15 overall in 2008. It didn’t take nearly as long for him to become a star as Spezza, though.
A testament to his superstar ability, Karlsson needed just 12 games in the American Hockey League after coming over to North America in 2009. After breaking out with a 45-point sophomore season in 2010-11, Karlsson became the focal point of the team’s attack on the blue line with three 70-point seasons and one 82-point one (2015-16) as a Senator. He ironically won the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s best defenseman the preceding year, with a “meager” 66-point effort.
It’s abundantly clear Karlsson was a level above most other defensemen (hell, players in general) in the NHL when he was with the Senators. Who knows how much Karlsson’s Achilles injury back in 2013 (at a mere 22 years old) adversely affected him from there on out, which is a scary thought, as he’ll still go down as the best defenseman in franchise history. All due respect to Phillips, if he can get his number retired, Karlsson should most definitely as well once he retires too. It’s just likely going to be a while, considering the seven years left on his deal with the San Jose Sharks.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.