When Jarkko Ruutu was signed to a three-year, $3.9M contract in the 2008 off-season, I was pretty excited. I wanted to see what a league-renowned pest could do in an Ottawa Senators uniform, and Ruutu certainly qualified as such. We'd also just seen him and the Pittsburgh Penguins oust the Sens in four straight during the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, and bringing one of the opposition onto our side seemed--at the time--like a good way to build for the playoffs.
Fast forward two and a half years, and Ruutu only ended up playing six playoff games for the Senators, and was part of the most frustrating and least effective Ottawa Senators teams in a long, long time. But for fans watching game after game, Ruutu still offered us some entertainment just about any time he played.
Ruutu's best days in Ottawa, to me, were those six playoff games. The 2010 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals--once again against the Penguins--weren't terrific, but Ruutu's line, with Chris Neil and Chris Kelly, among the most valuable players in the series, especially in the first game, a 5-4 victory.
That win was huge. The Senators caught the Penguins off-guard, and made a statement not just in the series, but in the league: This team wasn't about to bow out. They were going to fight back, and Ruutu's goal and assist emphatically added to that.
But Ruutu's offence was hardly what made him popular in Ottawa (although his NHL career-high 12-goal, 26-point season in 2009-10 didn't hurt). His finger-biting, jersey-chewing, hard-hitting, and all-around frustrating persona made Senators fans grateful they got to enjoy his antics as a follower of his team rather than having to hate him for being on the opposition.
Ruutu fought Steve Downie (defending the honour of Dean McAmmond), which makes him a good guy in my book:
He sat on Sidney Crosby's face, which is just hilarious (and which will bring particular joy to Adnan):
He bit Andrew Peters' thumb, which was simultaneously ridiculous and hilarious:
And he truly understood the point of the annual Skills Competition: To entertain the fans. His mullet wig and puck-on-a-string remains one of the top moments of the history of Ottawa's Skills Competition:
Ruutu didn't leave Ottawa under the best of circumstances. This season was a struggle for him when he was here, and a rumoured rift with head coach Cory Clouston didn't make his lack-lustre performance any better. But the fact remains that he was an entertaining character during some of the most frustrating seasons in the history of the Ottawa Senators.
And now, whether he re-signs with the Anaheim Ducks in the off-season or someone else, we get to play against him. Which won't be nearly as hilarious.