We've hit the end of 2015. Tomorrow we'll be in the second half of the second decade in the 2000's, which is...just crazy. 2015 was a very odd year for the Ottawa Senators, and there were plenty of ups and downs. In case you forgot what happened throughout the year, I'll be highlighting all the good and the bad that went on in each month of the year. So let's get to it!
January 2015 was the first full month that new coach Dave Cameron was at the helm. When the Senators woke up on January 1st, they sat 6 points behind the Washington Capitals for the final wild card spot, and were 11th in the Eastern Conference with a 15-14-7 record. They weren't horrible, but certainly not good enough to be a playoff team.
January 3rd: Ottawa beat the Bruins 3-2 in overtime in Boston, putting them 6 points behind the Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot, but with 3 games in hand. Their win marked just the 4th time they had won back-to-back games.
January 13th: Ottawa blows a 3-1 lead against the Dallas Stars, which is the first game in which Jason Spezza plays his former team. The final score is 5-4, which was just another frustrating night of watching Senators defense.
January 30th: The Senators trounce the Coyotes 7-2, but they finish the night 11 points out of a playoff spot, after beginning the month 6 back. Even after a great win like that, it doesn't seem to matter.
February was a very strange month for Senators fans. Since the end of December, I had been actively rooting for them to get a high draft pick. There seemed to be zero chance of them making the playoffs. Yet by the end of the month, I was going nuts (in a good way) on a nightly basis when watching them.
February 7th: This was the lowest point of Ottawa's season. After losing 4-1 to Columbus, they sat a whopping 14 points out of a playoff spot. Carolina sat just 4 points behind Ottawa, and they were 5th last in the entire league. It was McDavid time.
February 12th: The Senators lose to the Penguins 5-4 in a shootout, but they were down 3-0 at the beginning of the 3rd period, and 4-2 with just 5 minutes left. Mark Stone made it a 4-3 game, and then 13 seconds later Kyle Turris tied it up. This was one of those games where even "tank" fans were happy with the result, because at least they showed they had a pulse.
February 16th: This is the point where the Senators season officially ended. Or so we thought. With Craig Anderson already hurt, Robin Lehner went down as well. Dave Cameron was so unwilling to play Andrew Hammond at all, but now he was forced to put him in. It wouldn't matter much, as the Hurricanes went on to beat the Senators 6-3. There was no hope left at this point. Another interesting thing that happened that day was the 4-year extension of Marc Methot. But by the night most people had forgotten about that.
February 28th: After Lehner went down, Hammond went on to win the first five starts of his career. The first two wins against the Canadiens and Panthers were a nice feel good story, but everybody knew the California road trip would be a reality check. It was the exact opposite though. Hammond had two shutouts, and the Senators out-scored Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose by a total of 8-2. I remember thinking after the Kings win that if Ottawa can win in San Jose, then I will firmly be on the train to get the team to the playoffs.
They did exactly that, and from that point on I had this belief that they could do it, and I was right in not doubting them. After that win against the Sharks, Ottawa was 7 points back, but they had two games in hand.
When Ottawa began their extremely long comeback, nobody knew what kind of insane record they would need to reach the playoffs. But in March they could not stop winning, and you could just feel like they'd make it somehow. This month was jam-packed with action.
March 10th: This was the first of two games against the Bruins, and most people thought Ottawa would have to win both in order to catch up. They lost 3-1, and hope was temporarily put on life support. They were now 7 points back with a game in hand.
March 15th: This is when the Hamburglar legend was truly completed. After posting a 2-1 shootout win over the Flyers, a few McDonald's hamburgers flew onto the ice as a homage to Hammond's performance. The best part of it was Curtis Lazar eating it right after because he was really hungry. (Un?)fortunately, hamburgers are no longer allowed to fly onto the ice at the CTC.
March 17th: In another must-win game, Kyle Turris and Mark Stone were the overtime heroes, as Turris made one of the best plays of the year and Stone had an easy tap-in. It was Ottawa's 7th win in 8 games, and it put them 4 back of the Bruins with a game in hand.
March 19th: This was the biggest game of the year. Not even close. The Senators had to beat the Bruins this time around, and they did, 6-4. It was an insanely back and forth game, with the score being 1-1 just 59 seconds in. After two periods it was 4-4, but Bobby Ryan's circus goal halfway through the period gave Ottawa the winning goal in the third. This put them a mere two points back of a playoff spot, with a game in hand.
March 29th: After holding a playoff spot just a few days prior, Ottawa had now lost two games in regulation, and one in overtime. In such a close playoff race, these three straight losses were almost fatal. They were now 3 back of the Bruins with one more game to play, meaning that their margin for error was now razor thin.
March 31st: The Senators were minutes away from almost losing their season, but a late Clarke MacArthur goal against the Red Wings saved them. Bobby Ryan was able to net the shootout winner against Detroit, and they were able to keep pace with the Bruins. A loss would have put them 5 points back, but they stayed within striking distance.
April was the most emotional month for Senators fans in a long time. There was a loss of hope. Then some triumphant victories. Then another setback, followed by a comeback that came up oh-so-short. By the end of the month, Senators fans were just happy to have had such a fun ride.
April 7th: This 4-3 win against the Penguins will go down in history as one of the best/most important Senators games ever. The funny thing is that if they did not comeback, they still would have actually made the playoffs. But at the time, the season was essentially on the line. A costly shootout loss to the Maple Leafs two days earlier meant that Ottawa was 2 points back of Detroit, Boston, and Pittsburgh. They only needed to pass one, but it looked like they would have to win their remaining three games.
After the first period though, it was already 3-0 Pittsburgh. But Ottawa slowly climbed back, which set the stage for a thrilling overtime. Mark Stone was once again a hero (along with Mike Hoffman on the game-tying goal), and he scored one of the most memorable goals in Senators history: "MARK STONE! AGAIN!"
April 11th: The Senators make history. They become the first team in NHL history to make the playoffs after being 14 points out of it at one point. Their incredible run does not end at the 82-game mark.
April 15th-26th: Honestly, I could talk so much about each individual game against the Canadiens, but this article is long enough so I'll attempt to keep it short. This was a frustrating series that easily could have gone Ottawa's way. The first three games were all one-goal games, and two of them went to overtime. Andrew Hammond wasn't necessarily bad, but he certainly wasn't the magician he was in the regular season.
Craig Anderson played out of his mind, allowing a measly three goals in four games, but Ottawa would end up losing 2-1 and 2-0 in two of his losses. The final loss in game six included an empty-net goal as well, so essentially all four of the Senators losses were one-goal games. It didn't help that Ottawa should have tied Game Six but the refs intervened:
It was certainly a series that was there for the taking, but most fans were just extremely proud with the team for what they did.
By the time it was over, it was a cause for celebration towards their accomplishments, rather than a negative atmosphere. The insane two months were now over, and it was off-season time.
There was very little that went on for the Senators in May. Most people turned their attention to the other teams in the playoffs, or watched baseball (like myself).
May 10th: Ottawa signed Boston College goalie Matt O'Connor, in a somewhat surprising move. Although he was a highly touted prospect, he's struggled mightily in the AHL so far.
May 20th: The Senators signed Hammond to a 3-year extension, meaning that either Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner would be shipped out of town. The growing sentiment was that Lehner would be the odd man out.
May 28th: Bryan Murray says that the 2015-16 season will be his last as Senators GM. However, we aren't entirely sure about that anymore.
June was similar to May in that not too much happened besides the NHL Draft.
June 18th: Dave Cameron was signed to a 2-year contract extension. Ottawa had their man.
June 24th: Erik Karlsson wins his 2nd Norris Trophy, while Mark Stone finished 2nd in Calder voting. This was easily my favourite moment of the off-season as a Senators fan, just to see the disgust from people who want a "traditional defenseman" winning the award. Here's my reply:
June 25th: Mark Stone re-signs on a 3-year deal, as well as Mika Zibanejad on a 2-year deal.
June 26th: Ottawa makes a big move, as Lehner and David Legwand get moved to the Buffalo Sabres for the 21st overall pick, which they use to take Colin White.
June 26th: Ottawa's other first round pick is used on defenseman Thomas Chabot. I'd say that has worked out (very early on).
June 27th: Eric Gryba is moved to the Edmonton Oilers for a 4th round pick and Travis Ewanyk.
Ottawa was extremely inactive in July. They made no NHL signings, and their only depth moves were signing Eric O'Dell, Zack Stortini, and Mike Kostka. They also let Erik Condra sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning for a tiny $1.25 million contract for 3 years. The rest of the month was underwhelming, as there was little buzz around the team making some moves.
August 3rd: The Senators take Mike Hoffman to arbitration, and he somehow gets only $2 million for the 2015-16 season. It was an insanely cheap deal, although I'm sure the Senators are regretting that now.
There was some talk about Martin Havlat coming to camp on a PTO, but nothing materializes. Bryan Murray doesn't add a single NHL player, which is basically unheard of today in the NHL.
Mikael Wikstand gets loaned back to Sweden for a week or so to play in a Champions League tournament. He then comes back and the team says he will be playing in Binghamton. Then in the first prospects game, he gets injured and leaves the game. Later on, rumours float around that he's back in Sweden for some reason.
As of now, everyone is assuming the reason he went back is because his brother has leukemia, but he remains suspended by the team, and has yet to play a game this year in either the SHL or AHL. The team was rightfully angry, although I'm not sure they are doing the right thing here. His development is certainly taking a hit this year.
During the rest of the camp, there aren't too many surprises, although Thomas Chabot does stay quite long in the process. Because of the Wikstand situation, Ottawa signs Mark Fraser to play in the AHL, which has gone...let's say less than ideal.
October 14th: Ottawa thumps Columbus 7-3, giving them a 3-1 record to begin the year. Things are looking pretty good, and the offense is rolling.
October 24th: The Senators lose to the surprising Coyotes 4-1, giving them four straight losses, and a record of 3-3-2. People are realizing that their possession numbers are not good at all, and there begins to be some panic.
November 7th: After winning four of their past five, this game against Carolina seemed like an easy win. But Ottawa blows a 2-1 lead with 3 seconds left in the game, and Jordan Staal wins it for them in overtime. Any sort of momentum they had building is killed.
November 10th: This game was one of the worst defensive displays I have seen in my life. For both teams, but especially Ottawa. They ended up losing 7-5 to the Predators, despite leading 3-1 and 5-4. This game was many fans boiling points, including mine. I'd like to think that after this game, the organization finally realized that the defense isn't good enough.
November 25th: Despite not playing amazing hockey in the past weeks, Ottawa's 5-3 win against the Avalanche gave them a 4-game winning streak. At that point, they were second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 12-5-5 despite giving up an insane amount of shots each game.
For a month that was supposed to be the death of the Senators, it hasn't turned out as bad as we thought. It hasn't been good per se, but at least they are still in the thick of the playoff race.
December 8th: This is the game where Senators fans lost their minds. Mark Borowiecki was already inexplicably playing forward over Shane Prince, and for a couple shifts in the 3rd period he played on the first line while Mike Hoffman got bumped down. Hoffman ended up scoring the game-winner anyway, and people who like Cameron defended his decision by saying that his tactics gave them a win. I was not one of those people though, and neither were many of the writers on this site. Suffice to say it got a lot of discussion going.
December 12th: Ottawa loses 3-1 to Montreal, but oh boy it should have been worse. Ottawa gave up a team record 27 shots in the first period, and somehow they only lost by two goals. This has been one of the few low points this season.
December 25th: Santa wasn't very nice to all of us, as when we went downstairs and looked under the tree, there was no top-four defenseman on the Ottawa Senators. I'm still waiting on that present sir.
I hope you enjoyed looking through this mega year in review, because it sure took me quite a while! If you made it this far, I applaud you. I really don't blame you if you skimmed through most of it.
Is there anything I missed? Because a lot went on, and it would be nice if people shared their best/worst/most interesting moment from 2015 regarding the Senators. Let me know! But in all seriousness, I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! The readers are what keeps this site going, so thanks a lot guys.