The All-Star Game runs on Sunday, and despite its gimmickiness, it's definitely given Senators fans some memories over the years. I've decided in honour of tomorrow's game to take a look back on five of the most notable ASGs in Sens history.
1. The inaugural season - 1992-93
As per league rules, each team had to have a representative at the game. For an expansion team made up of cast-offs from other teams that was going to end the season with 10 wins, no one really qualified as an all-star. So they selected goaltender Peter Sidorkiewicz, who finished the season with a record of 8-46-3, a 4.43 GAA and an .856 save percentage. All-star calibre numbers. He ended up getting credit for the win in the ASG, which he probably wished was added to his stats for the season.
At this time, there was also an option for Commissioner's Selection, given as a bonus to a player who'd been in the league for a long time. So defenceman Brad Marsh in his 17th season in the league was given that honour. I don't see why the league is so upset about John Scott ruining the integrity of the All-Star Game when many times in the past, the commissioner of the league ruined the integrity by inserting a player off Scott's ilk. So somehow the expansion team that wouldn't make it to double-digit wins had two representatives at the All-Star Game.
2. Jacques Martin gets some recognition - 2000-01
This was near the end of the North America vs. the World era of All-Star Games, and after several years of the Sens transitioning from laughingstock to competitor under Martin, he got some NHL-wide love by being named coach of the World all-star team. He coached Sens players Radek Bonk and Marian Hossa. His team ended up losing 14-12, but it ushered in an era in which the Sens were taken seriously by the rest of the league.
3. Patrick Lalime stands on his head - 2002-03
Jacques Martin was back again as coach, this time for the Eastern Conference, and he had three players on his team: Hossa, Zdeno Chara, and Patrick Lalime. Lalime was the one who stole the show. It's hard to remember a low-scoring ASG, but in this game Lalime allowed one goal in the third period, as did his counterpart Marty Turco, which sent the game to overtime. Neither goalie allowed anything in OT, meaning the ASG went to a shootout for the first and only time, where the Western Conference would end up winning. It's funny to look back and remember a time when Lalime and Turco were in the conversation for best goalies in the NHL.
This game was also notable for future Sens hero Dany Heatley scoring four goals, tying the record for goals by one player in an ASG shared by Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Vincent Damphousse, and Mike Gartner.
4. The Pizza Line invited - 2007-08
The Sens were coming off their appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, and as such the entirety of arguably the league's best line was invited: Heatley, Jason Spezza, and of course, Daniel Alfredsson. It marked the first time an entire line of a team was named to the ASG since Charlie Simmer, Marcel Dionne, and Dave Taylor of the 1980-81 Kings were all named. Heatley would end up having to bow out due to injury, but looking back we can see this game as kind of the last hurrah of The Pizza Line. Ottawa would limp into the 2008 playoffs, miss the 2009 playoffs, and then Heatley wanted out.
Also of note is that John Paddock was coach of the Eastern Conference all-stars. Most look back on Paddock's tenure as an abysmal failure, but it's important to remember than halfway through 2007-08 the Sens were the East's best team. The next couple seasons showed us that Ottawa's window had effectively closed, we just hadn't come to grips with it and Paddock was the fall guy.
5. In Ottawa - 2011-12
You all knew this one was coming. First, after an internet campaign to vote in ex-Senators by Leafs fans, four of the six players selected were from the Sens: Alfredsson, Spezza, Erik Karlsson, and Milan Michalek. Alfredsson was chosen as a captain, which led to a huge love-in. Some people were shocked to see just how much Sens fans loved Alfie, cheering for him at every turn during the game. This was also when media from outside Ottawa discovered just how funny Karlsson can be. The "Spezza's pissed" moment in particular sticks out. And finally, this weekend was when Scott Hartnell endeared himself to Sens fans forever by saying "Suck it Phaneuf" as a goal celebration.
6. Karlsson is MVP in first-ever 3-vs-3 ASG - 2015-16