I can say with all honesty that 2016 was one of the strangest years I have ever experienced. Not simply in terms of the Ottawa Senators, but in terms of politics, the media, and just the culture of the world. We say this a lot, but this year was extremely eventful, and I think we can say that with complete honesty this time.
I wouldn’t say the Senators were quite as eventful, but like every year, they were interesting nonetheless. There were some real lows with this team in 2016, that’s for sure. But at the same time, Ottawa is heading into 2017 in a high note, so it has not all been bad. Let’s re-live the good and the bad from 2016:
1st: On New Year’s Day, the Senators weren’t actually far out of a playoff spot. The Senators had a good start to the year, so it took them a while to truly be out of it. On this day they sat one point out of a wildcard spot with a 18-14-6 record. Not great, but they still had some hope.
10th: The Senators get trounced 7-1 by the Capitals. This came the week after two big overtime wins against the Blues and Bruins, and this was a real test to see if they were good enough to be a playoff team. This was the second half of a back to back against a tough team, but they still failed miserably, and fell out of a tie for a wildcard spot.
16th: In a truly historic matchup, Mark Borowiecki scored a goal, and outscored Drew “due for a Norris” Doughty in the game. It was an empty-net goal, but they all count the same right? His quote after the game was entertaining:
26th: Their last game of the month was a loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, which put their record in January at 5-7-0. They were already on the bubble coming into the new year, and by the All-Star break they had slid all the way to 12th in the conference.
They sat just three points out of a playoff spot, but there were now three teams ahead of them that were also battling for a wildcard position. January was not too kind for the Senators.
6th: Before Ottawa trampled over the Leafs 6-1, this was their low point on the season to date. If they had lost, Toronto would have been three points back of Ottawa with two games in hand. I mean, I wouldn’t have been against a loss that put the team closer to the bottom and a better draft pick...
9th: Ottawa acquires Dion Phaneuf, Casey Bailey, Cody Donaghey, Matt Frattin, and Ryan Rupert from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Jared Cowen, Tobias Lindberg and a 2017 2nd round pick.
I remember waking up to this news and just being utterly confused. Since that trade, I think it has began to look worse, just because Dion Phaneuf has only been okay, plus his contract is way too long and expensive for a small-market team like Ottawa.
They wanted to upgrade the defense, and I guess he is better than Jared Cowen, but I don’t love that they have Phaneuf on the books for the next five seasons.
23rd: With their fourth straight win, another miracle run begins to creep into peoples minds. Is it possible to it again? After beating the Oilers, Ottawa sat four points out of 8th, although Pittsburgh had three games in hand.
27th: This game was unforgettable. The Senators beat the Flames 6-4, and purely from an entertainment standpoint it was great to watch. But this game sticks out for a different reason. It’s because Mika Zibanejad did this:
2:38 is the quickest a Senator has ever recorded a hat-trick, and he made the team go from down 4-2 to up 5-4. Let’s just say that he made me scrap my game recap story very quickly.
27th: Chris Neil re-signs on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, and what is probably going to be his final contract. Some people love it, some people hate it. Either way, it looks like Neil will finish his career as a Senator.
29th: Just as the trade deadline is passing by, in a last minute deal Ottawa traded Shane Prince and a 2016 7th round pick to the New York Islanders for a 2016 3rd round pick. I still don’t like this trade. The fact that a 7th had to be included as well irks me, because the team has lost enough draft picks recently. Prince could certainly be used this season on a team that lacks depth, and I fail to see why they gave up on him so quickly.
It wasn’t the end of the world, but I am still perplexed by it to this day.
12th: With their playoff hopes out the window, Ottawa didn’t have much to play for. However, it was still satisfying sweeping the Maple Leafs in the season series 4-0 after a 4-0 shutout win.
19th: A week after playing the Leafs, Ottawa had another satisfying win against their other rivals. The Montreal Canadiens were just as inept as the Senators by this point in the season, and beating them 5-0 on the strength of three short-handed goals was awesome to see as a fan.
Not only that, this game provided us with the best content the Senators twitter account has ever given us (and that’s saying something):
@Senators euh you find it funny to post this? For real?— Gabrielle 2️⃣7️⃣ (@honeychenyuk) March 20, 2016
@gabychuckystarr yeah it's hilarious— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 20, 2016
In a season that was going nowhere, that gave me something to smile at.
9th: The Senators make a mockery of the Bruins on the final day of the season, as they killed their playoff hopes with a 6-1 win. Erik Karlsson notched an assist to officially reach a point per game on the season, which should have cemented his third Norris.
Mike Hoffman also gets his 30th assist, but fails to record his 30th goal. Zack Smith gets two goals though, and reaches the 25-goal plateau. It was fantastic getting to see the Bruins sad at the end of this game
10th: Bryan Murray steps down as GM, and Pierre Dorion unsurprisingly takes his place. For months we had heard that Dorion was the logical successor, and I think most were happy that Murray took his hands off the team. It’s definitely tough seeing a hockey lifer who is terminally ill have to give up his team, but he did the selfless move.
We cannot properly evaluate Dorion’s tenure just yet, but in about a year or year and a half we’ll know how he differs from Murray.
12th: Two days into his tenure, Dorion fires Dave Cameron. I expected it to happen, but at the same time, I wasn’t 100% confident. It was nice to see Dorion get right to business, because Cameron was clearly in over his head as a head coach.
8th: Ottawa hires their 11th head coach in franchise history, Guy Boucher. Most people (myself included) wanted Bruce Boudreau to come to town, but Boucher has shown that he was as good of a choice as Boudreau, if not better.
If anything, he’s been a massive upgrade on Dave Cameron. Plus, every so often he’ll give us something to watch on TSN.
The Senators also named Marc Crawford associate coach the next day, but the rest of the month was uneventful as the playoffs were still ongoing.
25th/26th: Ottawa selects Logan Brown, Jonathan Dahlen, Maxime Lajoie, Todd Burgess, and Markus Nurmi in the NHL draft. The Senators traded up one spot in order to take Brown, and time will tell if that will work out. I still think they were quite unfortunate that none of the players like Clayton Keller, Tyson Jost, or Mikhail Sergachev fell to them, but Brown is still a solid prospect.
Plus, Dahlen and Lajoie look like they could be real solid players as well. It helps when Dahlen provides highlights like this:
Although they only had five picks, they made the most of it.
27th: Ottawa finally moves Alex Chiasson to Calgary for Patrick Sieloff. The return wasn’t significant, as he’s mainly a body that can play in the AHL because Binghamton badly needs players. Chiasson certainly did not live up to the expectations in Ottawa, and he wasn’t even particularly good as a third liner.
It’s unfortunate that he’ll always be tied to Jason Spezza, but that’s life. Even as a depth player, he was not good enough in Ottawa.
1st: Ottawa stays quiet in free agency. They stick to some AHL signings like Mike Blunden and Chad Nehring, while NHL depth forward and defensemen fly off the board. Unsurprisingly, Sens Twitter is not happy.
1st: The Patrick Wiercioch Era in Ottawa ends, and many were over the moon, while others were saddened. I was sad to see him go, but I could see it coming since the beginning of the year. We’ll always have this, Patty:
7th: The Senators bring back Chris Kelly on a one-year deal worth $900,000. The Senators are certainly a loyal organization, but sometimes to a fault. Kelly has not exactly been what the team had hoped for so far.
28th: In a surprising move, Ottawa moves Mika Zibanejad and a 2nd round pick to the New York Rangers for Derick Brassard. I doubt anybody saw this trade coming, and it was puzzling at the time (and still is). I think ultimately the motive was to save money once Zibanejad’s contract is up, but it doesn’t look good that he was already outperforming Brassard while he was healthy. For me, Zibanejad’s legacy will always be his WJC OT winner in the finals, just because of this commentary:
23rd: Cody Ceci re-signs on a two-year deal with an AAV of $2.8 million. Heading into negotiations, I was scared that Ottawa was going to offer a massive deal to Ceci because I know how much they love him. However, the end result was a perfect deal because it gives Ceci two seasons to prove what he can do.
So far...he has not been very good. He’s failed yet again to take a step forward, and he’s being overplayed simply because he’s the only guy besides Erik Karlsson who has the stamina to do it. But at least he isn’t on a long-term deal with a big cap hit.
The rest of the month was uneventful, as most August’s are.
25th: Recently acquired Patrick Sieloff re-concusses Clarke MaCarthur, and thoughts about him retiring begin to arise. He still has yet to play a game this season, although it seems like he could suit up at some point in January.
His body is extremely fragile at this point, and any hit could potentially end his career, so it will be very nerve-racking watching him play. I hope his long-term health is not affected by his play this season.
26th: The organization announced that their AHL team will officially move to Belleville for the 2017-18 season. It’s bittersweet for the team to move, because Binghamton was one of the few AHL teams that had always stayed put. The city gets to keep a team, but it won’t be affiliated with Ottawa.
It will be sad having to say goodbye to some of the awesome Binghamton fans that have followed the organization for years, but at least they will have a new team, plus new fans will be made in Belleville.
12th: Auston Matthews scores four goals in his first game, and is crowned the Best Player on Earth. Oh right, but they still lost 5-4 in overtime. The best part about this was that TSN headlines had to say something along the lines of “Matthews scores four in first career game; Leafs lose.” If Ottawa had lost I would have been pretty annoyed, but instead it became hilarious just because Toronto still lost.
30th: In his first game after his wife’s cancer diagnosis, Craig Anderson stands on his head and propels the Senators to a 3-0 shutout victory over the Edmonton Oilers. After the game, he was understandably emotional.
Craig Anderson, man. So many emotions. pic.twitter.com/ptKhVc7GMC— Callum Fraser (@CallumFraser18) October 31, 2016
Anderson comes out in tears. Talbot stays out to clap. What a moment. pic.twitter.com/FcoKchEoh5— Callum Fraser (@CallumFraser18) October 31, 2016
We forget that athletes are human, and that they have a life outside of hockey. The outpouring of support for Craig and Nicholle has been amazing, and hopefully she has a speedy recovery.
2nd: The Senators acquire Mike Condon from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 5th round pick in 2017. I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t get this move. Overall, I still think Andrew Hammond has been the better goalie in his NHL career, but you can’t deny that Condon has been phenomenal as a Senator. Furthermore, with Craig Anderson needing lots of time off to be with his wife Nicholle, and Hammond getting hurt a few times, Condon has been a god-send (besides Tuesday night).
Plus, where would we be without Condon jokes?
Condoms: 99.5% effective— Matty Go Sens (@Gerv_Rebrand) December 4, 2016
Condon: 100% effective
11th: Ottawa defeats Los Angeles 2-1 thanks to a late tying goal from Zack Smith, and a game-winner from Mark Stone with 6.5 seconds left. Stone hadn’t quite been himself until that point, but after this goal he seemed to pick it up and is back to where his game normally is.
19th: Ottawa loses 4-1 to Florida despite outplaying them. This was the 14th game in a row that they had scored two or fewer goals in regulation, excluding empty-netters. Safe to say, frustration with the lack of goal scoring was setting in.
21st: The New York Rangers claim Matt Puempel off waivers. It was a very disappointing tenure for Puempel over the past five years, as he was never able to prove that he belonged at the NHL level. Since joining the Rangers, he has 3 points in 11 games, so he isn’t exactly killing it.
27th: After four straight wins, Ottawa’s record sat at 14-7-1, and I think this was the game (2-0 W vs. the Rangers) that got people to believe that the 16-17 Senators could be decent. If anything, they put themselves in a good position for the rest of the season by getting out to a good start.
5th: In a wildly entertaining game, the Senators lose 8-5 to the Penguins. Anderson has an off night, and the Penguins offense is simply too much for the Senators. This game is one of the few black marks for this team so far in the season.
10th: Chris Neil plays in his 1000th NHL game, all with Ottawa. It’s quite the accomplishment, especially for someone who is a grinder/tough-guy. Next home game he was honoured before the game, and even had a chance to be the hero in the shootout, but he came up short.
After a bit of a lull, they get back into a groove, and head into the Christmas break with a 20-11-3 record and the second seed in the Atlantic division.
29th: I can’t talk about the Alfie ceremony just yet, because I’m writing this before it happens. However, I know it’ll be fantastic. Alfredsson embodies the Ottawa Senators, and it’s fitting that he becomes the first modern Senator to get his number retired. I can’t wait to watch the ceremony.
So there it is. Sorry if this was too much to read, but in fairness, the title does say “mega year in review.”
I’ve already written so much in this review of 2016, but of course there is lots that I have missed. There were probably lots that happened within games throughout the year, but it’s hard to remember every single game.
I’d love to hear your favourite moments from 2016, or just some general comments on the year overall. What are some things that stick out this year for you?