For the uninitiated, EA Sports is the company that holds the licenses for, and publishes the majority of major sports video games. The NHL, Madden (NFL), and FIFA series’ are some of the most popular, and (occasionally) controversial video game franchises on the market. Regardless of what one may think of them, they likely aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
For this year’s entry, NHL ‘20 is including a group of “alumni rosters” that will be playable in the game. The responses to some of these squads have been...mixed.
I just saw the roster for the Sharks alumni team in NHL 20. Lower your expectations. Hard. Like... Roenick/Campbell hard. (I wish I was joking)— Offseason Steve (@no_treefiddy) September 7, 2019
Fleury, Neal, Staal, Kessel, Sheary, Bonino and Hagelin are all still active NHL players lol why would they been on an alumni roster ? It’s an alumni roster not an ex players roster.— Ricky Grewal (@RickyGrewal91) September 6, 2019
Nevertheless, one fanbase is united in the fact that their team’s alumni squad is simply God-awful.
Took the time to make this post for anyone who wants to see this... pic.twitter.com/FjFr6mydca— Daily Sens News (@dailysensnews) September 5, 2019
I mean, really, what other team would this happen to?
When I first saw this, I honestly thought it was an extremely well-done gag. Further research confirmed its veracity, and I mean...yikes. That is neither a good-looking squad, nor one that fits the history of the Ottawa Senators.
In fairness, it’s been reported that licensing issues prevented a more appropriate version of the team.
The Senators’ team that played in the Centennial alumni game in January of 2018 was on the right track; but there were still head-scratching inclusions and exclusions. So, I got to thinking: what would a TRUE Senators alumni team look like? Who are the best players in franchise history, that could give NHL ‘20’s other throwback teams a run for their money?
Or, more befitting of EA, their microtransactions.
For the purposes of this little thought-experiment, we’re going to establish a few ground rules:
- All players must have played at least two seasons with the Ottawa Senators. Dominik Hasek is too easy.
- Before you yell at me for not including players like Craig Anderson, it’s an ALUMNI roster. As in, doesn’t play for them anymore.
- We’re going to take 15 forwards, 8 defencemen, and three goaltenders.
- We’ll try to include players from across all the different periods of the team since 1992.
With that being said, let’s go position by position, and break down the Ottawa Senators’ Alumni Roster, 2.0!
- Dany Heatley (2005-2009): Received from the Atlanta Thrashers in return for Marian Hossa, Dany Heatley remains the most prolific goal scorer in Senators’ history. He netted 362 points in 317 games with the organization, including back-to-back 50 goal seasons, and was a key part of the team’s run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. He’s not so fondly remembered anymore, but Heatley’s heyday was incredibly fun to watch. Those one-timers will always be legendary.
- Shawn McEachern (1996-2002): Shawn McEachern played for five different teams over his 13-year career, but Ottawa was his longest stint, at six seasons. A key part of the Sens’ first few playoff appearances, he had a career year in 2000-2001, posting 72 points in 82 games. McEachern was instrumental in establishing the early-2000’s Senators as a perennial contender.
- Mike Hoffman (2009-2018): What is it about Sens wingers and ending their tenures on bad terms? Throughout nine years in the organization, Hoffman established himself as one of the better snipers in Ottawa’s history. Although he wasn’t an NHL mainstay until 2014-2015, he contributed long-desired scoring almost immediately. Hoffman also tallied 11 points in Ottawa’s 19-game run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, before being traded the following off-season for reasons we don’t need to get into again.
- Milan Michalek (2009-2016): The man who ended up being the centrepiece of the Dany Heatley trade, Michalek was an underrated scoring winger for the Senators. Over 412 games with the club, he had 224 points, and even had 60 points in a 77 game 2011-2012 season. Injuries hampered his production a bit, especially in the later years of his tenure, but Michalek was always fun to watch.
- Magnus Arvedson (1997-2003): Nick Foligno-hive is going to have my ass for this one, and it was honestly a tossup, but Arvedson gets the nod for having more points, and his contributions to the 2003 Conference Final run. On top of 210 points in 393 regular season games with the club, he was a key depth player on the 2003 team, even scoring in that heartbreaking Game 7 defeat.
Honorable Mention: Randy Cunneyworth, Nick Foligno, Peter Schaefer.
- Jason Spezza (2001-2014): This one should also come as no surprise. Spezza sits second on the Senators’ all-time scoring list, with 687 points in 686 games. Drafted second overall in 2001, he was an elite playmaker in his prime, and is arguably Ottawa’s last true number-one centre. The playmaking anchor of then ‘Pizza’ line with Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson, Spezza also received the brunt of fan crticism; mostly unfairly in retrospect. Nevertheless, he is certainly a Top-3 player in franchise history.
- Alexei Yashin (1992-2001): Another second overall pick, Alexei Yashin was simply sensational in the prime of his career. He sits fourth in franchise history, with 491 points in 504 games, and was the franchise’s first true superstar. Contract demands and inconsistent playoff performances ended his days with the Sens in 2001, but given his warm reception at the Centennial Alumni Game, it appears that all is forgiven.
- Mike Fisher (1998-2011): Known more, nowadays, for his involvement in the country music community, Mike Fisher was a fan favourite during his time with the Senators. A second-round pick in 1998, Fisher quickly became beloved for his rugged, aggressive style of play, and commitment to the community. At his peak, he was one of the best two-way forwards in the game, and was instrumental to the 2007 run. For those who were fans in that era, “Fish” will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
- Kyle Turris (2011-2017): Acquired as a reclamation project from the then-Phoenix Coyotes in December of 2011, Turris became the player he was projected to be almost immediately upon his arrival in the nation’s capital. In his six years in Ottawa, Kyle Turris slotted comfortably into the top six. Effective in a two-way role, he showed responsibility in his own end, and offensive prowess as well. One of the more clutch players on our list, Turris will always be remembered for his playoff overtime goals against the New York Rangers in 2012 and 2016.
- Radek Bonk (1993-2004): The owner of the greatest name in Ottawa Senators history, Radek Bonk tallied 399 points in 689 games with the club; good enough for sixth on the all-time list. Though the media was often hard on him for the lack of edge in his game, Bonk was a skilled forward. He was a key component of the Ottawa offensive attack during his tenure, scoring as many as 70 points in a season during the dead puck era. Bonk was another contributor to the team’s early playoff success, and is fondly remembered for his skill, name, and mullet.
Honorable Mention: Shaun Van Allen, Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly.
- Daniel Alfredsson (1994-2013): The most striking omission from the EA Sports roster, Alfredsson needs no introduction. The all-time leader in points, and second in games played (by one game), Alfie served as captain of the Sens from 1999-2013. In a career that never should have left Ottawa, Alfredsson was the Senators’ unquestioned general. His performance in the 2007 playoffs was Conn Smythe-worthy, even in a losing effort, and he was the playoff hero many a time. Those were the days, man.
- Mark Stone (2010-2019): Perhaps the most universally beloved player in franchise history ( even Alfie had his critics, if we’re being honest), Mark Stone evolved from a sixth-round pick, to an elite two-way forward during his time in Ottawa. As his skating ability progressed, so did his ability to maintain puck possession, and make plays in the offensive zone. Stone was a crucial part of both the Hamburglar run in 2015, and the 2017 run to the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s safe to say neither would have happened without him, and the Sens might have even gone farther had he not been hurt during the ECF run. The wound is still incredibly fresh. #MelnykOut.
- Marian Hossa (1997-2005): Again, no surprise here. With 390 points in 467 games with Ottawa, Hossa was one of the Senators’ first homegrown superstars. His offensive ability was impeccable, and he was a routinely consistent playoff performer as well. Though he and the organization may not have ended on the best of terms, Hossa is still one of the more popular alumni players, and a surefire Hall of Famer. For fans of the early-2000s team, he will always be an Ottawa Senator.
- Martin Havlat (1999-2006): One of the most talented forwards to ever don the uniform, Havlat was drafted 26th overall by Ottawa in 1999. He became a key contributor almost immediately, tallying 42 points in 73 games in his rookie 2000-2001 season. The only time he scored less points as a Senator was in an injury-limited 2005-2006 season. Havlat shone in the playoffs as well, most notably scoring 11 points in 18 postseason games in 2003. An unwillingness to commit to Ottawa long-term saw him traded to Chicago in 2006.
- Chris Neil (1998-2017): Though he may not be among the more talented players on our list, Chris Neil is unquestionably one of the greatest Ottawa Senators of all time. A perennial visitor to the penalty box, Neil struck fear into the hearts of opposing players. His big hits, and his fists were an ever-present threat for opponents that stepped out of line. Even in the twilight of his career in 2017, when his playing time became scarce, Neil remained a good soldier. He entered the lineup in Game 5 against the Rangers, to deliver an incredibly satisfying beating to Tanner Glass, who had been taking liberties on the Senators all series. Neiler is definitely an all-time Senator.
Honorable Mention: Andreas Dackell, Bobby Ryan, Alexandre Daigle.
- Erik Karlsson (2008-2018): Yup, it still hurts. Erik Karlsson is beyond a shadow of a doubt, the greatest defenceman in Ottawa Senators history. He’s third in all-time scoring, and first among defenceman. For perspective: Karlsson scored 108 more points as a Senator than Wade Redden, in 211 less games. The two-time Norris winner is, unfortunately, now set to be the cornerstone of the San Jose Sharks franchise for the next seven years, but in our hearts, he will always be an Ottawa Senator. #MelnykOut.
- Chris Phillips (1996-2015): Edging Daniel Alfredsson by one game, Chris Phillips is the longest-serving Ottawa Senator in franchise history. Selected first overall in 1996, Big Rig was a defensive stalwart from the get-go, serving as a great defensive compliment to more offensive-minded players like Redden and Karlsson. Not just a responsible defender, Phillips was known to light up opposing players that were caught unawares. One of the few Senator legends to play his entire career with the team, Phillips’ place on this list is all but set in stone.
- Wade Redden (1996-2008): Look, we can argue who is better between Redden and Zdeno Chara, but there is no question that Redden was a better Ottawa Senator. Chara will always be remembered as a Boston Bruin, but Redden spent the vast majority of his career in Ottawa. In his prime, the Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native was one of the league’s premier offensive defencemen. Redden scored 10 points in the Senators’ 20 game run to the 2007 Final, and even vetoed trades and proposed pay cuts to stay in Ottawa. He loved being a Senator, and we loved him too.
- Zdeno Chara (2001-2006): Again, one can decide for themselves whether or not Ottawa should have let Chara walk, but his four seasons in Ottawa established him as a top-tier defenceman in the NHL. Through 299 games, Chara had 146 points, and ate big minutes on what was an exceptionally-skilled Ottawa Senators blueline. Even aside from the on-ice performance, Big Z is a class act, and was one of the first NHL players to endorse the You Can Play initiative. His stint in Ottawa was just before my time as a fan began, but what I wouldn’t give to see him in red again.
- Jason York (1996-2001): Jason York joined his hometown team in 1996, and after finally establishing himself as an NHLer in Anaheim, he continued his upward trend. York was a key player on a Senators team that was getting its first taste of success, and he was a major contributor. Playing a solid two-way game, York saw the best production of his career in his time in the capital. He had a career-high 35 points in 1999 and helped guide the team to their first playoff appearances, and victories.
- Sergei Gonchar (2010-2013): A sure-to-be Hall of Famer, Sergei Gonchar is one of the most recognizable names in hockey history. Though he had begun to decline when he signed with the Senators, Gonchar’s vaunted offensive ability was instrumental in the team’s future. His contributions on the ice were one thing, but as Erik Karlsson’s defence partner, he played a vital role in steadying the future captain’s game. His contributions may have been somewhat understated, but Gonchar is definitely an all-time Senator.
- Anton Volchenkov (2000-2010): We all remember A-Train. Ottawa’s favourite shot-blocker was an anchor on the blueline for the best Senators teams that we’ve seen to date, even leading the 2007 playoffs in blocked shots. Aside from that, the big Russian threw some of the most devastating hits in Senators history. It was impossible not to love that guy, they don’t make them like that anymore.
- Steve Duchesne (1995-1997): Duchesne’s stint in Ottawa was short, but sweet. He brought a much-needed offensive uptick to the Ottawa blueline, and helped lead the team to their first playoff appearance. Perhaps “helped” is an understatement, as he scored the deciding goal against the Buffalo Sabres that clinched the team’s first postseason berth. Though he wasn’t a Senator for very long, Duchesne helped give an upstart team the boost they needed to become a contender.
Honorable Mention: Andrej Meszaros, Filip Kuba, Igor Kravchuk.
- Patrick Lalime (1999-2004): A lot of people look back negatively on Patrick Lalime for his playoff performances against the Leafs, but how fickle they are. They forget that Lalime had three consecutive playoff shutouts against the Flyers in 2002, and that he had a fantastic GAA of 1.82 during the 2003 run. Did he cost them a series or two against the Leafs? Certainly, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is the second-winningest goalie in franchise history, and is the owner of some legendary performances. History ought to be kinder to Patrick Lalime.
- Damian Rhodes/Ron Tugnutt (1995-2000, collectively): Yeah, it’s a copout. Sue me, you can’t have one without the other. In the early days of the Ottawa Senators, when they struggled to find goaltending consistency, Ron Tugnutt and Damian Rhodes provided stability. The two shared the net fairly evenly, backstopping the Senators to their first postseason appearance, and series win. The two went together like peanut butter and jam. Ketchup and mustard. The Leafs and first-round losses to the Bruins. I’m tired, this is taking way longer than I thought.
- Ray Emery (2001-2008): In another short but sweet situation, you can’t have a list of Senators goaltenders without the Razor. The only netminder to ever lead Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Final, Emery was a fiery presence between the pipes, as quick to bash you over the head with a stick (seriously, look it up) as he was to stop your slapshot. A rift between him and the organization unfortunately ended this marriage, but I think we all look back on the Emery years fondly. Ray Emery, of course, tragically passed away last summer, but his legacy will live forever in Ottawa.
Mother Mary. I need some Visene.
So, there you have it. My picks for the Ottawa Senators alumni roster that I’m sure you absolutely hate. After spending hours researching when I was in class/at work, writing over 2500 words, and reliving some seriously painful memories, I can’t wait to hear what an idiot I am.
Now it’s your turn. Give us your alumni roster in the comments below! I can’t wait to read them all after I wake up in three days.