The centurion is dead! Long live the centurion!
Although we have yet to receive official confirmation from the team, all signs point to the return of the 2D Centurion when the Senators next take the ice. From 1992 to 2007 the Senators donned the 2D Centurion (along with the ill-fated Senagoth from 1997-2007) before switching to the 3D Centurion at the beginning of the 2007-08 season. In retrospect, the timing couldn’t have been more poetic. The Sens never maintained the same consistent success after the Cup run of ‘07 and fans have enjoyed(?) a roller-coaster of promise and disappointment throughout the last thirteen seasons. We can only hope that this latest brand pivot puts an end to the mediocrity and delivers unto us years of unparalleled success.
All told, the 3D Centurion (along with the infamous SNES and the Heritage O) saw eight coaching changes, six playoff appearances, three captains, two jersey retirements, and one all-star game in Ottawa. Through it all, here are the five things I will always think about when I look back on the 3D era in Ottawa from 2007-2020:
The Best to Rock the Crest
Erik Karlsson. End of discussion. While Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza did hang around for a lot of the 3D era, their legacies belong to the glory years of the late-nineties to mid-aughts. Karlsson was the quintessential Senator of the post-2007 era, and while aesthetically he looked better in the Heritage O, I will always remember Erik in red:
Besides watching the best defender in franchise history, Sens fans also watched Craig Anderson break just about every franchise record for goaltending in the 3D Centurion. 24840 minutes, 12447 saves, and 202 wins later, Andy put the team on his back more times than we can count and established a legacy as one of the all-time greats in Senators mythology. While Mark Stone never reached the same pinnacles as Alfredsson or Marian Hossa, he still ranks among Ottawa’s all-time top ten players and is arguably the third- or fourth-best winger in franchise history. I also want to give an honourable mention to Zack Smith here. If my math serves me correctly, Smith played the most games at forward for the Senators between 2007 and 2020.
No, not those kinds of miracles, Shaggy. After 2007, as the Senators’ depth began to wane and star players continued to age, every win felt more improbable than the last. And when your team lacks a steady development pipeline, and you realize you can’t solve all of your problems with trades, all you can do is hope for a miracle. In 2012-13, they were the Pesky Sens who vanquished their longtime division rival in the playoffs. Then in 2014-15 they went on the seemingly-impossible Hamburglar run to qualify for the post-season after bottoming out in February. Most recently, The System Senators won eleven playoff games and stood at the precipice of glory in 2017. On paper, and in reality, none of those teams really belonged in the playoff picture. Yet time and again one or two players, whether superstars or roleplayers, found a way to will the Sens into the conversation and inspire hope in Ottawa.
For better or for worse, and due in no small part to the influence of area men Bryan Murray and Pierre Dorion, the 3D era was also the era of the hometown Senators. No local hero’s star shined quite as brightly as Jean-Garbiel Pageau’s. From fourth-round pick via the Hull Olympiques to playoff juggernaut, Pageau galvanized Sens fans on both sides of the river with his combination of blue-collar work ethic and clutch goal-scoring. Gritty local kids like Mark Borowiecki, Matt Carkner, and Scott Sabourin got shots with the Sens courtesy of Murray and Dorion and all three had their signature moments in Sens lore. Bryan Murray also brought in Marc Methot from Columbus who became a fixture alongside Karlsson for years. Dorion traded with the Rangers for Derrick Brassard (controversy noted) who teamed up with Stone for one of the most dominant combinations in team history (+7.12 5V5 xGF%-rel). And while he never lived up to the (unrealistic) hype, there was a time when Cody Ceci looked like a big part of the team’s future:
As if seeing Dominik Hasek in a Senators jersey in 2005 wasn’t bizarre enough, from 2007 to 2020, we more or less lost count of how many former adversaries donned the 3D Centurion. Former Eastern Conference rivals like Alex Kovalev, Guillaume Latendresse, and Scott Gomez signed on in free agency for brief, unspectacular tenures in Ottawa while Sergei Gonchar and Clarke MacArthur represent two of the best free agent signings in franchise history. MacArthur came to Ottawa along with Bobby Ryan on July 5th, 2013 in one of the most dramatic sequences of events in modern Senators history. While both players will forever be inextricably linked the the heartbreaking departure of Alfredsson, the two lined up along previously acquired Kyle Turris to form an unlikely triumvirate for an Ottawa team that has historically built around drafted players. Along with Turris, the Senators also imported prime Milan Michalek, Ales Hemsky, and Matt Duchene from Western Conference teams during the 3D era, and brought over the likes of Alex Burrows, Mikkel Boedker, and Marian Gaborik from the pacific coast well past their primes. Of course, none of those bizarro world moments shocked us quite like seeing former Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf in a Senators jersey after he came over in a trade on February 9th, 2016. And while that trade, like so many others, has remained under fanbase scrutiny indefinitely, in its own way, it also came full-circle.
Despite witnessing the ascents of players like Karlsson, Stone, and Pageau along the way, ultimately the 3D era felt like a long goodbye. Only in the last twelve months have we seen the final dismantling of all that John Muckler and Bryan Murray built in their time so that now only the moniker, the arena, and the memories remain. First we bid good night to Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly (twice!), and Alfredsson. Then from Jason Spezza, Chris Phillips, and Chris Neil we parted ways. Some departed to no fanfare at all. Other received the sendoff they so rightfully deserved:
Fans in Ottawa have experienced a long, painful descent from the highs of 2007 when the Senators last rocked the 2D Centurion. We saw the best and the worst that the draft, the trade market, and free agency have to offer. And if nothing else goes differently from the last rebranding to this one, we’ll at least get the clean break and fresh start from scratch that the organization never fully committed to thirteen years ago. With any luck, the fire sales are behind us, the farewells are behind us, and maybe by some miracle the routine disappointments are behind us.
So there you have it: thirteen years, five thoughts, one logo. What will you remember most when you think of the 3D Centurion? Let us know in the comments!