The purpose of Wednesday Longform is often to do a deep-dive into a topic, considering long-term impacts of decisions, looking at societal impacts of hockey, or analyzing a specific player or playstyle. This is not one of those longforms. Instead, I was having fun looking at obscure stats from Ottawa Senators history, and I thought it might be fun to turn into an article. There is not plot, no underlying message, no takeaway conclusion. Rather, it’s just a reminder of some of the players who were better or worse than we remembered, and some we forgot about altogether. So, covering players from Vitaly Abramov to Ilya Zubov, here are some players who stood out statistically.
This journey started for me in looking at plus-minus. You might hear of a plus-minus as a stat that has been widely rejected by the analytics community. This is because it’s a highly variable stat that reflects a lot more on luck and team quality than a player’s quality. For example, Alex Ovechkin went from -35 in 2013-14 to +10 in 2014-15, mostly because his teammates started scoring on more than 2% of their shots with him on the ice. However, because it’s such a random stat, it can lead to interesting tidbits. I think I’d heard once that Wade Redden is the Sens’ career leader in +/- (+159), and it makes sense because he played a lot of minutes on some very good Sens teams, and left town before the team fell apart. On the flip side, I would not have guessed that Alexandre Daigle holds the worst +/- in team history (-137), but this also makes sense because he played five seasons with an abysmal Sens squad. Most other guys from those awful first few Sens seasons didn’t spend more than two or three seasons with the team. Looking at single seasons, the best ever were Daniel Alfredsson (+42) and Tom Preissing (+40) in 2006-07 — the top six +/- values in team history were all from 05-06 or 06-07, further proof that the Sens were robbed of a Cup-worthy season by the lockout — and the worst ever were Gord Dineen (-52) and Darren Rumble (-50) in 1993-94, defencemen on a terrible team. Alexei Yashin is the third-worst ever (-49, also in 93-94), despite shooting 0.95 points-per-game, which makes me wonder how much more terrible that team would’ve been without him.
We all know Daniel Alfredsson is the team leader in points with 1108, and most would probably guess Jason Spezza second (687) due to his longevity with the team. But after that, did you know Erik Karlsson (518) comes third, Yashin (491) is fourth, Redden (410) is fifth, and Radek Bonk (399) is sixth? You might guess that Dany Heatley holds the top two single seasons with 105 in 2006-07 and 103 in 2005-06 (tied with Alfie that year). You might not have guessed that Yashin’s 94 points in 1998-99 are better than any Spezza single season, as well as all but one of Alfie’s seasons. I knew Yashin was a very good player at one point, but I didn’t realize he was historically that great of a player for this team.
The other side of scoring is looking at players who just didn’t get a bounce with the Sens. I’m pretty sure we all know Bill Muckalt didn’t score a single goal in 70 games in 2001-02 to set a team record for most games played without a goal. Herb Raglan (1993-94) managed to play 29 games for the Sens without getting a single point, a team record.
Shooting percentage also leads to some very out-there determinations. There is a three-way tie for best shooting percentage in franchise history between Patrick Sieloff, Vitaly Abramov, and Rob Ray, who each scored one goal on exactly three shots. I definitely didn’t realize Ray only played 11 games with the Sens, it seems like he played nearly a full season here. Next on the list is Brian Gibbons, who put up 28.6% in his post-trade deadline exhibition with the Sens last season. Among players with at least 50 games on the team, Bob Kudelski has the best shooting percentage of 18.7%, followed by Matt Duchene at 17.1%. Duchene being so high is fascinating to me, because I seem to remember a time he just couldn’t score for the Sens. Goes to show you that he was probably even better than we remember him being. Among players to score at least one goal with the Sens, the dubious record of worst shooting percentage belongs to Ben Harpur who scored just one goal on 82 shots, for a shooting percentage of 1.2%. Though, as much maligned as Harpur is at times on this site, it’s important to note that guys like Christian Jaros (1.4%) and Mike Reilly (1.6%) aren’t much ahead. Among forwards, the worst record belongs to Colin Forbes (1999-2001) who scored two goals on 80 shots, for 2.5%. Among players to never take a shot for the Sens, Jyrki Jokipakka takes the cake having played 43 minutes across three games without registering a single shot on goal, which I guess gives him an infinite shooting percentage.
Patrick Sieloff is the only real outlier in the team’s top 10 in points per game, with his 1.00 tying him with Jason Spezza for second on the team, behind only Dany Heatley at 1.14. It then goes Yashin, Alfie, Duchene, Ales Hemsky, Mark Stone, Bob Kudelski, and Marian Hossa. At the bottom end, Jason Smith’s single goal in 60 games puts him at just 0.02.
You could guess most of the cumulative franchise leaders: Craig Anderson leads in games played, starts, wins, losses, shots, saves, with Patrick Lalime second in all those categories. Lalime manages to edge out Andy in shutouts, 30 to 28, and it’s likely the latter won’t get any more for the Sens. If you look at average categories, things get a little weird though. The franchise leader in save percentage is Simon Lajeunesse, who made nine saves on nine shots in relief in his only NHL appearance. After him though, it’s Dominik Hasek with .925, showing just how stacked that 2005-06 team was if he’d stayed healthy. Steve Weeks holds the worst save percentage in team history at .792 (30 goals on 144 shots) in just seven appearances (and only one full 60-minute game played). The GAA leaders are the same (Lajeunesse at 0.00, then Hasek at 2.09), but a new contender emerges for the worst in team history, Nathan Lawson at 10.11 after allowing two goals in just 12 minutes of NHL action.
Anderson holds the team record in goalie points, with 11, but Mike Morrison holds the team lead among goalies in points per game with one assist in four games, and he’s followed by Damian Rhodes who had seven points in 181 career games with the Sens. Rhodes is also the only goalie to score a goal for the Sens, making him easily the best offensive goalie in team history.
One last thing I noticed perusing the page is that the Sens only have 38 goalies credited with playing for the team in its 27-year history, which felt low to me. I compared to some other franchises with similar history, and the Lightning have used 47 goalies over the same timeframe as the Sens. However, the Ducks and Panthers, who started the following season, have only used 32 and 35 respectively. I feel like the Sens have a history of rotating through goalies, but it seems like the actual numbers don’t back this up.
The winningest coach in Sens history is Bryan Murray, with a career winning percentage of .643. Amazingly, John Paddock is second at .609, numbers which didn’t even get him one full season at the helm. Murray’s .529 record in the playoffs is bested only by Guy Boucher, who led the team to a .579 playoff winning percentage in the one season his team made the playoffs. I actually thought Roger Neilson might have the best winning percentage in team history, but turns out he coached one win and one loss, and I’d forgotten about the loss. Dave Allison, who coached the team for 25 games in 1995-96 after Rick Bowness was fired, only to be fired to make room for Jacques Martin, holds the worst winning percentage in team history at .100 (two wins plus a tie in 25 games). The Sens’ 13 coaches in their 27-year history is again not as high as I might’ve predicted, with the Lightning and Ducks lower at 9 and 10 respectively, but the Panthers at a shocking 16 coaches in just 26 years.
I hope you enjoyed this little look at some interesting things that stand out in team history. If you have another favourite obscure stat about the team, make sure to drop it in the comments!