We did a thought experiment a few weeks back to figure out what Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team would look like if you could only pick from players who’ve worn an Ottawa Senators sweater. Might as well do the same thing for the United States, right? We’ll go with the same rules as before (12 forwards, 6 defensemen, 2 goalies, based both on talent and tenure) and find out whether or not the American Sens can pose a threat to the Canadian squad.
So, which twelve forwards are making the cut? There’s no better place to start than with two big names from two different eras — Shawn MacEachern and Bobby Ryan.
Playing for a dominant regular-season squad between 1996 and 2002 while serving as an alternate captain for most of his tenure, MacEachern was a bona fide top-six scorer for Ottawa, with 304 points in 454 games, including a career-high 72-point campaign in 2000-01.
As for Bobby Ryan, he ended up playing one more game than MacEachern, and did his best to live up to the hype upon arriving in the nation’s capital on a day in which nothing else happened at all. Despite his limited production relative to his contract, he was a major offensive contributor between 2013 and 2016, and was one of the many heroes during Ottawa’s playoff run in 2017, with 15 points in 19 games. Everyone knows Jean-Gabriel Pageau is the poster boy for clutch Senators moments, but Ryan also stepped up in a big way with overtime-winning goals against Boston and Pittsburgh.
The next item on the agenda is to inject some youth into this lineup, and who better than the Tkachuk Norris combo?
Both of these young forwards have already established themselves as top-six caliber in Ottawa, and despite Norris playing just 59 games thus far, he’s one of just three American centres that could realistically play on the third line or above. One of the other two is Colin White, who’s played in 200 games exactly as of today. Despite a lack of production, he’s still a useful third-line forward who’ll contribute positively to a team’s success at both ends of the ice. Bonus points if the NHL decides to make headbutting the puck into the net legal.
To fill out the rest of the forward corps, we’ll add secondary scoring in the form of Bryan Smolinski, Nick Foligno, Ryan Dzingel, Patrick Eaves, and Ryan Shannon, as well as Erik Condra, who’ll bring every important skill to the table, except of course for shooting the puck.
Lastly, I’d like to introduce our final forward with a short anecdote. I know we all die a little on the inside in response to a single utterance of the phrase “drop pass”, but it does hold a special place in my heart. For you see, it was on April 18th, 2012 when I went to my first ever Ottawa Senators playoff game. Down 2-1 in the series, and trailing by two goals in Game 4 of Round 1 against the New York Rangers, the Senators mounted an impressive comeback to take the game to overtime. It was Kyle Turris whose heroics threw the crowd from their seats, tying the series at two games apiece with a perfect shot past the glove of Henrik Lundqvist, but not before receiving a simple yet beautiful drop pass from depth forward Jim O’Brien.
Things are fairly clear-cut on defense since there are exactly six American blueliners who’ve suited up for at least 100 games for the Sens. It’s not ideal that they’re all right-handed, but there are still some interesting names in the group. We can put together a top-pairing of Brian Pothier and Joe Corvo, both of whom had 35 and 37 point seasons, respectively, between 2005 and 2007. The longest-tenured of the six is Lance Pitlick, with 36 points in 228 games, followed by Chris Wideman with 43 in 175. These two will form the second pair, with Sean Hill and the draft pick who wasn’t Anze Kopitar rounding things out.
So far, the Canadians are tearing this team apart limb from limb, but you know the U.S. will have a fighting chance with Craig Anderson holding down the fort.
Undoubtedly the greatest goalie in franchise history, Anderson leads all Ottawa goaltenders with 435 games played and 202 wins, and his 28 shutouts are just two shy of Patrick Lalime.
I’m also fairly certain that Anderson is the only goalie in NHL history to single-handedly win a game for his team, posting a 1-0 shutout as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, against the San Jose Sharks, who lost in overtime thanks to an own goal by Dan Boyle.
You can always count on Anderson to give an underdog a fighting chance, as demonstrated by his fantastic performances during that 2017 playoff run, none more spectacular than his effort in Game 6 in the third round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, an event which I’m lucky enough to say I witnessed in person.
And should this American Senators team require a secret offensive weapon, they’ve got Damian Rhodes waiting in the wings.
To wrap things up, let’s take a look at the lineup in full:
Tkachuk - Norris - Dzingel
Foligno - White - Eaves
Shannon - O'Brien - Condra
Corvo - Pothier
Pitlick - Wideman
Lee - Hill
While that defense could be seen as a weak link, this group is pretty strong on both wings and extremely competent in net. I’m certain they’d give the Canadians a fight, but as predicted, they end up outclassed in nearly every area. You never know, though — hockey’s a weird sport.
Be sure to let us know who you’d put in an all-American Ottawa Senators lineup! I’d like to highlight the best Senators for many more countries, though we may have to alter the formula a bit. Perhaps trimming things down to three forwards, two defensemen, and one goalie could work. Stay tuned!