The Ottawa Senators’ offseason is moving along at a snail’s pace, with defenseman Michael Del Zotto being the biggest name acquired thus far. While we’re waiting to see just who that elusive top-six center turns out to be, we’ve got plenty of fantastic stories surrounding Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to keep us busy.
The Canadian women’s soccer team avenged their 2012 loss to the Americans, and are going for gold tomorrow. Andre De Grasse struck gold in the men’s 200m mere hours ago, the first by a Canadian in that event in almost a hundred years. And Penny Oleksiak became the most decorated Canadian Olympic athlete in history, at just twenty-one years old.
A few weeks before the start of the games, we put together an Ottawa Senators mailbag and responded to many of your thoughtful questions, but one in particular which stood out to me belonged to OttawaWendy, and in the spirit of international competition, I saw the opportunity to turn it into an entire piece.
The Olympics, except it’s only with Ottawa Senators players. Which country would reign supreme? How many countries could even put together a big enough team? Today’s piece covers the most likely victor.
Twelve forwards, six defenseman, and two goaltenders, all from Canada, all who’ve worn an Ottawa Senators sweater. Who’s making the team?
I put this roster together with two equally important goals in mind. First, I wanted the team to be as competitive as possible, so we’ll need to fill the roster with a surplus of talent. Some of these players took the ice across several years, decades even, so I’ll consider how dominant each player was/is, relative to their era. Second, I wanted to make sure most, if not all players were well-tenured within the organization. This is also a celebration of the Senators, so the most iconic players should all make an appearance here.
If you’re looking for a dominant first line to lead your team to victory, look no further than the Pizza Line. Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, and Daniel Alfredsson were a force to be reckoned with when the three were together, especially in the 2006-07 season in which all three scored well above a point-per-game pace en route to the team’s only Cup Final appearance.
Of course, Alfie can’t be on the Canadian team since he’s from Detroit (at least I think?), but current Vegas Golden Knight Mark Stone is a great option in his spot. He brings everything Alfie does, except of course for the clutch playoff goals. Here’s a beauty from the regular season though!
Centering the second line will be Kyle Turris, who topped 55 points in a season three times with Ottawa while scoring three playoff overtime goals during his tenure as a top-six center and leader.
His go-to left-winger may not have logged as many games as several others, but in many cases, quality trumps quantity, and Clarke MacArthur’s got plenty of the latter. During the run to the Eastern Conference Final, he was a key piece, scoring one of two series-winning goals along the way, and this pass from 2014 ranks among the greatest plays out of any Senator.
The right-wing position is pretty tough to fill because Alfredsson, Marian Hossa, and Martin Havlat dominated the scene for years. I could throw Mike Hoffman on that line, but I’d prefer a natural right-winger and a player with less baggage. And players such as Bruce Gardiner and Shean Donovan aren’t really top-six options, so the most reliable pick for this spot is, believe it or not — Connor Brown.
He’s only played in 127 games for Ottawa, but he’s proven he can provide offensive and defensive support to a pair of skilled wingers, and you really can’t go wrong with a one-two punch of former Leafs, fueled by the cathartic experience of leaving that teardrop of a hockey team.
Next up is our throwback third line, centered by the poster boy of Ottawa’s original teardown back in 2011 — Mike Fisher. Only six players in franchise history have played more games than the 675 that Fisher did, and he was a mainstay on the team’s second line for much of that time. Looking back, I think it would’ve been interesting to see how things would’ve turned out had Ottawa kept him around for a few more years and moved Spezza at the 2011 trade deadline instead.
Fisher will be flanked by the two best wingers available, Peter Schaefer and Alexandre Daigle. The latter’s obviously known as the first-overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft who failed to live up to the hype, but his 172 points in 301 games still make him an ideal candidate for the third line. As for Schaefer, he was acquired in 2002 from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for defenseman Sami Salo, and went on to have a 50-point season with the Senators in 2005-06, and is probably best known for another candidate for the best play made by an Ottawa Senator:
Now that we’ve come to the fourth line, it’s finally time to give some love to Chris Neil. The longtime enforcer suited up for 1026 career games, all with Ottawa, and all without picking up a single suspension. Mad respect. And to round out the fourth line, you could make a case for Zack Smith, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly, and Shaun Van Allen. Ultimately, Smith’s played the most games out of the four, and Pageau’s scored a hat-trick in two different playoff games, so there you have it.
As far as Canadian defensemen go, the best in franchise history is up for debate, depending on your criteria. Thomas Chabot has the offensive skill, while Chris Phillips has the honor of being the longest-tenured Senator, also equipped with an instant-win condition every time he managed to score a goal. The opposing team could be leading by three, and they’ll just up and leave the rink as if it were overtime, after a single pint from the Big Rig.
As the second-highest scoring defenseman in franchise history behind Erik Karlsson, Wade Redden checks off both of the above boxes. It’d be absurd to leave any of the three off the team.
We’ll put Chabot and Redden together, and Chris Phillips on the second pair with Sportsnet’s Jason York, who took part in 380 games with Ottawa between 1996 and 2001, while scoring an impressive 124 points. I’m going to need the help of all of you 90s fans out there to confirm if he played regularly with Phillips, but I’d guess it’s pretty likely. Cody Ceci rounds out the group on the right side because he deserves to be deployed in an appropriate role on his hometown team after all this time.
As for his partner, you’ve got to make the toughest choice yet, between Marc Methot and Mark Borowiecki. Both are from Ottawa, both have played over 300 games with the Sens, and we’ve come to know both as first-class human beings. Borowiecki in particular has been an active participant in facilitating inclusion in hockey, which is nothing if not awesome. However, there are a few things that nudge Methot slightly ahead of BoroCop in my opinion. He’s the better defender, he’s played in more memorable games, and despite Boro’s heroism famously stopping a robbery in Vancouver, the PR nightmare on the eve of the Erik Karlsson trade is the self-inflicted knockout punch in this battle.
None of these true north netminders can hold a candle to Craig Anderson, but we’ve still got a nice group to choose from. Patrick Lalime is the second-winningest goalie in franchise history, and Ray Emery was the main man in the crease during that Cup Final run in 2007, so they’re the clear picks here. I was tempted to swap out Lalime in favor of the Hamburglar for his absurd body of work in 2015, but I ended up McChickening out. No, I’m not sorry.
So, here’s the team in its entirety:
MacArthur - Turris - Brown
Schaefer - Fisher - Daigle
Smith - Pageau - Neil
Chabot - Redden
Phillips - York
Methot - Ceci
There really aren’t many other countries you could do this exercise for, but nevertheless, I’ve got something planned for a continuation of today’s piece. Be sure to let us know what your ideal Team Canada would look like in the comments below!