On Monday, the Ottawa Senators will induct Wade Redden into their Ring of Honour, joining the late, great Bryan Murray. I don’t need to expand too much on Redden’s legacy in Ottawa to long-time Sens fans. Before Erik Karlsson came to town, Redden belonged to a class of his own in terms of two-way defenders to have played for the Sens. The late stages of his career may have left a bitter taste in the mouths of some but we should really focus on the things Redden achieved in his prime and just how much he contributed to the best years that this franchise has known to date.
Now based on that first paragraph and the photo above, you can already conclude pretty safely that I have all of Redden, Karlsson, and Chris Phillips in my all-time* Senators top-four on defence (not actually all-time, just modern franchise history). The fourth spot gets kinda tricky though and I think you can make arguments for a few defenders past and present. I think a lot of fans might even pass on Philipps for a defender who contributed more offensively or pass on Redden/Karlsson for someone who didn’t leave under somewhat unpleasant circumstances. You choose the criteria. I’m not your real dad!
Like any weekly question, I don’t believe in a singular correct answer here. Every fan will have their own interpretation and just to get those gears turning, I present some of my thought processes for the sake of this exercise.
Of course I had to start off with the most galaxy-brained option. No, I don’t have Ceci in my top-four and not many people will, but he ranks fourth in games played by a defender in modern franchise history. WHAT. Talk about six wild years of SNES hockey.
More likely, if you want to include a local choice in your top-four, Mark Borowiecki, Marc Methot, and Jason York each provided a better balance of meaningful time spent with the Sens and some positive contributions on (and off (especially in the case of Borowiecki)) the ice.
Okay, a lot more serious here, Hotsam Batcho ranks fourth among Sens franchise defenders in points at the ripe age of 25 despite ranking eighth in games played. I say in all sincerity that Chabot has time to become arguably the best two-way defender in franchise history (excluding our Swedish prince). And keep in mind that Chabot has played on some atrocious teams. I can only hope that Jake Sanderson and Erik Brännström also figure into this conversation.
I find Chara an interesting candidate because in terms if total career achievements (not unlike Marian Hossa and Dominik Hasek) he ranks among the best players to have ever played in Ottawa but he played most of his career outside of Ottawa. For just under 300 games, Chara took the Sens to another level but I think some folks will lean more towards total service time in making their final cuts. You could also definitely add Sergei Gonchar with similar logic.
While the older readers among us associate the Senators’ past success with players out of Sweden, and while more recently the Sens have found a lot of US-born talent, traditionally Ottawa has done really well acquiring defenders from eastern Europe. Hailing from the former Czechoslovakia, all of Filip Kuba, Andrej Meszaros, and Karel Rachunek had solid years in the nation’s capital.
Speaking of eastern Europe, we have the anti-Karlsson choice in the sense that no one remembers the A-Train for his footwork or passing skills. Volchenkov belongs to a bygone era of Senators hockey and in terms of blocking shots and laying out hits. We’ll never see another defender like him in Ottawa.
So again, like I said, no right or wrong answers here (especially because some people prefer puck-moving to to bone-crushing). I think more than anything I enjoyed thinking about this because for all of our collective fretting over the state of Ottawa’s top-four this season (and for the past decade) we’ve enjoyed a lot of really good hockey from some great defenders since 1992.