It’s been a surreal week for Ottawa Senators fans. The news about the death of Eugene Melnyk came as a shock to the community, and there has been lots of discussion about the legacy of a complicated man. While he had his detractors about how he ran his hockey club, nobody ever wished ill-will on him, and it’s still incredibly sad for his friends and family who are going through a difficult time.
Melnyk purchased the club in the summer of 2003, and they had a ton of success early on, making him seem like a saviour. Obviously they were never able to fully get over the hump, but there were some very entertaining seasons along the way. I wanted to look at some of our favourite seasons in the Melnyk era, spanning from 2003-2022. Here are the five to choose from:
Probably the best Senators team ever. They had an insane amount of depth, and they finished with 113 points, tied with 2002-03 for the most in franchise history. They were 1st in the Eastern Conference and 2nd in the NHL, although their +103 goal differential was 7 better than the Detroit Red Wings.
Dany Heatley had 50 goals and 103 points, Daniel Alfredsson had 103 points, Jason Spezza had 90 points in just 68 games, Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara were elite, and Dominik Hasek had a whopping .925 SV%. They also destroyed the Maple Leafs by winning the season series 7-1 with a combined score of 41-19. This team was built to win a Stanley Cup but fell short after losing to the Buffalo Sabres in the 2nd round. It was a disappointing ending, but the regular season was a dominance that has been unmatched.
This team got off to a worrisome start, going 6-10-1 in their first 17 games. After that point though, they went 42-15-8, ending up 9th overall in the league. Although this team wasn’t quite as good as the year before after losing Zdeno Chara, Martin Havlat, and Dominik Hasek, it’s what they did in the playoffs that made them so memorable.
Nobody will ever forget the playoff run where they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres (all very good teams) in 5 games every series. Although they were unable to get through an incredibly good Anaheim Ducks team, Ottawa’s run to the finals made people believe the Cup was coming home. They were talented enough to get there, but it just didn’t go their way. Here’s the best moment in franchise history to remember:
What a strange season. It was only 48 games long, and Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and Craig Anderson all had major injuries. Despite that, Ottawa was able to cobble together a great season thanks to incredible goaltending and ended up tied for 12th overall in the league. That would’ve been memorable enough due to the sheer unpredictability of it, but once again, it was the playoffs that made things so much more fun.
The Senators dismantled their rival Montreal Canadiens in 5 games in the first round, including two 6-1 victories. It was the height of the tensions between these two teams, and the memes and trash talk between the two fanbases made it so much fun. Getting to gloat afterwards felt great, although the next series against Pittsburgh wasn’t as good as they lost in 5 games. Still though, they’ll always have this series:
2014-15 is the most different on this list because seemingly 75% of the season wasn't very fun at all. On February 16th, they were 22-23-10 and were 14 points out of a playoff spot. They then went 21-3-3 to finish the season, in large part thanks to the “Hamburglar” Andrew Hammond and his out-of-nowhere .941 SV%. Overcoming that 14 point deficit is the largest in NHL history, and making the playoffs after being that down-and-out is just something we’ll never experience again as Senators fans.
The playoffs weren’t as fun as they lost in 6 games to the Canadiens, but the number of incredibly nerve-wracking regular season games that ended with phenomenal moments is astounding. It’s impossible to pick one game, so you can relive all of it here:
What makes 2016-17 even more incredible is that it was the last time we truly felt happy as fans of this team. They began an immediate descent into the basement in 2017-18, but the run to double overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals will live in my brain forever. They had a whopping six overtime wins, giving us so many classic moments. Not only that, they had a bunch of incredible comebacks as well, as it seemed like they were never out of it.
This team definitely over-achieved, but the fact that they made it within one shot of making the finals against a beatable Nashville Predators team shows how close they were to their first Cup. And that stings...But it’s hard not to look back at these games and have a massive smile:
So what do you think?
What is your favourite season from the Eugene Melnyk era?
This poll is closed