FHM Ottawa Senators Historical Challenge, November 1996: Reality Check

The Senators come crashing down to Earth.

Franchise Hockey Manager 6 is a text-based hockey management simulation game by Out of the Park Developments. It’s a lot of fun, and I find it super realistic. I recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a good way to kill time while social distancing.

In the game, you take over as GM and/or head coach of pretty much any hockey team on the planet, and make roster moves to bring your team a championship. The CPU plays the games for you, but you craft the team.

One of the coolest game modes is the Historical Challenges, wherein you take over as GM of a team at a particular point in their NHL existence, and attempt to relive or rewrite history. For the purposes of this play-through, we’ll be taking over the Ottawa Senators in the Fall of 1996, and attempting to win a Stanley Cup no later than the Spring of 2007.

For the purposes of this little exercise, I’m going to play through this mode, trying to win a up for the Sens, with help from you - yes you - the readers! At the end of every edition, I’ll ask you questions about key roster moves, and make it based on how you respond!

We’re going to take this on a month-by-month basis, with a new instalment coming out every week, so make sure you let me know in the comments what you want to see, and any suggestions you have to achieve this goal! I want to make this as interactive an experience as possible, so I really want to hear from you!

Welcome to Month 2!

After a solid first month of action, it looked like we were primed to make a serious push for the first playoff appearance in franchise history, during the 1996-1997 season. Finishing October third in the division, and sixth in the Eastern Conference, it seemed like we were in good shape.

You fine folks overwhelmingly voted to go through with the trade of Van Allen to Chicago, and once they accepted, we did just that.

Weinrich slots on to the top pairing, and Dave Hannan draws in on the fourth line, after a little bit of juggling.

The month got off to a great start, with a big upset win over the talented Detroit Red Wings. Damian Rhodes got the win, and Robert Lang scored his first as an Ottawa Senator, with Randy Cunneyworth and Tom Chorske also chipping in, before Sergei Zholtok’s first of the year won the game in overtime.

The next night didn’t go so well, with the Sens getting absolutely crushed in Pittsburgh. Alexei Yashin got us on the board, but the high-powered Pens offence was too much for us this night.

With the looks of a pattern beginning to develop, the Senators were once again beaten handily five days later, this time by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ron Tugnutt was chased after allowing three goals on five shots, and a Chorske tally wasn’t even close to being enough.

On the back of two truly poor efforts, we shook up the forward lines a tad. The payoff was immediate.

The Senators got off the schneid, beating up on the Big Bad Boston Bruins, by a final score of 5-2. The new and improved second line came through, with Lang scoring twice, and Nylander adding his first, while Chorske and Yashin also chipped in. Tugnutt had a bit of a bounce-back game, stopping 21 of 23 Boston shots.

No such luck against the Blackhawks the next night, though. Nylander and Shawn McEachern scored, by the Hawks doubled us up, with the ex-Senator Van Allen even getting his first of the year.

That hurts, but for what it’s worth, Weinrich has played really well on the top pairing. No real stats, but great underlying numbers.

Better offensive output against the Edmonton Oilers, but not nearly good enough goaltending cost us another game. Yashin scored twice, to go with markers from McEachern and Lang, but Tugnutt allowed six goals on 28 shots in a 7-4 defeat.

This is getting to be a little much now. Another battle with Chicago, another loss. Ron Tugnutt’s cold streak continues, Yashin gets another goal, and the losing streak is now three.

If there’s anything positive to take from this one, Michael Nylander avoided a suspension for an incident that occurred during the game.

When it rains it pours. Damian Rhodes gives up five, and the Senators fall 5-1 to the New York Islanders. Tom Chorske’s good month continues, however, with another goal.

While it’s not time to push the panic button just yet, I figured it’d be a good time to hedge our bets by signing some good young players, especially up the middle. So we signed John Madden to a two-year deal at $300K per, and assigned him to Worcester.

Meanwhile, on the pro side of things, the rough skid continues. While Ron Tugnutt had a much better evening, we fell 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils. McEachern scored, and Jason York added his first of the season, but it’s now five losses straight.

With no relief in sight, you can add a 4-2 loss to the Hartford Whalers to the list. Randy Cunneyworth and Radek Bonk lit the lamp while outshooting the Whalers, but J.S. Giguere stood tall to give his team the win.

Make it seven in a row. Andreas Dackell, and Alexei Yashin scored, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Washington Capitals, who bested the Sens 5-2. Another bad night for Tugnutt.

The season’s first matchup with the Buffalo Sabres didn’t go any better, ending in a 3-1 loss, despite outshooting them. Dominik Hasek was stout, only allowing one Sergei Zholtok marker on 24 Ottawa shots.

Aaaaand the month’s final game makes it nine straight losses. Ron Hextall shut out the Sens by a score of 2-0. Woof.

Okay, that was rough. After a month like that, we need to decide on the future direction of our team. We have a good, young core of forwards that will develop into nice players, but we signed some kid named Martin St. Louis, which probably won’t hurt. We sent him to the minors to get optimal playing time, before he rounds into an NHL-level forward.

We need some help between the pipes. There are two ways we can go about this.

Do we...

Trade a veteran for a young goalie with high potential?53
Trade picks and youth for an established, developed netminder?10

As far as the overall future of the team goes:

Should we...

Blow it up for youth and picks40
Try to right the ship and make the playoffs23

All in all, the Senators finish November with a record of 2-11-0. It leaves us sixth (last) in the Northeast, 13th (last) in the Eastern Conference, and 25th (second last) overall.

Top Performers: Alexei Yashin (13GP 6G 4A), Tom Chorske (13GP 4G 6A), Robert Lang (13GP 4G 3A)

Worst Performers: Ron Tugnutt (1-8-0, SV%: 0.853, GAA: 3.66), Andreas Dackell (13GP 1G 0A)

Who to Watch: Michael Nylander (13GP 2G 3A), Daniel Alfredsson (13GP 0G 6A), Steve Duchesne (13GP, 0G, 5A)

Farm Report:

Two months in the books! Make sure to vote on both polls, and give us your thoughts in the comments section! Look out for the December edition next week!

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