FHM Ottawa Senators Historical Challenge, October 1996: Off and Running

Let’s have some fun!

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 a question about a key roster move, and make it based on how you respond!

We’re going to take this on a month-by-month basis, with a new installment 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!

Let’s dive in.

Welcome to September of 1996!

First thing’s first, we need to ink our top prospect. Therefore, we’ve signed first overall pick Chris Phillips to a three-year deal, at $265K per.

Also, upon reviewing the roster, this team needs some reinforcements at forward. Thankfully, the free agent pool has some good young players. We signed 25 year-old centre Robert Lang to a three-year contract worth $400K annually, and 20 year-old Michael Nylander for three years at an AAV of $360K. He’s a natural centre, but will play his secondary position on the left wing for now.

I hate the pre-season, and there aren’t many young players that really need a look yet, so we’ve simmed through it. Here’s the season preview for the 1996-1997 NHL season.

The Ottawa Senators’ opening night roster looks like this. Chris Phillips will make his NHL debut, with Sami Salo and Wade Redden beginning in the AHL with the Worcester Ice Cats.

And with that, let’s get the season underway. We open up on October 5th in Montreal, to take on the Canadiens.

Unfortunately, this one didn’t go so well. Ron Tugnutt was completely hung out to dry by his team, who gave up 53 shots in a 7-3 defeat. Shawn McEachern, Daniel Alfredsson, and Steve Duchesne returned fire for Ottawa, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

We slightly adjusted the team’s tactics to be a little more defensive minded, and it paid off.

In our home opener on October 9th, we came out with a 1-1 tie against the New York Islanders (how about that logo)? Alexei Yashin scored for the good guys, and we peppered them with shots, but Tommy Salo saved his team’s bacon this night.

Two nights later, we finally have our first win of the season, and it came against the vaunted Pittsburgh Penguins. Alexandre Daigle scored twice, and Randy Cunneyworth potted the game-winner, earning us a 3-2 victory. Unfortunately, we lost Jason York for 1-2 weeks with a sore achilles tendon. Janne Laukannen suits up in relief.

In the second game of a home-and-home back to back, we came up just short against a good Penguins team. We fell behind 4-1, but rallied to lose by only a goal. Cunneyworth, Tom Chorske, and Yashin scored the goals. In retrospect, this one is likely the coach’s fault. I should have started Damian Rhodes and given Tugnutt the night off.

Giving Tugnutt a well-deserved rest, Rhodes stopped 19 of 21 following a five-day layoff, earning his team a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, Steve Duchesne and Alexei Yashin scored to tie the game, and Andreas Dackell potted his first of the year halfway through the third, and it proved to be the game-winner.

However, in the second game of another back-to-back (told you this game was realistic), we fell to our division rivals on home ice again. Out-shot by the Habs once more, Tugnutt stood tall, and Daniel Alfredsson scored for the home side, but it was a 3-1 defeat to the Canadiens. Not good, but better. We’ll get their asses soon.

To start another(!) back-to-back, we sent Rhodes to the crease in Sunrise, to take on the 0-7 Florida Panthers.

It did not go according to plan.

In what was a poor effort, we were shut-out by the Cats, giving them their first win of the year. Another bad game for Shaun Van Allen and Lance Pitlick, but Yashin played well.

Before taking on the Lightning the next night, Jason York received clearance to play, despite not being fully recovered. We’re going to get him back to 100% before returning him to the lineup, though.

We got the answer we were looking for against our expansion sister team. Tugnutt was stellar, with Alfredsson and Daigle beating Corey Schwab to give their team a 2-1 decision. Alexei Yashin tallied his 100th career assist, and Ron Tugnutt reached the 6000 save milestone in the win.

The next day, York received a clean bill of health, and returns to the lineup in place of Lance Pitlick, who has struggled to begin the season.

Despite receiving defensive reinforcements, we were blown out by the Dallas Stars, deep in the heart of Texas. Ron Tugnutt had his first truly bad game of the year, and we gave up seven unanswered goals before Radim Bicanek and Sean Hill beat Arturs Irbe to break the goose egg. Not a good one.

However, in the final contest of October, Tugnutt answered for his poor performance in Dallas, stopping 26 of 28 to give his squad a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on home ice. Shawn McEachern, Daniel Alfredsson, and Bicanek put up goals for the good guys.

With the month done and gone, it seems to me that to compete with Montreal, we’re going to need defensive reinforcements. After signing Lang and Nylander, we have a wealth of centre depth, and given Shaun Van Allen’s struggles, we packaged him in an offer to the Chicago Blackhawks for Eric Weinrich. We’ll see their response in a few days, but our head scout seems to think they’ll accept. Weinrich is rated 2.5 stars, which would rank him second behind Duchesne on our blueline depth chart. Van Allen is 2 stars, with no room to grow, and tied for third on our centre depth chart.

If the Blackhawks accept, we should:

Complete the trade53
Cancel the trade8

So, that concludes the first month of our challenge. We wrap up October with a record of   4-5-1, good enough for nine points, leaving us 3rd in the Northeast Division, 6th in the Eastern Conference, and 14th overall.

Top Performers: Daniel Alfredsson (10GP 4G 3A), Alexei Yashin (10GP 3G 4A), Alex Daigle (10GP 3G 3A), Steve Duchesne (10GP 2G 3A)

Worst Performers: Shaun Van Allen (10GP 0G 0A), Lance Pitlick (7GP 0G 1A)

Who to Watch: Robert Lang (10GP 0G 5A), Andreas Dackell (10GP 1G 3A), Radek Bonk (10GP 0G 3A)

Farm Report:

That does it for the first month of our play-through! Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments, and give us any ideas that you have to improve the team!

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