We’ve had a couple of recent best-of-lists, with Brandon counting down the Top 10 free agent signings in Ottawa Senators history, and Shaan looking at the Top 5 each of the best and worst trades of Pierre Dorion’s tenure. Today, we’ll continue, looking at the Top 15 flash-in-the-pan Sens — because I didn’t want to settle on just 10.
Now, before we start, let’s lay down some ground rules. Flash-in-the-pan, in this instance only, refers to players who were great for the Sens for a period of less than one season, and then saw their careers drop off. This means that players like Ales Hemsky and Dominik Hasek don’t count, since their best play came away from Ottawa, much less guys like Scott Gomez and Peter Bondra, who played some of the worst hockey of their illustrious careers with the Sens. This also means that players with huge hype who never lived up to it don’t count, like Alexandre Daigle or Martin Prusek. No, this countdown is for guys who shone brightest in a Sens uniform, and didn’t shine for long.
Before I start, I’d like to give an honourable mention to Patrick Sieloff: he hilariously has two goals in two career NHL games, and both of them are just awful goals. His goal in his lone game with the Flames was a nothing backhand that Darcy Kuemper just whiffed on, and then his goal with Ottawa was a slapshot that hit the end boards, hit James Reimer, and trickled into the net. Unfortunately, goal-per-game doesn’t get you on this list if you put that up with another team too. Jayce Hawryluk, recent waiver acquisition, also gets an honourable mention for putting up half the points he’d scored with Panthers in one-fifth the number of games. He doesn’t make the list because he could very well go on to continue that pace with the Sens or another team. But enough with the delays! Here are the greatest flashes-in-the-pan in (modern) Sens history.
15. Norm Maciver
Ah good, first guy on the list and it’s already controversial. Most Sens fans vaguely remember Maciver as the best player on those early Sens teams, a journeyman offensive defenceman who made those tough years a little less pathetic. The thing is, that’s a bit of revisionist history. He came to the Sens with a career high of 40 points in the 1991-92 season (right before the Sens claimed him in the expansion draft), which sounds amazing today but put him tied for 27th among defencemen in 1991-92 ( when there were only 22 teams). He’d actually spent most of the two seasons before that in the AHL. His first season with the Sens was the only time he surpassed 60 points. The only other time he’d even surpass 50 points was in the 1995-96 season, split between the Penguins and Jets. Maybe it’s just that those early Sens teams were hot garbage, but somehow we all remember Maciver as a great player — and not a guy who happened to have his best season by far while playing for one of the worst NHL teams ever.
14. Brian Gibbons
I’ll admit, I’d never heard of this guy before the Sens acquired him in February 2019 for Patrick Sieloff. Apparently he’d played 169 games for four different NHL teams by then, but a 31 year old with a generic name who hadn’t managed to stick with one team for more than a season wasn’t high on my list of players to keep track of. However, he found some kind of magic with the Sens. He scored 14 points in 20 games down the stretch, and suddenly Sens fans were split between worrying and hoping that he’d be signed as a veteran depth forward for the next season. Instead, D.J. Smith got the team to bring in his friend Tyler Ennis, and the Sens let Gibbons walk to his sixth NHL team in five season: the Hurricanes. (Side note: did you know Gibbons is only 5’8”? I wonder if that was part of why they didn’t re-sign him, instead signing the comparative giant Ennis, who’s listed at a generous 5’9”.) But for a month and a half in 2019, Gibbons transformed from “Who?” to a guy some fans thought could be valuable for a year or two more.
13. Patrick Wiercioch
Patty Weirdcouch will always be a controversial topic on this site, as he was tall, unphysical, awkward while skating, and a possession stats darling. That automatically sets up an old-school, new-school dichotomy. He ended up playing a lot during the 2012-13 season due to injuries, and then found his way into 53 games in 2013-14 after starting the year as a frequent healthy scratch. In 2014-15 he seemed to solidify his place on team, earning regular time on the second pair, and putting up four points in six games in the first-round loss to the Canadiens. That play earned him an invitation to play for Team Canada at the World Championships. After years of being maligned, he was suddenly being recognized around the league as a good defenceman. Then he scored only five points in 52 games in 2015-16, wasn’t qualified by the Sens, got one lacklustre season with the Avalanche, and was out of the NHL — likely for good.
12. Maxime Lajoie
To be fair to Max, his career is young as hes’s only 22. But with Thomas Chabot, Erik Brännström and Christian Wolanin ahead of him on the left-side depth chart for presumably the next seven years or so, he’ll have a hard time getting back to the NHL. Lajoie famously made the Sens out of training camp in 2018-19, and then he scored a goal and an assist in his first NHL game. Three games later, he had a three-point night. On October 15, he had seven points in six games. He then scored eight points in his next 56 games before being returned to the AHL. It’s hard to know how much of his dropoff came from playing with possession anchor Cody Ceci, but still, he really fell off a cliff and was even a healthy scratch in the AHL a few times in 2019-20. I think it’s safe to say he will never shine as bright again as his first two weeks in the NHL.
11. Colin Greening
I struggled with putting Greening on this list, because he never really was that great. His career high was 37 points in 82 games in 2011-12, playing on the wing of Jason Spezza. Still, the hype train was real on this guy. Joining the Sens after his college season ended at the same time as the much-hyped Bobby Butler (as well as Erik Condra), Greening came in with minimal expectations and greatly outplayed them, putting up 13 points in 24 games. That earned him NHL status for the next season, and he played decently on Spezza’s wing, earning an invitation to the NHL YoungStars game at the All-Star Game in 2012. In 2012-13, his point pace dropped a bit, with 19 points in 47 games (33 points in a full season), but then he scored a huge double-overtime winner against Pittsburgh and earned a three-year, $2.65M-per-year extension. By the time his extension kicked in for 2014-15, he scored 1 goal, 0 assists in 26 NHL games, was demoted to Binghamton, and was a salary cast-off in the Dion Phaneuf trade. His 15 points in 31 games with the Maple Leafs was actually the closest he came to matching his post-college pre-rookie pace. I don’t think Greening ever was that good, but he managed to earn $11M over his career based on his first 24 games, suggesting that he did show a lot of promise at one point. He’s now retired from hockey, announcing his return to college to get an MBA.
10. Petr Schastlivy
Full credit for this goes to Paul on Twitter, because I really had minimal memory of this guy. Schastlivy joined the IHL’s Griffins in 1999-00, putting up half a point per game his first two seasons, which also earned him 30 games in the NHL split between those two seasons. Then in 2001-02 he exploded for 35 points in 31 games in the AHL, got called up to the Sens, and both scored an assist and blew out his knee in the first period of his call-up. He missed the rest of the season due to that injury. Then five days before the opener of 2002-03, he pulled his groin in practice and missed most of that season too. He finally got into 33 NHL games to end that season, and was solid with 19 points — a 47-point pace after missing more than a calendar year. Then in 2003-04 he had six points in 43 games for Ottawa, leading the Sens to trade him for Todd Simpson. He returned to Russia during the 2004-05 lockout, and never came back to the NHL, leaving us to wonder about a 30-game window in which he looked like a bona fide NHLer.
9. Chris DiDomenico
Ah, DiDo. I remember when the Sens first signed him, we were rightfully confused and a little mistrustful. He was 28 with no NHL experience, someone that Guy Boucher knew from Switzerland and from coaching him in junior. It seemed like he might be the next Tom Pyatt, a not-very-good player given tasks above his paygrade because the coach liked him from the past. He played three games for the Sens in 2017-18, scored zero points, got sent down to the AHL, and that seemed like the end of it. But then on the eighth game of 2018-19, DiDo got called back up the NHL. No big deal, right? It took him a couple games to get his feet wet, and then he scored five points in three games. Suddenly he was point-per-game on the season. Suddenly, we were all on Team DiDo, to the point that three games later, after the Sens acquired Matt Duchene, we were joking about Duchene being “promoted” to the DiDomenico line against the Avalanche. And then, coming back from Sweden, DiDo’s ice time dropped below 10 minutes per game. Then he was a healthy scratch to make room for Boucher’s new pet, Gabriel Dumont, claimed on waivers from the Lightning for literally no reason. Then the Sens waived DiDo to make room for Dumont, and the Bolts claimed him in retaliation, only to assign him to the AHL on a “conditioning stint” (what?), then keep him as a healthy scratch in the NHL, and finally waive him so the Sens could claim him back. It was a petty, unnecessary move by the Lightning in my opinion, with the only real victim being a guy forced to move his stuff to two different cities. But that essentially did it for DiDo. He played another 12 games for the Sens, scored four points in that span, and then was traded to the Blackhawks for Ville Pokka. It’s very strange to think he was part of three NHL teams in that season, and yet he only ever played NHL games with the Sens. DiDomenico earns his spot on this list for having a very short NHL-calibre span, and seeming like the best of Boucher’s personal request signings only to somehow fall out of favour with the coach at the same time the fanbase was coming around on him.
8. Mike Condon
Amazingly, Condon is the first goalie to make this list, but he won’t be the last. He was forced into regular NHL for the Canadiens in 2015-16 after Carey Price tore his MCL, but wasn’t particularly good, putting up a .903 save percentage in 55 games as the Habs finished 6th in the division. To start the 2016-17 season, the Canadiens had to put him on waivers, and the Penguins claimed him because Matt Murray was injured to start the season. Not long into the season, Nicholle Anderson was diagnosed with cancer, Craig Anderson asked for leave, Andrew Hammond tweaked an injury, Chris Driedger crumpled in his lone game, and the Sens were forced into acquiring a new goalie. Enter Condon at the cost of a fifth-round pick. Let it never be said he didn’t earn his keep in Ottawa. Andy played a bunch in November, and then from December 1st onwards, Condon played in 26 games in a row (all but one of them starts) before Andy returned in February to re-take the starter’s position. And he was a reasonable starter in that time, posting a .914 save percentage. When you dig into it though, Condon ran hot or cold that whole time. In 2016-17, he had 17 games with a sub-.900 save percentage, and 14 games with a save percentage over .950, leaving just nine games in which he fell into what I’d consider a reasonable set of results. Of course, the Sens re-signed him despite still having Hammond under contract for another season, and of course Condon faltered out of the gate the next season because Sens goalies tend to put up one great season. He had a .902 save percentage in 2017-18, and in 2018-19 had a save percentage of .800 in two games before letting in a Derek Stepan goal from the Vesa Toskala danger zone, was demoted to the AHL, and never saw NHL action again. From half a season as a reasonable starter, to traded for the ghost of Ryan Callahan in three seasons, Condon definitely fits right in on this kind of list. He’d probably be higher if his numbers were a little better during his time in the Nation’s Capital.
7. Jim O’Brien
JOB had the most responsibility for the shortest amount of time of anyone on this list. He was the Sens’ first-round pick in 2007, 29th overall, fresh off losing in the Stanley Cup finals. He earned his first NHL call-up in 2010-11, but was held pointless in six games. The following season he was brought in at the beginning of February, and was kept up primarily as a defensive specialist, even scoring six points in those 28 games. In the 2010-11 playoffs, he only scored one point, but it was an absolutely massive point: an assist on Kyle Turris’s OT winner. Somehow, two minutes into OT, Jim O’Brien was on the ice with Turris, and pulled a beautiful move to drop the puck back and set up the goal. That play was the highlight of JOB’s career. It earned him a two-year, one-way extension at league minimum. He only got into 29 NHL games the next season, scoring six points, and has since mostly been an AHL player, getting called up for a total 14 NHL games since then, split between the Devils and his second stint with the Sens. There are players on this list who had short spans of being impressive, but you could argue that JOB had exactly one shift of greatness.
6. Bob Kudelski
If you’ve played NHL 94 (or were a Sens fan in ‘94), you remember Bob Kudelski, who played with Sylvain Turgeon and Jamie Baker on the Sens’ top line. In December 1992, Kudelski was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings. At that point, he’d scored six points in 15 games so far in the 1992-93 season, a bit of a drop of 0.5-points-per-game pace he’d put up the last couple seasons in LA. From there, his numbers went way up with Ottawa. He started with 35 points in his first 48 games in Ottawa, including 21 goals, a 37-goal full-season pace that would have put him 33rd in the league. He improved on it to start next season, scoring 26 goals (and 41 points) in 42 games, which was a 50+ goal pace. At that point, Ottawa traded him to the Panthers for Scott Levins, Evgeny Davydov, and two picks (4th round and 6th round). His time in Ottawa came to an abrupt end, and considering he was putting up the best season of his career at age 29, maybe it was smart to sell high. His pace faltered a bit that year in Florida, and he was down to just six goals and three assists in 26 games in the lockout-shortened 1994 season. He had just a lone assist in 13 games in 1994-95, was sent down to the AHL, and never played in the NHL again.
5. Peter Regin
Players who make their biggest splashes in the playoffs tend to make the strongest short-term impressions, and Regin may be the best example of that. He joined the Binghmaton Senators to start 2008-09, but due to injuries got a couple NHL call-ups in that span. That turned into him earning a chance to play against the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, as he had the poise of a veteran, and scored four points in six games. It looked like the Sens may finally have found a centre to play behind Jason Spezza, pushing Mike Fisher to his more comfortable role as a third-line centre. But of course, Regin never surpassed 30 points in his NHL career after that. Injuries hurt him a bit, but also he’d carved out a role as a secondary scorer in one playoff series, and never again lived up to that. After short stints with the Islanders and Blackhawks (and the latter’s AHL affiliate), he left for the KHL. To Regin’s credit, he was above 50% in 5v5 Corsi/shot attempts and 5v5 Fenwick/unblocked shot attempts for every season of his NHL career (all stats via NaturalStatTrick), and was above 50% on 5v5 expected goals for every season he played in Ottawa. The possession stats were there for an NHLer, but for whatever reason he just couldn’t make it stick like he did for six games against Pittsburgh.
4. Brandon Bochenski
Several players on this list made their impressions in the playoffs, but Bochenski was the original Lajoie, turning a hot preseason into a chance to start in the NHL that he never lived up to. Bochenski had 70 points in 75 games for the B-Sens in 2003-04, and due to the lockout, stayed down for another year. Injuries shortened him to just 33 games, but he had 46 points in that span. In the 2005 preseason, he netted nine points in five games, and Sens fans were hopeful that he and Spezza would form a dynamic duo (this may have been the start of the theme of the Sens trying to find a winger for Spezza). He opened the year with five points in his first 11 games, before exploding. He scored a goal and an assist against the Kings on December 2nd, 2005, and followed it up with a hat trick (plus an assist) the next game against the Panthers. A week later, he had another multi-point game against the Avalanche, and then he fell off a cliff. He was held scoreless in his next four games with the Sens, which were interspersed with numerous healthy scratches. At the 2006 trade deadline, he was sent along with a 2nd round pick to the Blackhawks in exchange for Tyler Arnason. He still played 136 games after leaving the Sens, scoring 45 points, but never found a real home in the NHL. He spent eight years lighting up the KHL with Barys Astana, after which he joined Berkshire Hathaway as a part-time real estate developer in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He’s currently running for mayor of Grand Rapids, an election that takes place on June 9th.
3. Mike Brodeur
Brodeur has been immortalized on this site thanks to past writer Ryan Classic getting Brodeur’s name put on his SNES jersey thanks to a poll. Brodeur played in a total of seven NHL games, all with the Sens, four of which were starts. Brodeur impressed with the AHL’s Rochester Americans in 2008-09, and signed a one-year contract with the Sens. However, he was returned to the AHL behind Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire. When Leclaire first got hurt in the 2009-10 season, Brodeur was called up as the backup, and got one start on December 19th, stopping 22 of 23 shots en route to a victory over the Wild. Fast forward a month, and the Sens were in awful shape. They had lost five games in a row, and were in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. Elliott was sick, and Leclaire got hurt (it turns out he was concussed) during the morning skate. Suddenly, “Not Martin” was headed to NYC as the only healthy goalie on the team. The Sens famously loosened up with some dodgeball in Central Park before the game, and then Brodeur stonewalled the Rags, stopping all 32 shots to earn his only career shutout. Two days later, he stopped 30-of-32 against the Canadiens, jolting the Sens onto a winning streak and beginning a goalie controversy. Don Cherry weighed in, saying Brodeur had to start the next game even if Elliott was healthy. Elliott started and won the next 9 games, allowing just 11 goals across those games, giving the Sens a franchise record 11-game winning streak, and ensuring Brodeur didn’t play another game that season. Brodeur got into four games the next season, three of them in relief, earning the loss in the sole game he started. His career goals-against-average jumped from 1.00 to 2.17, and his save percentage fell from .966 to .922. He would only play in the ECHL after that season, other than a playoff loan to the AHL’s Houston Aeros in 2011-12, and most recently played a game for the Innisfail Eagles of the Chinook Hockey League, allowing six goals on 39 shots. It’s funny to look back and think that there was at any point consideration that Brodeur was the goalie of the future in Ottawa.
2. Steve Larouche
When reading these kinds of lists, I always hope to learn about a player from a while ago that I’ve never heard of. For this list, that player is Steve Larouche. Larouche embodies the idea of a flash-in-the-pan. He dominated the IHL in 1993-94, scoring 96 points for the Atlanta Knights, and led the playoffs in goals and points, leading the Knights to the Turner Cup. He signed in the offseason with the Sens, but because of the lockout, was sent to the PEI Senators where he scored 53 goals in 70 games. He finally got his NHL shot in February 1995, and potted 15 points in 18 games. In the offseason, he was traded to the Rangers for Jean-Yves Roy, but only got into one game for the Rags, spending half the season with the Binghamton Rangers. He was then traded to the Kings for defenseman Chris Snell, where he got his final seven NHL games, scoring just three points. He finished above a point per game his next six IHL seasons, then played eight seasons in Europe, before finishing his career with three seasons in the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey (LNAH). Larouche was a strange case of a player being dominant in the minor leagues, and even having an impressive stint in the NHL, but for whatever reason just never got more than one real NHL opportunity.
1. Andrew Hammond
Could anybody else be number one on this list? The Hamburglar joined the B-Sens with little fanfare in March 2013 after wrapping up his four-year college career with Bowling Green. The presumptive opinion at the time was that Hammond was a placeholder for Binghamton, with Chris Driedger as the only goalie prospect in the system joining the squad the following season. Hammond played one game in relief in March 2014, stopping all 11 shots he faced against the Red Wings. In the fall of 2014, Hammond set an auspicious AHL record, allowing three goals on three shots in the first 36 seconds of a game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms before getting pulled, earning him a 300.00 GAA on the game. It’s bizarre to think that short of fluke injuries, that would’ve been the most notable fact in his career. Instead, Craig Anderson hurt his hand in practice, and then Robin Lehner was concussed in a collision with Clarke MacArthur against the Hurricanes. Hammond was thrust into action, allowing two goals on five shots. With both goalies on the shelf, and the Sens’ playoff odds already sitting at 2%, the season seemed like a lost cause. But then something miraculous happened: Hammond started winning. First, the Sens beat the Habs 4-2, and the Panthers 4-1. Then Hammond shut out the Kings and Ducks in consecutive nights. Winning in San Jose marked the first time ever the Sens had swept the California road trip. The Sens then lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Wild, ending his five-game win-streak to start his career, but then rattled off two more wins against the Jets and Sabres. The returning Craig Anderson got the next two starts, but then Hammond got the rest of March, extending his personal win streak to nine games. He allowed two or fewer goals in his first 12 starts, tying Frank “Mr. Zero” Brimsek’s record from 1938-39. Nada went into more depth on the Hamburglar Run in her Rewind piece a couple weeks ago, so I won’t go over all of it. But in the end, the Sens became the first team in NHL history to overcome a 14-point deficit to make the playoffs. Despite only playing the last two months of the season, he finished 15th in Hart Trophy voting and 7th in Vezina voting. He became a sensation. He was extended as the Sens’ backup, opening the opportunity to trade Robin Lehner to the Sabres for the Colin White first-round pick. His save percentage dropped from .941 to .914 the next season, and by the year after, the Sens were acquiring the aforementioned Mike Condon because they didn’t trust Hammond to play meaningful NHL games. He’s bounced around the AHL, from Belleville to San Antonio to Iowa and now to Rochester. He had a brief chance to shine again in the 2017-18 playoff for the Avs, stealing a win and standing tall in a loss to try to hold off the powerhouse Nashville Predators. He went from a goalie at a university not known for its hockey to making $4.7M so far in his career (as well as $1000 in McDonald’s coupons). A UFA at the end of this season, he should at least get a couple more AHL seasons, likely interspersed with a couple more NHL call-ups. His humble demeanour, combined with his wife’s hilarity, further made him a popular figure league-wide. I think it’s safe to say that Hammond’s run may be the Cinderella-est of Cinderella runs in pro sports history. And for that, he earns the top spot in this list, and a special place in all our hearts.
So, 4500 words later, that does it. Was there anyone you think deserved to be on this list? Anyone you think didn’t deserve to be on this list? Let us know in the comments!