Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Ups and Downs of Being a Sens Fan

As you probably could have guessed I am an Ottawa Senators fan from Ottawa (Again you probably could have guessed as I have not met a Sens fan yet who has not lived in the Ottawa area for at least some of the last 10 years). Eggshmeg (who I met on a forum) has let me post my thoughts and opinions here. I plan on writing about the Sens and general hockey happenings. I will not be just writing plain reviews (you can find that about a thousand other places on the net) but I will give my opinion on strategies the coaching staff is using, trades made (or not) by newly appointed General Manager Bryan Murray, player performances or just general interest stories. You will find that I'm very nitpicky with what the front office and coaching staff does (Did they really need to trade for a 4th line winger in Oleg Saprykin at the deadline and we did not need to sign Gerber last offseason when we already had a more than capable goalie in Ray "Razor" Emery).

Anyways, on to what this entry is about, the roller coaster ride that is being an Ottawa Senators fan. Yes, by those uneducated hockey fans the Senators could be called one of the most consistent hockey clubs of the new millennium. But, if you follow hockey closely you will know that the Senators are renowned for being one of the most inconsistent teams when it comes to the playoffs. Ottawa has made the playoffs every season since they nearly upset the Buffalo Sabres in the 1997 playoffs.

In 1998 they won their first playoff series upsetting the top team in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils in 6 games. In the second round they lost to the Washington Capitals in 5 games.

In the 1998/99 season the Senators finished with a winning record for the first time in franchise history. However they were disappointed, being swept by the Buffalo Sabres. The letdowns continued as they lost to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs in 6 games in the 2000 playoffs. The next year they would be swept away by the Leafs in 4 games. Now, on to what I can more than vaguely remember. On draft day following the sweep by the Maple Laughs (As so many Sens fans call them), in what is now considered the most lop-sided deal of the millennium thus far as the Senators sent Alexei Yashin to the New York Islanders in return for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and the 2nd overall pick (which turned out to be Jason Spezza). Chara and his 6'9" frame became one of the best shutdown defensemen in the league. Muckalt proceeded to score zero, yes zero goals in his one and only season as a Senator. Meanwhile, Jason Spezza has become arguably the best setup man in the league.

So the next year (2002) Jaques Martin does about the only worthwhile thing in his tenure as the Sens' Head Coach, letting Roger Neilson step behind the bench for his 999th and 1000th career games behind the bench. Also, being of use for the first and only time was Patrick Lalime. In the first round of the playoffs he held the Flyers to an OT goal in game one and three straight shutouts in the next 3 games. The Sens secured the series when Lalime gave up one goal in a Senators OT victory. Lalime looked good again in round two, the Battle of Ontario, shuting out the provincial rivals 5-0 in game one. However, Lalime disappointed the rest of the way as the Sens eventually lost in 7 games.

The 2002-03 season, the Sens best to that point, overshadowed by Rob Bryden and friends going bankrupt. The Sens manhandled the Islanders after losing 3-0 in game 1. (I still remember singing "Hey Hey Hey Goodbye" at game 5 and booing Alexi Yashin whenever he touched the puck. Also the fans about 5 rows in front were all over Garth Snow too) Anyways, on to the Flyers. We beat them in 6 games to face the Devils in the Conference Final for the first time since some time in the 20s (If they even had Conference Finals then). Well we got off to a good start in game one with Shaun Van Allen's (of all people) OT Goal. We proceeded to lose the next 3 though. In game 5, out saviour, Jason Spezza got into his first playoff action, leading the Sens to victory with a goal and an assist. In game 6 yet another unlikely hero, Chris Phillips, scored an OT goal to force a game 7. Anyways, game seven, tie game, 2 minutes left. Wade Redden gives up the goddamn puck and the Devils score, going to the Cup Final. On to 2003-04. Eugene Melnyk buys the club in the offseason. The Sens turn in a disappointing season finishing 3rd in the Northeast division and face the Leafs (yet again) in round one. Patrick Lalime struggled (especially in game 6 getting pulled after giving up 3 goals on 11 shots). Prior to the lockout season Martin was fired in favour of Bryan Murray and Lalime was sent packing in favour of Dominik Hasek.

First year back from the lockout the Senators were clear favorites after acquiring Dominik Hasek and Danny Heatley. The Sens only lose 6 games prior to the new year. But then, fragile Dominik Hasek has to go pull his groin in the Olympics, leaving the Sens hopes up to Ray Emery. Despite slumping late after Emery took over the Sens still posted their best season yet. The Tampa Bay Lightning were easily taken care of in 5 games. Emery was streaky in the 2nd round, losing in 5 games.

Now, 2006-07, the Sens put their faith on newly acquired Goalie Martin Gerber. Dan McAmmond, Joe Corvo and Tom Preissing were also acquired to fill holes vacated by Zdeno Chara and Brian Pothier and Brian Smolinski. Vaclav Varada was let go to play in Europe while Brian Smolinski and Martin Havlat were casualties of the salary cap. Mike Comrie was later acquired to help fill some holes up front. Gerber struggled out of the gate. Emery would take over and play the bulk of the games from December on. Despite not acquiring Gary Roberts at the deadline the Senators, led by Ray Emery and the famed CASH line, the Senators beat the Penguins, Devils and Sabres in 5 games a piece. However, the Sens struggled against the physical Anaheim Ducks, losing the Stanley Cup in just 5 games.

In the offseason, Bryan Murray was promoted to General Manager. Most believe because of Muckler not acquiring a big name at the deadline. Tom Preissing and Mike Comrie were both lost to Free Agency and Peter Schaefer was sent to Boston for Shean Donovan, while Matt Carkner, Niko Dimotrakos and Luke Richardson were the only Free Agent acquisitions. None of them are slated to make more than $575 000 this season. What this season will hold, who knows. But, the forwards past Daniel Alfredsson, Danny Heatley and Jason Spezza will have to step up and give the Sens some more secondary scoring.

Wow that was longer than I thought, now off to watch the Ducks/Kings game.