If you polled 100 Ottawa Senators fans, asking them about the club’s fortunes over the years, the large majority would suggest the club has been plagued with more than its share of hard luck.
They’ve had consistent injury issues to key players, along with trades, signings and hirings that initially looked great but for various reasons, they blew up in the team’s face.
But it certainly hasn’t been all bad luck. As we get ready for the Senators’ return to action this weekend, Faces counts down the 5 luckiest things that have happened to the Ottawa Senators in the past decade.
5. The Hamburglar Run
To make the playoffs this season, the Sens will need to go on the same kind of tear they did eight years ago. In February of 2015, the Senators were 10 points out of a wild-card spot with 27 games left and their starting goalie, Craig Anderson was injured. No chance, right? Well, cue the Hamburglar Run.
Journeyman backup goalie Andrew Hammond went 20-1-2, helping propel the Sens into the post-season. Hammond, who retired this season, definitely played great back then. But let’s be honest, a long stretch of really good luck was also a factor. Seriously, if you had 0 career NHL wins before a magical run like that and then just 11 more wins for the rest of your career, you were riding a lot of good luck.
4. San Jose’s Implosion after Karlsson Trade
In the fall of 2018, when the Sens traded Erik Karlsson to San Jose, they made out very well. Josh Norris’s injury troubles and Karlsson re-emergence as an offensive stud have definitely tipped the scales back toward San Jose a little this season. But it’s still a home run deal for the Sens, who also got the Sharks’ 2020 first round pick, among other things.
With San Jose going to the 2019 conference final in Karlsson’s first season, the Sharks seemed like a team on the rise and so Ottawa would probably end up with a very low-end first round pick in 2020. To everyone’s surprise, the Sharks jumped the Shark, plummeting to the bottom of the NHL. Every rung they fell in the standings that season improved the Sens’ draft pick. When all the smoke had cleared, an apparently weak first round pick had morphed into the third overall selection.
3. Not Winning the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery/LA Skips Stutzle
That brings us to the Sens’ next bit of good luck. Had the Sens won the draft lottery and the number one pick that year, they would have chosen Alexis Lafreniere, everybody’s number one. At number two, they would have had to choose between Tim Stutzle and Quinton Byfield, which would have been a hard decision at the time. But three was the charm that year. The Rangers went first and Lafreniere was seen as a no brainer. LA had the toughest decision at number two. They went for Byfield and the Sens are extremely fortunate they did. Stutzle, who fell in their lap at 3, is now a point a game player in the league. Lafreniere has been a healthy scratch for games in New York and Byfield is still time-sharing with LA’s AHL team.
2. Claude Giroux’s Homesickness
If Claude Giroux’s family hadn’t moved to Ottawa when he was 14, we’d still be saying the Senators never get anyone good in free agency. For most players, Ottawa is far from the league’s most attractive destination and ownership has never had an interest in outspending anybody to win the rights to the top free agent players. But thanks to Giroux’s Ottawa ties and a desire to play and live back home, the Sens were able to not only sign him but did so for a reasonable amount (3 x $6.5 million). He’s been exactly the kind of elite veteran free agent player every rebuild needs. If only there were two or three more of him out there.
1. Montreal Passing Up Brady Tkachuk at the Draft
The Senators were fortunate their future captain was still available at the 2018 NHL Draft. Montreal had the third pick that year and certainly Tkachuk was on their radar. But the Habs so desperately needed a centre, they reached for Jesper Kotkaniemi, who was ranked 6th among European skaters. After a disappointing run in Montreal, Kotkaniemi was signed to an offer sheet with Carolina. He’s just begun an 8 year deal worth almost $39 million to be a bottom six forward for the ‘Canes. The Sens were thrilled to grab Tkachuk at 4th overall. The three-time all-star has emerged as the Sens’ captain, their bull-in-a-china shop leader, and now a point per game player.
So there it is – a list of five examples of good luck in Ottawa. And if the Sens are to going to come back and make the playoffs this season, they’re going to need a lot more where that came from.
By Steve Warne