Each day this week, I will featuring one of the five finalists in the search for the new SensChirp contributor.
I have narrowed the search to five contributions and will be posting the entry from each of the final five over the course of this week. The readers will have a chance to give their feedback at the bottom of the article.
There has been a little more bickering than I hoped for in the comment section but thanks to those of you that have taken the time to provide constructive feedback on the articles. One more to go after today’s. You may notice this one is a little familiar to the topic we saw on Tuesday but I thought it was only fair to include this one too.
A New Beginning
To see where the Sens are headed we should begin with a look at where they’ve come from. The Sens joined the league in 1992, suffering through 4 years of regular season failure. Then in the summer of 1996 a sense of hope for the future began, as the disappointment before our 11 year playoff showcase ended when a strong defence first coach was hired in Jacques Martin. Much like Paul Maclean is being talked about now, Martin was a systems and team first type of coach.
Alfredsson had just completed his Calder Cup winning rookie season, and though Yashin was a prototypical Russian player, he was able to help carry the first line and the team into the playoffs. Daigle, Cunneyworth, Dackell, McEachern helped round out the top 6 along with a still developing Bonk. The back end was being built around the future of Redden, Neckar and York, surrounded by the veteran leadership of Duschesne, Pitlick, Musil and Laukkanen. Denny Lambert, Pitlick and Cunneyworth were in charge of policing and protecting the team in those days.
In the following years the Sens added Phillips, Hossa, Arvedson, Rachunek, Fisher, Neil, Havlat, Volchenkov, and Vermette through the draft, and then in 2001 drafted the final piece of this puzzle in Jason Spezza. From there the Sens reached the playoffs for the next 11 seasons (excluding lockout) winning the division 4 times, reaching the conference finals twice and the lone Stanley Cup finals appearance against a tougher and deeper Ducks team. Pieces like Heatley were added along the way to help change the look/success of the team.
It felt like a journey that never quite reached its final destination, but every fan of the Ottawa Senators knows they enjoyed almost every minute of those 11 years and the experience of seeing how a cup contending team is built.
Fast forward to this summer, and I see a lot of similarities. Alfredsson has moved from the upcoming rookie to the experienced veteran with a bit of scoring left in him, a la McEachern. Jason Spezza has more than replaced Yashin, and to boot has taken his defensive and team game to a new level that Yashin never reached. Butler appears to be in line to take over on the offensive side much in the way Daigle did, without the cherry picking. Gonchar is expected to match the role Duchesne played, and should bounce back to do so this year. Karlsson in his early seasons has already surpassed the offence of Redden, but still has to work on other parts of his game to be better all around. Rundblad may eventually become the better comparison. Phillips adds that veteran element needed along a young defence.
Michalek has the skills to at least match the goals of a young Alfredsson, but is not the playmaker he was. Filatov and Regin can both surpass what Andreas Dackell was to that team, but they may also both fail at ever reaching their potential. Either way they will get chances in the offensive zone. The most interesting comparison I found is Radek Bonk and Nick Foligno. They both struggled but showed immense promise in their first few seasons in the league. Bonk developed into a decent 2C and eventually dropped to 3C and onto other franchises later on in his career, but while in Ottawa he was mostly a hard worker and loyal team player. Anderson is our modern day Tugnutt, and his Ray Emery type replacement is almost ready in Robin Lehner.
In the coming years we hope to have Cowen, Rundblad, Zibanejad, Da Costa, Noesen, Pumpel, Silfverberg, Wiercicoch and others yet to be drafted arrive to help lift the team to further heights in much the same way as Hossa, Havlat et al did.
The current Sens roster may not create fear for the elite contenders, but is definitely following a true and tested path towards joining the elite … a path we have seen and enjoyed before, a path the fans will celebrate and support, a path that leads to glory and victory, a path that has taken our last piece of the previous puzzle, Jason Spezza, and lifted him to the first big piece of the new puzzle.
GO SENS GO!