The Starting Six series comes to you to dive into the best player at each position all-time for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments in franchise history. Here is the Ottawa Senators all-time lineup.
Starting Six: Ottawa Senators All-Time Lineup
In the short time the Ottawa Senators have been a part of the National Hockey League, they have achieved a modicum of success. They have made a Stanley Cup Final appearance, won the President’s Trophy, and three times competed in the Eastern Conference Final. The majority of that success came halfway through the team’s tenure in the league. It was a time when the New Jersey Devils were force in the league, the Toronto Maple Leafs competed in the post-season, and the Senators were one of the most dominant offensive teams the NHL had to offer.
Since then their prowess has faded, but mention any of the following players to a fan of the Ottawa Senators, and watch as they are whisked back to happier times.
Centre: Jason Spezza (2001-2014)
Drafted second overall in the 2001 NHL entry draft Jason Spezza played 686 games for the Senators over the course of 11 seasons. He was one of the most productive Senators in franchise history. He sits second in goals (game-winning, powerplay, and even-strength) assists, and points; all behind Daniel Alfredsson. He also sits second in points-per-game, and leads the franchise in assists per-game.
Despite this on-ice success, Spezza was a lightning rod for criticism during his time with the Senators. The image of the smooth-skating number 19 carrying the puck out of his own zone, deftly through the neutral-zone, only to attempt a failed drop-pass once he gained the opposition’s blue-line haunts the nightmares of Sens fans. But it was his ability to create, to attempt those drop passes, and to connect on impossible cross-ice saucer passes that made him so effective. In a franchise graced by skaters who became larger-than-life, Jason Spezza was quietly effective; the perfect franchise centre for the team’s most successful years, and one of the few bright-spots as they transitioned into a new guard. And he did it all while scoring nearly one point-per-game.
Right Wing: Daniel Alfredsson (1995-2013)
Like Bobby Orr, or Martin Brodeur, Daniel Alfredsson is one of the few players who has become synonymous with a franchise. The tenured Swede spent nearly his entire career with Ottawa, before signing a one-day contract to retire a Senator. His number 11 is the only jersey that hangs from the rafters of the Canadian Tire Centre, and with good reason. The franchise leader in nearly every category, he leads the way in goals (even-strength, powerplay, short-handed, game-winning), assists, points, hat-tricks, shots, and mock stick-throws.
The captain for 14 seasons, Alfredsson led the Senators through their greatest moments. In 2005-06 he achieved his best season, leading the team in scoring with 103 points. The total was joint-first with Dany Heatley, and 13 better than Spezza. Together the trio formed an iconic offensive threat that came to be known as the “Pizza Line.” At the time the Senators ran a promotion, each time the team scored six or more goals fans could redeem their tickets for a free slice of pizza at Pizza Pizza. Together the trio achieved the feat so often the promotion had to be cancelled.
Alfredsson was a six-time all-star, a Calder Trophy winner, and a the winner of both the King Clancy Memorial trophy, and the Mark Messier Leadership award. He was also a revered member of the community. On the ice he was a coach’s dream. An offensive threat, who was defensively sound. Alfredsson drove possession, and even in his twilight years he improved nearly every teammate he played with. Although there are arguably more talented players that comprise the Sens starting six, there has never been a better Senator.
Left Wing: Dany Heatley (2005-2009)
For some in Senators fandom this choice will seem surprising. Heatley did not leave Ottawa on good terms, and he didn’t do a great job of endearing himself to the fans when he was a member of the team. His off antics were well documented, and there were enough allegations to surmise the feelings inside the locker room mirrored those outside of it. Despite this, Heatley was a prominent member of the Senators most dominant teams, and #50in07 is a feat that Sens fans won’t soon forget.
The number 15 became synonymous will goal-scoring prowess, particularly on the powerplay. There he scored 68 of his 180 goals as a Senator; a tally that leaves him fifth among franchise skaters in all situations, and fourth on the man advantage. They’re impressive totals considering Heatley played just 317 games in the red and white; yet they remain unsurprising when you consider his 362 points. That equates to 1.14 points-per-game, the highest in franchise history. Only in his last season with the team did Heatley dip below one point-per-game, still managing 72 points over the course of the full 2008-09 season.
In his short time with the Senators Dany Heatley set a number of club records. He recorded the most goals in season: 50 (twice), the most points in a season (105), the most points in a single post-season (22), and his 22 game point-scoring streak is the longest in franchise history. While he was a member of the Senators, Dany Heatley was nothing if not effective.
Defenceman: Zdeno Chara (2001-2006)
There are only two players in Ottawa Senators history who have left the team and experienced immense success elsewhere. They are Marian Hossa, and Zdeno Chara. Hossa was an unfortunate loss in the trade for Dany Heatley, but the return made that slightly more palatable. The loss of Zdeno Chara, was harder to stomach. Pressed tight against the cap, the Senators had a difficul decision to make following the 2005-06 season. They had to choose to re-sign one of their top two defencemen: Zdeno Chara, or Wade Redden. Sensing a move towards a faster league, the team chose Redden, and in doing so, the franchise lost one of the best defencemen to don the jersey. Chara went on to become an elite blueliner, and the mould for defensive defencemen, but even during his time with the Senators the signs were there.
Chara was a stabilizing force to the Senators backline, and his mere presence acted as a physical deterrent. Rarely did the 6’9, 250 lbs giant feel the need to fight, but when he did it was a spectacle. Perhaps more impressive is that it always felt as though he was holding back.
Chara was more than just an enforcer, or a stay at home defender. He averaged roughly 40 points per season with the Senators and was adding to the offense just as much as his defensive partner, Redden. The signs were there that Chara would be able to compete in the new NHL, no matter how it panned out, but unfortunately the Senators either dismissed them, or didn’t notice. Regardless, the results were plain to see. One can’t help but wonder what would have happened in 2007 if the sizeable Czech had been roving the blueline; a physical match for Chris Pronger.
Defenceman: Erik Karlsson (2009-Present)
Without argument Erik Karlsson is the best player in Senators history – apologies to Dominik Hasek, but that part of his career was over during his tenure with the Senators – and it would be impossible not to include him in the team’s starting six. The fleet-of-foot Swede is already the franchise leader for assists, goals, and points by a defenceman. Among all skaters he ranks fourth in points (456), third in assists (339), and ninth in goals scored (117); all of which he has accomplished in just 556 games. Add to that fact that the majority of these games were played after his Achilles heel was nearly completely severed by the skate of Matt Cooke.
Karlsson has been the NHL’s best defenceman since joining the league, and his Norris Trophies in both 2011-12, and 2014-15 only cement that fact. This past post-season Karlsson captured the hearts and imaginations of fans across the NHL with his dynamic range of passing.
And he did it all while playing on a fractured foot. Since joining the league Karlsson leads all defencemen in scoring, and it’s not even close. Despite playing 10 less games than second place Brent Burns (who spent time as a forward), and two less than third place Dustin Byfuglien (who also spent time as a forward), Karlsson has outscored Byfuglien by a whopping 90 points, and Burns by a dizzying 68 points. His 0.87 points-per-game are 0.07 better than second place Kris Letang; who unlike Karlsson, gets the benefit of playing with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. No matter how you break it down, Erik Karlsson has been the best the league has to offer on the blueline and his mark on the Sens is undeniable.
Goaltender: Craig Anderson (2010-2017)
If there is a single position that has plagued the Senators since their conception, it’s goaltending. When Patrick “Five-Hole” Lalime is one of the best in franchise history, it’s a bleak outlook. Thankfully, after years of instability, the Senators finally found a long-term solution, in the most unlikely of places. Late in the 2010-2011 season the Senators acquired Craig Anderson from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Brian Elliott. Anderson had struggled with the Av’s losing his starting role to Peter Budaj, and posting a miserable 13-15-3 record with the team (it wasn’t entirely his fault, but he didn’t help matters either).
Apparently a change of scenery was all that it took. Anderson made his presence known from the moment he joined the Senators organization. He reeled off an 11-5-1 record in the final 18 games of the season, and averaged a .939 save-percentage. Since then Andy, as he colloquially became known, has accrued the most wins by a goaltender in franchise history (151), faced the most shots, made the most saves, and holds the highest save-percentage (.920). His 59 goals saved above average are miles better than anyone else in franchise history, and his 24 shutouts leave him just six behind the club record set by Patrick Lalime. With nearly 17000 minutes in the red and white, Anderson has provided the stability, and quality, the Senators so desperately searched for.
Honourable Mentions: Chris Phillips, Dominik Hasek
The franchise leader in games played, and the Sens only successful first overall pick, Chris Phillips is one of the most iconic Senators defencemen. For 16 seasons Phillips served the Senators, and was a crucial part of their top four. However, Phillips was never a true number-one defenceman, or considered among the league’s best. Although he was a very good player for the Senators he wasn’t their best.
Dominik Hasek is the greatest goaltender to grace NHL ice. He is also arguably the best goaltender to man the Senators crease. In his lone season with the organization Hasek posted a .925 save-percentage, and a 28-10-4 record. Ultimately he played just 43 games for the Sens before losing his season to injury. He played an important role in one of the team’s best season but ultimately he wasn’t a member of the Senators long enough to justify his inclusion in their starting six.
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