A look at the Ottawa Senators’ All-Decade team for the 1990s
This is part of a series detailing the all-decade team for every NHL franchise for the 1990s. The all-time teams were compiled using a mix of skill, longevity and statistics; it is not necessarily the best, most memorably or most talented players. Instead, this is the list of players by each position who had the best numbers over a prolonged period (i.e. at least three full seasons between 1990-91 and 1999-00) during the regular season.
Team: Ottawa Senators (1992-93 to 1999-00)
01-346-79, .384 WIN PCT, 1,613 GF, 2,080 GA, -467 Diff, 4/8 Playoff Appearances, 0 Stanley Cups
There is only one way to summarize Ottawa during their first four years in the NHL: they STUNK. They lost 70 games in ’92-93, and then followed that up with 61 the following year. They won just 51 games out of 298 between ’92-93 and ’95-96: their 125 points gave them a paltry win percentage of just 21.0%. Their goal differential was a horrid -546. They improved over the next four seasons (’96-97 to ’99-00), posting 103 points in ’98-99. During that four-year stretch, they had a record of 150-120-56, good for a win percentage of 54.6% and a +79 goal differential. Overall though, their growing pains dragged them down: Ottawa’s win percentage for the decade was 38.4%, ranking 24th out of 26 teams that played at least four seasons during the 1990s. Only San Jose and Tampa Bay were worse. Ottawa’s offense was brutal: they scored just 2.58 goals per game, ranking 25th (ahead of Tampa Bay). Their defense was marginally better, allowing 3.32 goals against per game (ranking 22nd). And their goal differential of -467 also ranked 24th in the NHL. They definitely improved, cutting their goals allowed almost in half from seasons 1-4 (~4.22) through to seasons 5-8 (~2.51). And by the end of the decade, they had set themselves up as a perennial contender. But boy oh boy did they ever STINK early on!
Left Wing: Shawn McEachern (292 GP, 95-91-186, +6, 130 PIM, 14 GWG)
Shawn McEachern was a brilliant acquisition by the Ottawa Senators. At a rather modest cost of Trent McCleary and a 3rd Round Pick, Ottawa gained their true offensive threat on the left wing: a three-time 20-goal scorer who was just entering his prime playing years. He started slowly, posting 11 goals and 31 points with a -5 rating in 65 games during ’96-97. But in each of the next three seasons he averaged 28 goals and 52 points, including a high mark of 31 goals in ’98-99. What’s more, his +/- rating was positive in each season. He also chipped in 25 powerplay goals during that time, and had at least 200 shots on goal for three straight seasons. Of his 95 goals for Ottawa in the 90s, a healthy 15% (14 goals) were game-winners.
Centre: Alexei Yashin (422 GP, 178-225-403, -69, 192 PIM, 21 GWG)
While his departure from Ottawa was overwhelmingly negative, and his contract squabbles were a constant headache for the organization, he was (and arguably still remains) the best pure offensive talent the Senators have ever had. I wouldn’t call him the greatest player in Senators’ history, that honour belongs to Daniel Alfredsson: but Yashin is likely the most talented. Yashin played six seasons for Ottawa during the 1990s, four of them full seasons. During those four, he scored at least 30 goals and 72 points per year, hitting highs of 44 goals and 94 points in ’99-00. Between the lockout and injuries, he played 93 games between ’94-95 and ’95-96, but still scored 36 goals and 83 points. So he was remarkably consistent for the entire decade. His +/- was an ugly -49 in ’93-94, but he improve each season after that by at least +5, going from -20 in ’94-95 to +16 in ’98-99. He was a constant threat in the offensive zone, firing 290 or more shots three times, and scoring 64 powerplay goals. However, his 21 game-winning goals account for just 9% of his total, a fact only partially explained by the early/weak Senators squads he played for. While the relationship between Yashin and the Senators’ (both the team and fanbase) went south, there is no denying he was the team’s first impact player, and an offensive dynamo.
Right Wing: Daniel Alfredsson (328 GP, 99-170-269, +13, 118 PIM, 16 GWG)
While Yashin was arguably more talented, “Alfie” was inarguably the team’s heart-and-soul. He scored an impressive 26 goals and 61 points as a rookie, then added 24 goals and 71 points in ’96-’97. Injuries limited his playing time and slowed his productivity: he played 113 games over the next two years, scoring 28 goals and 78 points. Injuries kept coming in ’99-00, but he still rebounded to score 21 goals and 59 points in 51 games. His +/- was positive four times in five years, he had a fair amount of powerplay goals (33), and hit 200+ shots on net in his two full seasons. He was also clutch, with his 16 game-winning goals representing 16% of his total during the 1990s. And the best was yet to come, as Ottawa fans saw during the 2000s.
Defense: Wade Redden (315 GP, 32-85-117, +24, 171 PIM, 6 GWG)
Wade Redden was a remarkably consistent and talented two-way defenseman for Ottawa. He scored 6-10 goals in each of his four seasons during the 90s, and had 29-36 points three times (the only outlier being 22 points in ’97-98). His +/- was a little up and down, but he was positive three times in four years. He also fired 100+ shots on goal each season, chipping in 2-3 powerplay markers each year. He still remains one of the best defenders in Senators’ history.
Defense: Jason York (306 GP, 19-83-102, +14, 237 PIM, 1 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Steve Duchesne, Norm Maciver
Norm Maciver was a terrific offensive talent; he even led the Senators in scoring in ’92-93. But his +/- was horrendous, and I don’t think he had much of a physical game. Steve Duchesne was the single best acquisition the Senators made in their first decade: he immediately provided Ottawa with a steady veteran presence and tremendous offensive skills. It is no coincidence that Ottawa began making the playoffs after he arrived. However, Ottawa dealt him after just two seasons (for Igor Kravchuk), meaning I can’t include him on the list (players had to have a 3+ season run to qualify). So Jason York gets the nod. York started out so-so for Ottawa, with a 21-point, -8 +/- season in ’96-97. He scored 16 points the next year, but improved to +8. Then he really found his groove: he scored 35 and 30 points respectively over the next two seasons, going +17 in ’98-99 (although he was -3 in ’99-00). He was a responsible defenseman who could chip in offensively, as attested to by his long NHL career.
Goalie: Ron Tugnutt (166 GP, 72-51-25, 13 SO, 2.32 GAA, 0.906 PCT)
Ron Tugnutt was a fan favourite in Ottawa. He had the misfortune of largely playing for poor teams (the Quebec Nordiques and Edmonton Oilers in the early 90s, the freshly-created Anaheim Mighty Ducks), but always managed to prove he was an NHL-calibre netminder. He arrived in Ottawa and split the goaltending duties with Damien Rhodes for three seasons, but Tugnutt’s stats stood out more than Rhodes’. Tugnutt was .500 or better in each of his four seasons, he twice posted a save percentage above .900 (with a high of .925 in ’98-99), and his GAA was 2.25 or better twice (including 1.79 in ’98-99). He also added 3-4 shutouts a year.