• By: OLM Staff

Senate Reform, Part VIII: Top 20 Players (10-1)

In honour of the Ottawa Senators’ 20th anniversary season, we took a look at the 20th through 11th greatest Ottawa Senators players of all time. Here are the top 10.

10. Zdeno Chara

While the number 10 slot may seem slightly too low for a player currently sitting among the ranks of the NHL’s top two or three defensemen, the reality is that Chara didn’t establish himself as a consistently elite blue-liner until he signed with the Boston Bruins in 2006. A 2nd-round pick in 1996 of the New York Islanders, Chara was unimpressive during his four seasons on Long Island, which made him expendable in the Alexei Yashin deal in 2001. He instantly emerged as an offensive and defensive force for the Senators, earning a Norris Trophy nomination in 2004. Had general manager John Muckler chosen to retain him after the 2006 season, Chara would be several spots higher, but he’s hamstrung by having played just four seasons in Ottawa.

9. Dany Heatley
8. Alexei Yashin

These two players will be forever linked in Ottawa Senators lore, not for their considerable individual accomplishments as members of the team, but for their disloyal and profoundly selfish exits from the nation’s capital. One reached the 50-goal plateau twice in four seasons, terrorizing opposing defenders as the triggerman on the league’s most dominating line, while the other racked up 491 points in 504 games, serving as a key building block as the Sens transformed from a middling expansion team to a division champion. Of course, the 50-goal man will be remembered for forcing his way out of town following his demotion from the first power-play unit (but not before vetoing a deal to Edmonton and collecting a $4 million bonus from Eugene Melnyk), while the latter forward refused to honour his contract, sat out a year and was eventually traded for two top-10 players on this list. Still, any breakdown of the top 20 Ottawa Senators of all time would be incomplete without them.

7. Chris Neil

Pound-for-pound, Neil is the toughest Ottawa Senator of all-time, by any estimation. Undersized for a pugilist, he’s amassed at least 146 penalty minutes in each of his nine NHL seasons, never backing down from a physical confrontation while still playing within the rules (for all the guff he’s received for his supposed dirty play, he’s never been suspended). He’s shown flashes of offensive prowess, potting 16 goals in 2005-06 as the stationary force in front of the net on the power play. The new honorary chair of Roger’s House, it speaks volumes about Neil’s place in the organization that he endured the fire sale at the 2011 trade deadline while other respected veterans were dealt away. It’s unclear what the future holds for him in Ottawa, but his years of service as a devoted foot soldier make him one of the greatest modern Senators.

6. Mike Fisher

Alongside his best friend, Neil, the widespread fan favourite among the role players. Fisher was in over his head for most of his tenure as Ottawa’s second-line centre; while he usually put up respectable point totals, the cries for increased secondary scoring behind the Sens’ top line were often directed squarely at him. Regardless, Fisher succeeded because of his tireless work ethic and his fondness for gritty play, and his charitable efforts and connections with fans off the ice certainly didn’t hurt. His sizable contract precipitated his departure this past February, but his contributions to the Senators franchise won’t be forgotten anytime soon – especially if Stefan Noesen turns into a stud.

5. Marian Hossa

Ottawa Sun hockey scribe Chris Stevenson welcomed Hossa to the organization in 1997 by deriding the Sens for selecting him with the 12th overall pick, claiming they should have chosen Ottawa 67s forward Matt Zultek. While both players would win the Memorial Cup within the next two years, Zultek played just 34 games in the AHL and currently stars for the Mississippi Surge of the Southern Professional Hockey League, while Hossa has tallied 827 career NHL points (390 for Ottawa). Stevenson’s scouting acumen notwithstanding, Hossa was the leading regular-season and playoff scorer on the 2002-03 Senators team that reached the Eastern Conference finals, tallying at least 66 points in four of his six seasons in Ottawa. Today, he’s better known for finally winning the Stanley Cup in his third straight Finals appearance (with three different teams), but Sens fans will fondly recall the combination of grace and power that made him the most dangerous offensive player on a series of stacked Ottawa teams.

4. Wade Redden

Much like Patrick Lalime, Redden’s struggles after he left Ottawa have damaged his reputation in the eyes of the hockey world. Muckler’s regrettable decision to re-sign Redden instead of Chara in 2006 has been magnified by the six-year contract Redden signed with the New York Rangers two years later, and his demotion to the AHL this past season. It’s unfortunate that his sudden decline has overshadowed the 11 terrific seasons he enjoyed in Ottawa, breaking out as one of the NHL’s premier offensive defensemen and establishing a formidable blue-line core alongside Chara and the next man on this list. Redden’s puck-moving skills were matched by his contributions to the community; an assistant captain for nine years, he also played in two NHL All-Star Games.

3. Chris Phillips

Two consecutive 40-point seasons in the WHL had hockey pundits salivating over Phillips’ potential as a top two-way defenseman. His offensive game never translated to the NHL, but the 1st overall pick in 1996 has been an absolute rock on Ottawa’s blue-line for 13 seasons. An abnormally unlucky 2010-11 campaign had Sens fans calling for Phillips to be included among the veterans shipped out of town, but Bryan Murray chose to instead reward him with a three-year extension, which will allow him to mentor the influx of young blue-liners set to arrive in Ottawa. He’s the consummate stay-at-home defenseman, a career assistant captain that never complains, rarely smiles and exists to stymie opposing forwards. He may be the most unheralded Senator of all time, but he also has to crack the top three.

2. Jason Spezza

From shuttling between four junior teams to the 2nd overall pick in 2001, from an instant playoff hero as a rookie to the AHL MVP during the lockout, from Jacques Martin’s doghouse to the playmaker on hockey’s most dangerous line, from the Stanley Cup Finals to the depths of the NHL, from a purely offensive enigma to the leader of the franchise, Jason Spezza has finally arrived. He scores at a point-per-game clip and has rounded into a mainstay in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. He’s playing the best hockey of his life and has earned the complete trust of his coaches and teammates. After eight up-and-down, wildly successful and profoundly disappointing seasons, the team is his to lead. The Ottawa Senators are in good hands.

1. Daniel Alfredsson

No explanation needed. Although this sums it up nicely.