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The Bizarro World Senators: Looking at 20 Seasons Worth of Ottawa Senators ‘What Ifs…?”

 

Thanks to the number of days that were sandwiched between this past Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks and tonight’s affair against Sidney Crosby and those other 22 stiffs that comprise the Pittsburgh Penguins, like Alex Burrows opening up the bench door in an attempt to embarrass or harm Jesse Winchester, I’m able to get away with things. In this case, I’m going break away from the norm and focus on writing something other than: the current state of the roster; potential trade scenarios; lineup combinations; player ice-times; Mikhail Grigorenko topping ISS’ 2012 draft rankings; Nikita Filatov putting up six points in his last two games in Bingo; or piecemealing together a post based loosely off tweets of Senators beat writers.

So here it is, hopefully the first of a handful of posts that will bridge the Sens 20 motif and spur some discussion and debate.

Here is my list of the 20 Biggest ‘What If’ Scenarios in Senators history…

20) What if that January 6th, 1994 trade of Bob Kudelski to the Florida Panthers for the underwhelming package of Scott Levins, Evgeny Davydov, a 6th round pick in 1994 and a 4th round pick in 1995 never happened?

Like the first American Pie movie today, the Bob Kudelski trade is something that we can look back on now and say things like, “This… used to be edgy at the time,” or “I wonder what the hell ever happened to that person.”

Suffice it to say, in the 83 NHL games that Kudelski followed him time in Ottawa with the trap-happy Panthers, he only scored 22 goals and no one ever looked at him the same way. On the day that he was dealt however, it was Ottawa’s first blockbuster trade and in consequence, it was an awakening of sorts.

While the rest of the world was shedding tears over the clubbing of Nancy Kerrigan’s knee that day, I had been handed a sobering first lesson in professional sports fandom. For the first time in my life, blind naivety was slowly being replaced by cynicism – that perhaps, my favorite professional sports team wasn’t necessarily exercising its best asset management strategies.

I can remember when news of the trade broke; I immediately picked up the Ottawa Citizen’s one-page spread that detailed every NHL team’s statistics. Having vaguely heard of Evgeny Davydov but not Scott Levins, I had to know what these players were capable of. Since the Senators had dealt its first line right-winger who was on pace for 50-plus goals, I assumed that the return would be substantial or that Ottawa had acquired some young players who could augment franchise building blocks like Alexandre Daigle or Alexei Yashin. Suffice it to say, neither Davydov nor Levins were with the organization long. By today’s standards, it’d be akin to trading Milan Michalek to the Nashville Predators for Niclas Bergfors and Jerred Smithson. What Florida got away with was criminal.

Making matters worse, seeing Kudelski suit up for the Panthers in the 1994 All-Star Game was the ultimate kick in the balls. (You would think that seeing Peter Sidorkiewicz and Brad Marsh in the 1993 All-Star Game would have desensitized me to this kind of thing. It didn’t. I can’t explain why.)

While I’ve spent my fair share of time wondering what other offers could have been fetched, I suppose I should be grateful for what Ottawa did receive. From the ashes of this trade, the armchair GM in me was born.

19) What if Martin Straka was never included as a throw-in as part of the three-way trade?

When Pierre Gauthier left his Assistant GM position to become the GM of the Ottawa Senators in December of 1995, he quickly put his stamp on the team by replacing head coach Dave ‘Sparky’ Allison with Jacques Martin and mending the relationship with Alexei Yashin – effectively ending his 36-game holdout by inking the bastard center to a 5-year contract worth close to $3 million per season.

Gauthier wasn’t done however. One month later, he was involved in a massive three-way contract that shipped Bryan Berard — their disgruntled first overall selection from the 1995 NHL Entry Draft who vowed never to play for the Senators – and Martin Straka. Here’s a breakdown of the deal:

  • To Toronto: Don Beaupre and Kirk Muller
  • To the New York Islanders: Straka, Bryan Berard and Ken Belanger
  • To Ottawa: Damian Rhodes and Wade Redden

To Gauthier’s credit, Redden went on to become one of the best defencemen to lace ‘em up in Ottawa. More importantly, Wade’s first pass will live on in infamy alongside Chris Kelly’s hockey IQ as one of the most over-celebrated hockey traits to ever grace the nation’s capital.

Nevertheless, the loss of Straka was entirely avoidable and the fact that this trade wasn’t an outright fleecing of Milbury, is a little bit disconcerting. After 43 games in which he scored 9 goals and 16 assists, Straka totaled 2 goals and 10 assists on the Island before being exposed to waivers thanks tothe cerebral shoe assassin known as Mike Milbury. If Straka was to be considered a lynchpin in any deal, he never would have been exposed to waivers in the first place. (Mind you, patience was never one of Milbury’s virtues.)

When we had former Senators GM Randy Sexton on our podcast, one of his transactions that he was most proud of was the acquisition of Straka from Pittsburgh for Norm MacIver and Troy Murray. For a team like Ottawa that needed an infusion of youth, speed and skill, he was a great addition. Unfortunately, thanks to the success of the trap and the NHL’s blind eye to the inordinate amount of obstruction that pervaded the game, Straka didn’t resemble the prototypical two-way player that Jacques Martin player preferred.

It’s a shame that the organization missed out on the better part of a career in which he played 747 games, scored 210 goals and 594 points after moving on from Ottawa. Fortunately, it’s a good thing that it’s so rare to prematurely dismiss talented European forwards…

18) What if the organization didn’t trade Pavol Demitra for Christer Olsson?

When the late Pavol Demitra made his North American professional hockey debut in 1993 with the AHL’s PEI Senators, no one could have surmised that his offensive prowess would translate at the NHL level or that within two seasons of the trade, he would be a NHL All-Star. Obviously that 150 game AHL sample size in which he totaled 196 points or the fact that he scored at a point-per-game clip as a 19-year old was very pedestrian.

While not quite as ample, in parts of three seasons with the Senators, Demitra’s tallied 12 goals and 26 points in 59 games. In the wake of his tragic death, the Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren, told one of my favorite Demitra stories

In his first two seasons, he played only 28 NHL games, becoming increasingly frustrated at not receiving a legitimate shot. According to legend, the left-winger scored on 10 straight shootout attempts at the end of practice in Charlottetown, then skated to centre ice, stripped off a healthy share of his equipment, raised his arms and yelled, “What am I doing here?” It was a good question.

In retrospect, it’s a shame to think that Rick Bownass, and in later years ‘Big Ears’, didn’t appreciate his offensive prowess. On a talent starved team, it is incredulous to think the Sens thought so little of him they refused to give him a one-way contract because they did not want to guarantee him a NHL salary – preferring instead to let him hold out for the entire season before giving him away for a then 26-year old Swedish defenceman who had only 31 games of NHL experience under his belt.

It was just an inexplicable decision at the time that became exponentially worse as Demitra went on to score 292 goals and 742 points in 788 games after leaving Ottawa.

For as well as Alexei Yashin produced playing on the Ministry of Offence line with the likes of Shawn McEachern and Andreas Dackell, it’s infinitely more fun to imagine what he could have done with the likes of Demitra on his line. Although it’s fair to assume that he eventually would have priced himself off of this small market team, in the interim, he could have helped curb some of the offensive struggles that this team exhibited in the playoffs while acting as a mentor for young forwards like Marian Hossa and Martin Havlat.

17) What if Bryan Murray doesn’t pull the trigger on the Brian Elliott for Craig Anderson trade?

On February 18th, 2011, the Ottawa Senators had a record of 18-31-9 for 45 points – one point ahead of the 30th ranked Edmonton Oilers. After that night’s 4-2 loss to the Bruins, the organization had only won once in its last 14 games. It was a streak of ineptitude that the organization hadn’t seen since the days when ‘Sparky’ Allison was behind the bench.

For the first time since Chris Phillips was drafted in 1996, the organization had a very realistic opportunity to bottom out and wind up with the first overall draft selection. Instead, thanks to Craig Anderson  (11-5-1, 2.05 GAA and a .939 SV%) and an infusion of youth into the lineup that helped remove some of the complacency that had set in, the organization reeled off a seemingly improbable 14-9-1 run that eventually pushed the team into the 26th overall position. Barring a blockbuster trade, this short-term success cost the team any possibility of obtaining the first overall selection and in the worst-case scenario, the 23rd ranked New Jersey Devils won the Draft Lottery and bumped the Senators to the sixth overall draft selection.

From the outset, the organization publically espoused the sentiment that it had targeted Mika Zibanejad all along, HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Murray tried to snare a second high pick to grab Jonathan Huberdeau, but couldn’t.

Had Murray stood pat and allowed the chips to fall, perhaps they could have finished with a bottom three pick. With that pick secured, it might have been easier for the organization to parlay the rest of its quantity for a later top ten pick. It remains to be seen how the consequences of the 2011 Draft will pan out. Zibanejad could very well end up being a savvy selection for the Senators but we’re probably years away from finding out. Meanwhile, we’ll have to avoid the distraction of watching Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (19 GP, 7G, 12A) produce at a point-per-game clip and Gabriel Landeskog (20GP, 5G, 5A) looking very comfortable and well-adjusted to life in the NHL.

Conversely, Anderson’s numbers have plummeted this season. While he shouldn’t bear the entire responsibility for his suffering numbers (9-6-0, 3.25 GAA and a .895 SV%), his level of play could be markedly better. Mind you, goaltending statistics are so volatile on a year-to-year basis that there’s still no real cause for concern to think that the four-year extension that he signed at the end of the 2010-11 season will be problematic down the road.

On the other side of the coin, there is something to be said about the level of confidence and trust that Anderson’s steadying presence imparted on his teammates who played in front of him. Without him, maybe some of the team’s younger players take longer to develop or maybe some of its veteran players fail to recoup whatever trade value that they now have – potentially costing the Senators better future assets that could outweigh the difference between the talent levels of a Nugent-Hopkins to a Zibanejad.

16) What if Wade Redden Waived his NTC?

Towards the latter stages of the 2007-08 season, the Senators were mired in a second half slump that had already cost head coach John Paddock his job. Although Ottawa remained in the playoff picture, it had appeared as though complacency had set in on the roster and that it was in a dire need of a shake-up.

According to TSN at the time, general manager Bryan Murray had been approached by the San Jose Sharks about the possibility of acquiring impending UFA defenceman Wade Redden. In this same article, it said that Murray had met with Redden about the possibility of waiving his no-trade clause.

“I told him there was outside interest and asked if he wanted to discuss it. He did not.”

Now, considering Redden had spent his entire professional playing career with the Senators, it strikes me as odd that Murray would even approach the defenceman about the prospect of waiving his NTC unless there was a solid offer on the table that Murray wanted to accept.

From what I had been told by a source at the time, there was a three-way deal on the table that would have seen then perennial playoff underachiever Patrick Marleau go to Philadelphia, Wade Redden go to San Jose and Jeff Carter come to Ottawa.

Unfortunately for the Senators, despite ignoring the likelihood that he wasn’t going to be re-signed in the offseason, Redden preferred to stay comfortable in Ottawa than play for a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in San Jose. As a result, like Zdeno Chara before him, Redden left as a free agent without bringing back any compensation for the Senators.

Thanks to Redden’s refusal to waive his NTC, the organization had to go to other lengths to shake up the core without moving any of its core players. So on February 11th, the organization announced that it had acquired Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore from the Carolina Hurricanes for Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves. While Stillman provided some much needed secondary scoring (24 GP, 3G, 19 points), Commodore’s play (26 GP, 2 points, -9) looked disjointed and had fans yearning for the days of Brian Glynn. The play that garnered him a playoff warrior reputation, thanks to lengthy runs in Calgary (2004) and Carolina (2006), just never materialized here in the nation’s capital. For whatever reason *cough*cough** goaltending *cough*cough*, these two former Hurricanes couldn’t help the Senators overcome their difficulties and not surprisingly, Ottawa was swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoff Quarterfinals.

It makes one wonder what could have happened had the aforementioned Carter/Redden/Marleau trade scenario come to fruition. While it certainly would have netted the Senators a young and promising center to insulate Jason Spezza and given the organization some roster flexibility, Carter (along with many of Philadelphia’s other young players) had developed a reputation for his ‘alleged’ partying ways. Considering that Senators management had acknowledged similar speculation about a few of its players, who knows whether Carter would have been a positive influence and good fit on this team?

15) What if the arbitrator ruled in favor of Alexei Yashin?

On the heels of the 1998-99 season in which he registered 44 goals and 50 assists in 82 games and finished as a runner up in the NHL’s Hart Trophy voting process, Alexei Yashin demanded that his contract be renegotiated. Fed up with his antics, when the organization refused to renegotiate his contract; demanding that he fulfill the final year of his five-year deal, at the advice of his agent, Mark Gandler, Yashin formally requested a trade. When that demand wasn’t met, Yashin’s camp decided that it would be best if he created some leverage for himself by holding out for the third time in five seasons.

To their credit, the Senators stuck to their guns and were rewarded for their stance when the IIHF rendered a decision that respected his NHL contract with the Senators thereby barring him from signing another professional contract until the terms of his deal with Ottawa were fulfilled. More importantly, after holding out for the entire duration of the 1999-00 season, Yashin’s representation believed that the 5-year date of his contract had expired and as such, he should be considered a Group II Free Agent.

For the first time in his client’s career, it was a miscalculation by Gandler. Eventually, a Boston-based arbitrator ruled that “[The player] cannot now choose not to perform the remainder of his contract while at the same time claiming entitlement to the additional benefit of free agency.”

When an Ontario Court judge threw out Yashin’s attempt to have the arbitrator’s ruling overturned, the Russian center was resigned to play out the final year of his contract with the Senators.

So had the arbitrator or Ontario Court ruled that Yashin’s contract had expired, what would the consequences have been?

According the old NHL CBA, as a Group II FA, Yashin still would have been a restricted free agent. However, for a fiscally conscious small-market team like the Senators, they would not have been able to afford their former captain and would have been forced into a trade. Rather than trade him one year later to the Islanders for Zdeno Chara, the second overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and Bill Muckalt, Ottawa likely would have had to deal him for a package involving a 2000 1st round pick instead. Take a look at the prospective draft picks from that class. It was slim pickings. Would the Islanders still have made a prospective trade partner? Probably not, they seemed hell bent on moving earth and water to acquire Rick DiPietro. Without that Spezza, Chara and Muckalt return, the Senators would have been robbed of a franchise defenceman, a number one center and the butt of many jokes.

What the Yashin arbitration ruling proved is that timing, circumstance and luck are key factors in any franchise’s sustained success.

14) What if Bryan Murray aggressively rebuilt the organization follow the team’s ’07 Cup Run?

Long before Erik Karlsson became a household name in Ottawa and Christina Aguilera looked like she could fit inside a bottle, the Senators organization was busy following conventional hockey wisdom by locking up the core of a roster that had just gone to the franchise’s first Cup Final in modern history.

In a piece that I wrote for SenatorsExtra.com, I described the Senators’ situation:

When Bryan Murray took over the GM reins, he not only inherited a Stanley Cup Finalist, he inherited a team that was inherently flawed. After years of poor drafting and neglecting the depth on the farm, a few bad personnel moves compounded the problem and the Senators’ window of opportunity had closed. We just didn’t know it at the time.

Following the 2007 Cup Finals, fans naively expected a perennial contender. But without any young talent that was ready to crack the lineup, management was forced to re-sign its core because there were no other in-house alternatives.

Even though it’s not really problematic to sign one’s elite talent to long-term deals, it’s counter-intuitive to sign replaceable veterans to inflated, long-term deals making them completely untradeable in the process. Without young, NHL-ready talent, Ottawa’s veterans could print their own tickets and bleeding heart fans applauded the moves because they’d hate to see one of their own home-grown guys leave.

Whether or not you want to blame the novelty of the salary cap for compounding Ottawa’s approach, what we’ve seen in recent years is an original development that has caused teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers to move on from their Cup Finals appearances. Instead, they opted to aggressively and deftly alter their rosters by selling high on a number of players who had played significant roles in their team’s success. Gone were players like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Antti Niemi and Andrew Ladd. In their place, a bounty of draft picks and prospects designed to replace or augment the team’s core.

In the ‘new NHL’, we’ve learned a valuable lesson: with the cap system that’s in place, the margin of error for misidentifying the core and overpaying to keep it is ever so slight. Rather than trade players or let potential free agents hit the market, teams panic and lock good but not great players to long-term and expensive deals because they’re afraid of losing them for nothing. Call it the Mikko Koivu rule. ($6.75M per annum for seven seasons? Savvy!)

Rather than risk losing a few of his team’s best players to free agency, like Buffalo did in 2006 with Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, Bryan Murray inked Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher to lengthy and laden deals. They weren’t alone. Eventually, players like Chris Neil, Ray Emery, Chris Kelly and Antoine signed extensions of their own. At the end of the day, there was this undying loyalty within the organization. It felt compelled to afford these same players every opportunity to turn this ship around.)

Unfortunately, when these same players were given market value and in some cases, 100-percent raises in salary, their production never experienced proportional growth. When you’re paying twice as much for similar levels of production, it goes without saying that it becomes exponentially more difficult to surround these same players with more talented players.

So what if Murray flipped some of these players while their value was high?

Obviously moving Emery would have made sense at the time. Having just taken his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, he was a young goaltender with inflated worth. Coupled with his off-the-ice issues and immaturity, it was not as though the reasons behind his inevitable departure were unforeseen.

As for the others, it’s difficult to say. Perhaps the organization could have moved them for futures or gambled on young players with upside who hadn’t fulfilled their potential yet. Or management could have tried to replace their production with cheaper alternatives via trade or free agency. Would it have put the Senators any further than they are now?

Maybe not, however, it’s certainly good fodder for discussion.

13) What if John Muckler held onto Martin Havlat instead of trading him during the summer of ’06?

Dominik Hasek wasn’t the only Czech born player to leave the Senators during the 2006 offseason. As a 25-year old restricted free agent who refused to sign anything more than a one year contract so that he could hit the unrestricted free agent market the following offseason, Martin Havlat put John Muckler in an interesting predicament – leaving the GM with three options:

  1. He could overlook the oft-injured winger’s track record and deem that he’s too skilled to worry about his fragility. It’s a risky option but one that keeps him in the fold for years to come.
  2. He could re-sign Havlat to a one-year extension and hope that he rebounds from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss 58 games during the 2005-2006 season. With any luck, he either gives the team a better chance to succeed or he improves his trade value from what it is in the offseason and he fetches a package that bolsters the roster for a playoff run.
  3. Or finally, he could look at Havlat’s injury history, deem it’s not worthy of starting the year with him and sells him off while his value is at its lowest point.

Guess which one Muckler chose?

Yes, on July 9th, Muckler traded Havlat in this complicated three-way trade:

  • To Ottawa: defenceman Tom Preissing, prospects Michal Barinka and Josh Hennessy and a 2nd round pick (turned out to be Patrick Wiercioch)
  • To Chicago: Bryan Smolinksi and Havlat
  • To  San Jose: Mark Bell

While the attempt to restock a barren farm system with future assets was noble, the Senators swung and missed on Barinka and Hennessy. More importantly, the one NHL-ready player that the Senators did acquire, Tom Preissing, was a bottom pairing defenceman who, like Havlat, was scheduled to hit UFA the following summer.

Does that trade make any sense at the time?

Absolutely not! It looked just as bad then as it does now.

12) Following their disappointing 2006 playoff performance, what if the Senators dealt for Roberto Luongo?

According to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, prior to the Vancouver Canucks trading for the Florida netminder, the Senators had expressed interest in acquiring the goaltender.

The indications were, however, that it would have cost the Senators a package deal of Martin Havlat, Chris Phillips, Ray Emery and their No. 1 pick to get Luongo. 

With the added benefit of hindsight and a first-hand knowledge of the players included in Ottawa’s package, how the hell does then Florida coach Jacques Martin not convince GM Mike Keenan to jump all over their offer instead of the Alex Auld, Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan Allen monstrosity of a package that they did take? (Note: It’s too bad Shaun Van Allen retired two years earlier. The inclusion of this Martin favorite could have been the difference maker.)

Based on NHL history, I suppose that the only way to acquire Roberto Luongo is to offer the hockey equivalent of excrement.

For humor’s sake, what would have happened had Florida GM Jacques Martin taken Ottawa’s offer?

While Patrick Wiercioch isn’t developing as quickly as some may want, he’s the saving grace and only part remaining from John Muckler’s deal that basically gave Havlat away.

Chris Phillips? I could have lived with this. It likely would have meant the organization would have made a more concerted effort to retain Anton Volchenkov.

Ray Emery?  Like Havlat, he left the organization with nothing to show for it. Actually, that’s not true. For the past few years, there’s been a $500k buyout to show for it.

That 2006 1st rounder? It turned out to be Nick Foligno. Without him, we would have been spared from the inordinate number of opportunities that he’s been given on the second line. We also would have been spared from the unintentional comedy that came from his appearance as the weatherman on last night’s CTV News.

But where would Vancouver be without Luongo?

Well, they’d be without a few things: a Stanley Cup; a Cory Schneider goaltending controversy; and one ridiculous contract that concludes in 2022.

11) What if Patrick Lalime stops those two Joe Nieuwendyk shots?

Admittedly, I struggled with whether or not to include this performance or Ron Tugnutt’s handling of Derek Plante’s two goals in game seven of the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

While the finality of that Plante overtime goal was heart wrenching, Ottawa was only in its first of eleven consecutive playoff appearances. Conversely, by 2004 the Senators were trying to knock off the Maple Leafs for the first time in four attempts since 2000.

With the Leafs already up 1-0 midway through the first, this happened:

Like the Plante goals, the two goals that Patrick Lalime let in on April 20th, 2004, were devastating but they also had a far reaching effect on the franchise itself. They not only cemented the end of the Lalime era in Ottawa, it was also the end of the line for head coach Jacques Martin.

Had Lalime stopped those shots and the Senators gone on to win that game; there stands good reason to believe that both Lalime and Martin would have been brought back for having finally exercised their demons. Without ‘Big Ears’, Bryan Murray is never hired by the Senators and that power struggle following the 2007 Cup Finals appearance never happens. In consequence, John Muckler probably finishes the final year of his contract before retiring from the game itself.

Without Martin in Florida, that Roberto Luongo trade with Vancouver likely isn’t made and the odds that he ever winds up in Montreal are reduced significantly. In consequence, assistant head coach Perry Pearn’s probably doesn’t get scapegoated and fired in a stittacular fashion in Montreal.

10) What if the NCC gave Bruce Firestone and Terrace Investments permission to build a NHL arena on downtown property?

For anyone who has ever wondered why Scotiabank Place is where it is in Kanata, I implore you to read this exceptional summary and its follow-up written by the Ottawa Senators original owner, Bruce Firestone.

Here’s an excerpt:

LeBreton Flats is owned by the National Capital Commission, which informed us that it had a (very) long-term plan for the site that did not include an arena – it was just a rink to them. The NCC felt that national priorities such as a new museum (which turned out to be the War Museum) or a new Supreme Court of Canada building would take precedence.

[…]

What about Lansdowne Park? There were two significant issues with that choice. Firstly, there are more lawyers living in the Glebe than practically anywhere else in Ottawa. How would they and the Glebe community react to another two million visitors descending on their neighbourhood? I can tell you from hard experience – not well. The planning for a new arena might have taken years to get approved, if ever.

Secondly, the NCC would never allow OC Transpo to run buses on Queen Elizabeth Drive. Hence, the only way to get people in and out by public transit would be Bank Street. The maximum number of people that OC can run up and down Bank Street would be about 2,500 pph (people per hour). For an arena with a 20,000 capacity, it would take four hours to exit everyone from the building using buses, if you were to rely on public transit for, say, 50 per cent of our attendance.

Now that tells you something about why the ACC and the Bell Centre are downtown arenas. We could have built the Palladium on a downtown site if Ottawa had a big-time people-mover like the Metro in Montreal or the subway in Toronto. Those two systems can move between 20,000 and 30,000 pph.

Recently, I got in touch with Bruce Firestone and posed the question to him ‘What if the NCC gave you the land and permission to build a downtown arena?’

Here’s what he said…

Circa 1987/1988: From the Private Diary of Bruce M. Firestone

Founder of the modern Ottawa Senators Hockey Club

I met with the Chair of the NCC today. I wanted to ask her if we could buy some of the NCC’s lands at Lebreton Flats to build what Cyril Leeder has started calling ‘the Palladium’—a new home for the team we plan to bring back nearly 55 years after they played their last game in Ottawa in 1933 before moving to St Louis for a year then folding during the Great Depression.

I expected her to say something like: ‘Bruce, do you want the private answer or the public answer to that question?’

To which I might have responded: ‘Both.’

And she might have said: ‘The private answer is ‘no’. The NCC has a 200 year plan for Lebreton Flats—to build national structures of national importance—perhaps a new War Museum or a new SCC, Supreme Court of Canada building. There’s no way we are going to allow you to build a hockey rink there even a very nice one which I’m sure you will do. The public answer will be the one we give other proponents who want to use NCC lands: ‘We’ll study it.’ We don’t like to say ‘no’ to people (publicly) so we study things until one of two things happen: a) the proponent gets fed up with our requests to prepare (and pay for) more studies and consulting reports or b) they die, whichever comes first.’

Imagine my surprise when instead she said: ‘What a wonderful idea, Bruce! Imagine a downtown arena, a place where two million guests a year can come together to celebrate not only a renewed hockey team but Tier 1 Acts from all over the world who will now be able to come to the National Capital Region—Ottawa, a G8 capital city—for the first time. This arena, what did you call it… The Palladium… lovely name by the way… will act as a catalyst for Lebreton Flats, a way to springboard our whole development! It’ll help make Lebreton Flats into a people place for not only Ottawans but all Canadians who visit here—more than five million per year. There’s plenty of room for national monuments and structures that serve national purposes plus housing and gathering places for events like the Palladium! Super idea!

‘You know, Bruce, confidentially, I must say that the NCC should never have expropriated Lebreton Flats in the first place. It was a vibrant community where the working person could find a reasonably-priced place to live close to downtown and close to the factories that spanned both sides of the Quebec-Ontario border. We just knocked those homes down and displaced thousands of working poor to build… well, nothing for more than 40 years. Now here you come along with this grand idea.

‘What I think we should do is not only provide land for your new building but let’s do an overall master plan that sets aside a few large blocks for national facilities but let’s also make sure we do a fine enough grained plan that we get lot and block sizes that are highly variegated (large, mediums size, small and very small) so that not only big developers can play but lots of mid-tier ones will be able to develop some of the land too. That way, we’ll get something that looks more like the Byward Market or Granville Island rather than just a bunch of tall, monolithic condo towers standing incongruously in a field separated by no-places which become, after dark, unsafe and unsavory hang-outs for wrong doers.

‘I think I saw a report somewhere—it never saw the light of day since it preached planning practices that we at the NCC typically eschew—it was titled ‘Planning at Macro and Micro Scales’. It’s in a file somewhere—you should read it if we can ever find it.

‘You see the NCC has a habit of putting out RFPs that only the largest, best capitalized companies can ever hope to respond to. But you’ve given us the opportunity to open up the process, Bruce, and while we can’t undo the damage we did 40 years ago to the fabric of Ottawa, this gives us the best shot to rebuild what was a real community with… well, another real community.’

‘Wow, that’s great news, Jean. But I have another question for you,’ I said

‘Sure, shoot, what is it?’ she asks.

‘Well, one of the reasons that the Montreal Forum is downtown and Maple Leaf Gardens is downtown is that both Montreal and TO have rapid transit**. Montreal has their Metro and Toronto has its Subway and Go Trains. We have OC Transpo which with all the goodwill in the world can only move about 2,500 to 3,000 people an hour on Scott Street versus the 20,000 pph for the Metro and nearly 30,000 pph for the Subway so it’ll take more than eight hours (!) to exit 22,500 people by bus out of the Palladium at Lebreton Flats which is, as anyone can tell you, way too long.

‘So, Jean, I was wondering if you think the Palladium might also be a catalyst for light rail development in Ottawa?’

‘Now that you mention it, Bruce, I do! No G8 capital should be without light rail. In fact, I can’t think of one that doesn’t have it and, furthermore, no great city can be great without a subway, tube, metro, etc. Umpty-umps, you know, the rich folk, the well-to-do, the mad car driving public, most of them won’t take buses but they will switch to trains. We can build a real community with medium and high density residential structures that uses public transit. We can build a terminus right at Lebreton Flats and connect in east—west—and south.

‘Hold on, I’m forgetting something, right?’

‘Yes, Jean a coupla things.’

‘Care to give me a hint?’ she asks.

‘Of course, glad to. We should hook in the Quebec side too—instead of building more bridges for cars to cross the border why don’t we use the existing ones we have, the ones that were purpose-built for trains that currently have practically no traffic on them now for light rail!’

‘Nice. I like it,’ Jean says. ‘What was the other thing I forgot?’

‘Well, it’s a good idea of yours to have medium density and high density residential condos, towns, stacked towns, doubles, maybe even a few stately singles but what about adding some employment and retail? I’ve got the entertainment thing covered off with the Palladium. So we could develop a live-work-shop-play community built in what used to be a live-work-shop-play neighborhood, albeit 40 years ago.’

‘Splendid, Bruce, splendid. But I have one problem with all this.’

‘Gulp. What is it?’

‘Well, I don’t think the NCC should sell its land.’

‘You know, Jean, you may be right. Why don’t you grant people 69 year land leases with a one-time renewal of 30 years? That way folks can build all these nice structures and not have to pay huge amounts to the NCC upfront—they simply pay an annual land lease which’ll help them with their cashflow. Now, from the NCC’s point of view and the GOC’s (Government of Canada’s) POV, you’ll still own the land and, in 99 years, you’ll get to do this all over again! You can fulfill our national destiny, whatever that may be, a century from now. Let’s learn something from the Holy Roman Catholic Church—they’ve been doing this for ages. They have a planning cycle that stretches over two millennia and by leasing their land rather than selling it, they can continue where other institutions might falter and fade away. Let’s look at the NCC’s mandate that way, OK?’

‘Bruce, you’ve got a deal!’

9) What if the San Jose Sharks accepted Ottawa ownership’s idea to flip-flop picks during the 1992-93 season?

In its inaugural season, the Senators were excruciatingly bad. So much so, that then owner Bruce Firestone remarked before the season that his team’s only goal was to finish with at least 22 points and surpass the 1974-75 Washington Capitals benchmark of 21 points for the fewest in NHL history. As a young kid at the time, I can fondly recall tracking the progress of the Senators against the Capitals in the recurring ‘Capital Punishment’ feature that the Ottawa Citizen ran after each Senators game.

Eventually once the Senators beat the Quebec Nordiques 6-4 on Sunday, February 28th and surpassed that magical 21 point threshold, media and public attention shifted to the equally inept San Jose Sharks that were three points back of the Senators in the standings.

With the amount of buzz and hype that surrounded Alexandre Daigle, the projected first overall draft pick, ‘Capital Punishment’ was swiftly abandoned and aptly replaced with ‘The Daigle Cup’. Yes, even in the days that preceded the internet boom, the buzz and hype that surrounded Daigle was palpable. For Ottawa, he not only represented not only a talented hockey player, but thanks to his good looks and his Quebecois heritage, he was seen as a marketing tool that could help attract and convert fans from the other side of the Ottawa River.

According to an excerpt from a Sports Illustrated article written by Alexander Wolff, the issue so consumed the city that the Senators’ management cobbled together a proposal in February that Ottawa and San Jose agree “to turn the turtle derby into a horse race,” in Firestone’s words, meaning that whichever of the two clubs finished the season with more points would be rewarded with the No. 1 pick. But the Sharks turned down the offer.

As the Senators continued to drop games at a ridiculous pace, allegations of tanking were eventually raised.

According to Lowetide:

Commissioner Gary Bettman acted swiftly and reconvened the special two man unit that had looked into (and overturned) Gil Stein’s HOF appointment and sent Yves Fortier and Arnold Burns to Ottawa in order to interview Firestone, the journalists, and various players, coaches and managers with the Senators as well as representatives of the Bruins. 

In all, 50 people were interviewed. On Sept 2, Bettman levied a fine of $100,000 against the Senators for Firestone’s comments. After the incident, it was widely presumed that the league’s ridiculous draft rules would be altered.

Had San Jose accepted Ottawa’s offer, the tanking issue would have been resolved and the implementation of the weighted NHL Draft Lottery might have been delayed. More importantly, assuming Ottawa didn’t tank the season, under Ottawa’s proposition, they would have selected second. Judging by the June 26th trade that had Hartford send Sergei Makarov, a 1st round pick in 1993 (Viktor Kozlov) and a 3rd round pick in 1993 (Ville Peltonen) to San Jose for Toronto’s 2nd round pick in 1993 (Vlastimil Kroupa, prev. acquired), and Sharks’ 1st round pick in 1993 (Chris Pronger), San Jose clearly had eyes only for Daigle and when he was no longer available, they traded down accordingly. 

With the second selection, maybe one of the later selections like Pronger, Paul Kariya or Rob Niedermayer are grabbed instead. Or perhaps, as we later found out from having Randy Sexton on the podcast, maybe Ottawa’s more cooperative and listens to the Quebec Nordiques’ trade proposals. Contrary to public belief, the Nordiques had inquired about Ottawa’s number one selection but they didn’t want to use it to select Daigle. They wanted Pronger.

Faced with a situation that could have seen the Senators land a Peter Forsberg or a Chris Pronger, I’ll give you a moment to pause, reflect and rosterbate.

8) What if the Detroit Red Wings followed through on the trade that would have sent Steve Yzerman to the Ottawa Senators?

According to legend, on February 26th, 1996, Detroit’s VP and GM, Jimmy Devellano and Ottawa’s GM, Pierre Gauthier agreed in principle to a trade that would have seen Chris Osgood and Steve Yzerman dealt to the Senators in exchange for Alexei Yashin, Damian Rhodes and Ottawa’s first round picks in 1996 and 1997.

Over the years, there’s been a lot of speculation as to why Devellano backed out on the trade. Some theorize that owner, Mike Illitch, vetoed the deal because Yzerman was a favourite of his. Another theory is that Devellano backed out because he only wanted to put a scare into Yzerman using the threat of a trade. At the time, it was well publicized that Head Coach Scotty Bowman was having issues getting Stevie Y to commit to the defensive side of the game.

Thanks to the pathetic state of the modern Senators franchise, the threat of a trade left quite the impact on an impressionable Yzerman. Could you imagine being faced with the daunting task of turning his hometown team, a perennial losing franchise, into a contender? It’s not exactly the most enticing situation to be in for an aging veteran.

So what would have happened had the deal actually been consummated?

On the surface, the Jason Spezza, Zdeno Chara and Bill Muckalt for Alexei Yashin fleacejob never would have happened. Without their 1996 and 1997 first rounders, Marian Hossa and Chris Phillips never would have played for the Senators either. Without Hossa, there’s no Dany Heatley. Without Heatley, there’s no Milan Michalek, no Jonathan Cheechoo and no 2010 second round pick.

In other words, without Chara and Phillips, any conversation that discusses the best Senators defenceman would have been limited to Wade Redden, Norm MacIver or Steve Duchesne. If this thought isn’t enough to make you projectile vomit into a waste basket, imagine having to go through the rest of your existence as a Sens fan without being able to reference the unintentional comedy that was Bill Muckalt’s goalless 2001-02 season? It would have been an outright fucking travesty.

Conversely, had Steve Yzerman been dealt to Ottawa, maybe he never would have made the team sacrifice and developed a solid two-way game? More importantly, without Jason Spezza ever donning a Senators jersey, fans never would have heard their peers draw parallels between his and Yzerman’s respective career paths.

With the Red Wings, Yzerman won three Stanley Cups in the 1996-97, 1997-98 and 2001-2002 seasons. I think it’s safe to say that by adding Rhodes and Yashin, these Cup victories probably never happen. Similarly, without these same three Stanley Cups, Yzerman’s legacy is irrevocably altered.

Instead, through his mentoring, he possibly could have salvaged Alexandre Daigle’s career here in Ottawa. While that would have garnered the respect of pundits everywhere, it doesn’t carry the same weight that a Stanley Cup championship does. (Just ask Patrick Roy the next time that his ears are unplugged.)More importantly, if Yzerman could have positively influenced Daigle’s career, The 6th Sens would be without its sweet punchline that adorns the banner.

Like Mark Messier arrival in Vancouver, had Yzerman come to the nation’s capital, I don’t think there’s any question that he would have been given the key to the city and the team’s captaincy. Now, assuming that Yzerman had remained in Ottawa and retired following the 2005-06 campaign, Daniel Alfredsson would only be enjoying only his sixth season of captaincy. That’s fucked!

By the same token, what about Osgood’s inclusion in the deal? There’s no questions that without the luxury of playing behind the safety blanket that was the Detroit Red Wings, his career numbers would no longer be inflated and we would be consequently spared from the Twitter and interweb fodder from pundits who feel obligated to discuss the merits of whether he is a Hall of Famer. Nevertheless, with Osgood enjoying the prime of his career in Ottawa, the Senators never would have traded for Patrick Lalime and those infamous Joe Nieuwendyk goals never would have happened. It’d be quite the tradeoff: being able to strike those two goals from the pages of the franchise’s history book but having to endure years of looking at Osgood’s ugly bucket. Would it be worth it? I say yes.

In retrospect, it is fun to discuss what could have been had Yzerman been dealt here. Sure, maybe Ottawa would never have developed its label as a playoff choker.  Or maybe Yzerman would have wilted under the hometown pressure and bombed like the aforementioned Messier did for the Canucks. The only real conclusive thing that I can say is that had Stevie Y played here, he would have had a better chance at succeeding Bryan Murray as GM.

7) What if Wade Redden, Karel Rachunek and Martin Havlat don’t have communal brainfarts?

With less than three minutes to play in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils in 2003, Redden, Rachunek and Havlat made a litany of mental and physical errors that would have put the average Francis Lessard shift to shame.

Here’s a breakdown how this goal happens:

friesen1

Karel Rachunek makes an aggressive and unnecessary pinch at the blueline as his nearby teammate, Martin Havlat, is vying for possession of the puck.

friesen2

Havlat loses the battle along the wall and the puck is sprung to a streaking Grant Marshall down the left wing side.

Note three things here:

  1. Wade Redden is back towards the Senators blueline.
  2. Martin Havlat is in a position to support the defensive effort and back check New Jersey’s counter-attack.
  3. Karel Rachunek has body position on Jeff Friesen.

friesen3

Rather than risk getting beat in a one-on-one situation at the blueline, Redden collapses and passively stays towards the middle of the ice. While Rachunek still has body positioning on Friesen, Havlat lazily stops skating and gets away with a hook on Friesen. At this point, there’s no visual communication between Redden and Rachunek to alert each other as to which of the attacking forwards they’re covering on the ice.

  1. Havlat’s hook is ineffective and doesn’t slow Friesen down.
  2. Thinking that Havlat has his man (Friesen), Rachunek lets Friesen go and pursues the puck carrier.
  3. After allowing Marshall to gain entry into the offensive zone, Redden leaves the middle of the ice to force Marshall into making a play.
  1. Redden gets caught in limbo and fails to close the passing lane. Inadvertently letting the pass go through his legs to a wide open Friesen.
  2. Uh, Havlat? That’s some serious proverbial screwing the pooch that’s going on.

Provided that any of these mental mistakes were remedied, there stood a reasonable opportunity for Ottawa to go on and win that game in overtime and send the Senators to their first Stanley Cup Finals.

6) What if John Muckler acquired Gary Roberts at the 2007 NHL Trade Deadline?

Less than two weeks after the organization’s first Stanley Cup Finals appearance, Eugene Melnyk disposed of GM John Muckler, replacing him with head coach Bryan Murray.

At the time that news had leaked in mid June that Muckler was on his way out, rumour had it that he was being let go because he couldn’t acquiesce Eugene Melnyk’s request to acquire Gary Roberts at the 2007 NHL Trade Deadline. Allegedly.

As much as I’ve had poking holes in Muckler’s tenure for the failed draft picks; the selling the farm to acquire veteran fodder like Bryan Smolinski, Tyler Arnason and Oleg Saprykin, at least he stood up to the Euge and wouldn’t let the owner affect his hockey decisions. (Even if they were for the most part, wrong.)

So here we are, almost five years later. Despite the fact that the Senators have been a middling team for the past few seasons, the organization gave the team’s core every opportunity to recapture the magic that it showed in 2007. Under Muckler’s watch, I don’t think this strategy would have changed much, if at all. The years of complacency, regression, bad coaching and poor roster mismanagement eventually would have caught up to the organization.

As the late Jim Kelley wrote for Sportsnet on February 28th, 2008,

In listening to the siren song of your new GM and former coach Bryan Murray, you, by extension, told your team their horribly one-sided loss to the Ducks in the Stanley Cup final wasn’t their fault. The statement that trickled down to a group that had always been fragile in the confidence department and almost never held accountable in the blame department is that they didn’t fail, management did.

As a result, what should have been a focused and driven group of players, a collection of talent that with a few upgrades in leadership and some additional talent could grow and perhaps finally be focused into a team that could learn from its failure, build on it and achieve something that had long been anticipated but never accomplished. Didn’t happen Eugene, instead your team went all soft again.

And that’s the problem you created, Eugene. Teams are like kids. You have to guide them into adulthood. You didn’t let that happen and as a result you don’t have a team that’s accountable for its actions.

Oh, you have some talent, you’ve had that for the better part of a decade, but there’s no real team, not like one that would force goalie Ray Emery to deflate his head and get with the program or one that would hold players in the room accountable for not scoring a goal against a team it should beat playing with blindfolds on and sticks upside down.

You’ve got a collection of guys who really haven’t won anything and don’t know how and instead of listening to a guy who has won a championship — actually, a handful of championships — you went the way so many failed parents do. You refused to accept that your child could stumble. You refused to accept failure and the need to learn from it. Instead you fired the guy who ticked you off and that told the players they could just stay in their comfy little sand box. This was Muckler’s fault. That’s what you told them and that’s what they easily accepted.

So now you’ve got nothing, Eugene. You’ve got a team without drive, a team without focus, a team without passion or purpose. Instead of having a goalie that was on the rise, you’ve got one who is on the slide. We don’t absolve him of blame for most of that (nor does Muckler get a complete pass), but think how different it might have been if he had been challenged to get just that little bit better for the good of the team and even for his own still-emerging legacy. You can say that about a lot of the players on your team, Eugene. You gave them all a crutch and, like they have so many times in the past, they took it.

While Eugene invested heavily in the players and Bryan Murray, I still hold true to the belief that Muckler’s inability to trade for Roberts was one of the best things that ever happened to the Senators.

For starters, there was speculation that because of the manner in which his tenure in Ottawa had ended, Jacques Martin was asking for a king’s ransom from Ottawa for the coveted Roberts. (Eventually, Martin traded Roberts to Pittsburgh, settling on defensive prospect Noah Welch.)

With a bankrupted farm system, had the organization actually pulled the trigger on the deal, it could have set the team back further. On a similar note, assuming that Muckler was never canned, the scouting staff would never have received the overhaul that it received when Murray took over. Maybe the prospects that the Murray regime thumps its chest over never get drafted by the Senators. Instead, perhaps we’re inundated with more Jim O’Brien and Brian Lee draft selections.

On another note, if Roberts joins this team, perhaps his physicality and leadership could have made a difference in the Cup Final. By the same token, he never would have joined Pittsburgh and these same traits never would have rubbed off on some of his young Penguins teammates.

5) What if Dominik Hasek never went to the 2006 Olympics in Turin?

After a disappointing 2003-04 season that saw him play in only 14 games before he had injured his groin, Dominik Hasek signed on the cheap with the Senators prior to the 2004-05 lockout because he wanted to play for a contender and restore a reputation that was slightly tarnished.

Eventually when the lockout ended, Hasek lived up to his billing as the goaltender who could finally put a very talent-laden Senators team over the top. In 43 games for the Senators, a 41-year old Hasek went 28-10-4 with a 2.09 GAA and a .925 SV% – earning himself an opportunity to play for the Czech National Team at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.

In one story that was told to me from a reputable source, Hasek got absolutely wasted on the flight over to Turin. Upon landing, he inadvertently lost his luggage and equipment but was required to go from the airport to practice. Without any of his own equipment, the story goes that while practicing with borrowed equipment, Hasek tweaked his groin/adductor muscle and re-injured it during the first period of the Czech’s qualifying game against Germany.

Whether it’s true or not, Hasek’s injury did immeasurable damage to Ottawa’s Stanley Cup aspirations. Unable to play for the rest of the season, the organization had to rely heavily upon the play of Ray Emery and as a result, they just could not play with the same level of confidence in front their rookie goaltender. Things got so bad here in the second round of the playoffs that a few of the team’s veteran leaders practically begged Hasek to play against the Sabres. In retrospect, maybe it would have been more prudent for the organization to attempt to get the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Kraus, to make a phone call and ask the Dominator to play and do it for his country.

Having already won Olympic gold in Nagano in 2002, Hasek has always been ready to answer the call for his country. Unfortunately for Ottawa, at Hasek’s age, he didn’t put the importance of a Stanley Cup ahead of his pursuit of Olympic gold and the worst-case scenario for the Senators occurred.

He never returned to the Senators lineup and Ottawa was ousted from the Eastern Conference Finals in five games. Although we didn’t know it at the time, the loss of Hasek, coupled with the loss of Zdeno Chara helped close the organization’s window of opportunity for sustained Stanley Cup contention.

Even when Hasek wanted to make amends and return to the Senators for a paltry base salary of $500k plus bonuses for the following season, management opted not to bring him back and we moved on.

4) What if John Muckler’s staff didn’t draft Brian Lee?

Now here’s a scenario that’s never been dissected in great detail before.

Of course I’m being facetious but in case you’re unfamiliar with the background of what took place at the NHL Entry Draft, here’s what transpired:

Thanks to the NHL lockout, the 2005 NHL Entry Draft represented the first league event to follow the conclusion of the work stoppage. To help create a stir and raise the profile of the event itself, the league wanted to give every organization an opportunity to draft the marquee and consensus number one overall pick, Sidney Crosby. Since the 2004-05 season was never played, the league decided upon a weighted lottery system. Per Wikipedia, teams were assigned 1 to 3 balls based on their playoff appearances and first overall draft picks from the past three years. According to the draft order, the selection worked its way up to 30 as usual; then instead of repeating the order as in past years, the draft “snaked” back down to the team with the first pick. Therefore the team with the first pick overall would not pick again until the 60th pick. The team with the 30th pick would also get the 31st pick. The draft was only seven rounds in length, compared to nine rounds in years past. The labor dispute caused the shortened draft.

Thanks to the strength of its play in the past three seasons, Ottawa only had one ball and incredibly unlikely odds to move up in the draft. So when it was announced that the Senators ball had netted them the ninth overall selection, it was an unexpected event that afforded a very talented Senators to add a top ten draft pick to an already loaded roster at no cost.

Come draft day, with a few players that a number of third party scouting agencies had rated more highly, the Senators ‘reached’ and selected Brian Lee with their pick.

“We got the guy we wanted,” said Muckler, who thought he had a done deal with the Sharks before they made the trade with Atlanta. “Lee was the guy we had at the top of our list and he was the guy we were going to take. We feel he is a guy that the Ottawa Senators are all about. He’s got good skills and he’s got a lot of upside potential. We’re very happy.” (via Slam! Sports)

As I wrote in a piece entitled, ‘The Brian Lee Project’,

Obviously no scouting service list is infallible but when other draft picks from the 2005 Draft like Anze Kopitar and Marc Staal excelled, revisionist fans (including myself) cursed the day that Muckler drafted Lee. It was nothing personal against the player once viewed as an heir apparent to Wade Redden but Lee’s game has taken some time to develop and at times, it looked like it he wasn’t going to. There has always been something that prevented Brian Lee from being a regular on the Senators.

To this day, that’s still true. Lee may only be 24, however, his career with the Senators has had more lives than a cat. Just when you’re ready to count him out, he bounces back. After enduring seasons of being the odd man out because of the roster flexibility that his two-way contract provided, he also overcame the waiver wire and last season’s 25-game banishment to the pressbox. With another organization, maybe it would have exercised more patience or afforded him the opportunity to play consistently at a younger age. Maybe his developmental curve is completely different and he’s a better player because of it…

On the other hand, a player like a Kopitar or a Staal would have given Senators management the flexibility to re-assess their roster following the 2007 Stanley Cup Final and decides that it’s not financially viable to extend a player like a Mike Fisher or a Jason Spezza or a Chris Phillips because they have a younger replacement available to them.

3)  What if the Senators never dealt Marian Hossa to the Atlanta Thrashers?

In an epic piece of editorial journalism that left fans banging their heads in unison on whatever hard surface they could find, the Ottawa Citizen’s Doug Fischer chronicled the rationale and events that led to the ‘Big Z’s’ departure from the Senators. It was a sobering article that brought some transparency to a decision that was once the subject of much speculation. (Note: Unfortunately, it’s no longer available to read in the Citizen’s archives. Well, at least at no cost.)

Eventually, it was supplemented by this nugget of information from a Wayne Scanlan article:

Remember the day Muckler signed Hossa to a three-year, US$18-million contract, then blindsided him by trading him to Atlanta the next day? A hockey insider said this week that the mistreatment of Hossa so infuriated Chara, his friend and Slovak countryman, there was no way he was going to re-sign with Ottawa, no matter the offer. The Senators got nothing for Chara, and all that remains of the Heatley trade is Michalek.

If this bit of information is taken at face value, it means that John Muckler’s decision to trade Marian Hossa on August 23rd, 2005 wouldn’t have just erased the Dany Heatley debacle from the Senators’ record book; it could have helped keep the only 6’9” defenceman in the NHL in an Ottawa jersey.

Imagine some bizarre world that had never witnessed the Wade Redden vs Chara controversy… (Alright, go take five while resting your elbows on a window sill and your head against the pane. I’ll be here when you get back.)

Chara’s 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 All-Star appearances probably happen in a Senators jersey. The 2009 Norris Trophy too. Our division rival’s 2011 Stanley Cup Championship? It never happens. Those memories of Chris Pronger bullying our forwards and blindsiding Dean McAmmond with an elbow upside his head during the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals? Say no more.

2) What if Ricard Persson doesn’t board Tie Domi?

Here’s the setting: it’s May 12, 2002 and game six of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals between the Ottawa Senators and the loathed Toronto Maple Leafs. With a 3-2 lead in the Battle of Ontario series, the Senators had thoroughly outplayed a weary Toronto team that was without six regulars. Through the first twelve minutes of the game, the Senators were staked to a 2-0 lead and had outshot the Leafs 8-1 when that Swedish plug of a defenceman, Ricard Persson checked Tie Domi from behind and sent the pugilist crashing face-first into the boards. As cathartic as it was to see that Neanderthal have his face bounce off of the dasher and come away bloodied, Persson was given a 5-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.

With Zdeno Chara already missing the game thanks to a knee injury, Persson’s ejection put an already taxed blueline down to five men. Fittingly, the hit sparked the comeback and during the 5-minute man advantage, Bryan McCabe and Gary ‘fucking’ Roberts scored to even the score. Toronto eventually would go on to win the game 4-3 and would carry that momentum back home where they clinched the series in game seven.

Had Persson not hit Domi illegally, Ottawa’s momentum could have gone uninterrupted and they could have slain the dragon and moved on to play Carolina in the Eastern Conference Finals – thereby ending years of insufferable Leafs bullshit and ridicule from our Leafs supporting colleagues and friends.

1) What if Management bows to the whims of public pressure and trades Daniel Alfredsson?

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