History of the Ottawa Senators (1992–)


History of the Ottawa Senators (1992–)

Founded and established by Ottawa real estate developer Bruce Firestone, the Ottawa Senators are the second National Hockey League (NHL) franchise to have the Ottawa Senators name. The original Ottawa Senators, founded in 1883, had a famed history, winning 11 Stanley Cups and played in the NHL from 1917 until 1934. On December 6, 1990, after a two year public campaign by Firestone to return the NHL to Ottawa, the NHL awarded a new franchise, which began play in the 1992–93 season.

The club has seen its share of struggles, both on and off the ice. The team has had two changes of ownership, from Firestone, to Rod Bryden in 1993 due to the arena development process and its financing, and subsequently to Eugene Melnyk after the team filed for bankruptcy in 2003. On the ice, the club finished last in the league for its first four seasons. Changes in hockey management have led to steady improvement of the team's play, resulting in the team qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs each season over the last 10 years.

Bring Back The Senators

After the NHL announced its plans to expand in the late 1980s, real estate developer Bruce Firestone thought that Ottawa was now ready for another franchise. His firm, Terrace Investments, launched a bid for the franchise. Firestone first told his fellow Terrace executives, Cyril Leeder, and Randy Sexton, after a game of shinny in March 1988. [Finnigan, pg. 194] Both were surprised; Leeder thought the idea was "ridiculous". [Robinson, pg. 33]

Terrace did not have enough assets to finance the team, but Firestone believed that they could do so as part of a development project. Their plan was to build a mini-city (named 'West Terrace') of 9,000 around a $100 million arena and hotel development on approximately 500 acres. Getting an NHL club for the arena would drive up the price of the surrounding lands and Terrace's net worth would jump from $100 million to $400 million by 1997. [Robinson, pg. 33] The strategy was straightforward: "buy the site, win the franchise, build the building." [Finnigan, pg. 194] In 1989, Terrace found a suitable site west of Ottawa, 600 acres of farmland, located on both sides of the 417 Highway west of Terry Fox Drive in the then City of Kanata.

On June 22, 1989, Terrace publicly announced their intentions to acquire an NHL franchise and revive the Senators name. [Citation|title=Ottawa developer wants NHL franchise|newspaper=Ottawa Citizen|date=June 22, 1989|first=Tom |last=Casey|pages=pg. A1] The name choice provoked threats of legal action. Firestone, however, obtained permission from original-era / 1950s era Senators club owner Tommy Gorman's descendants to use the old Senators name and settled with the Ottawa Jr. Senators' owners. [Citation|title=Ottawa bid taking shape|newspaper=Ottawa Citizen|date=August 26, 1989|last=Casey|first=Tom |pages=pg. E1]

To kick off the "Bring Back the Senators" campaign, Terrace held a press conference with special guests Frank Finnigan, representing the old Senators' players, and Joe Gorman, representing the Gorman family. Finnigan, the last surviving member of the Senators' last Stanley Cup championship (in 1927), was presented with a new number 8 jersey and the promise to have him drop the first puck at the first game if they emerged victorious. Terrace unveiled drawings of the $55 million, 22,500 seat arena, now named the "Palladium", designed by Rossetti Associates, architects of the The Palace of Auburn Hills arena. Also unveiled was a logo for the team using a stylized Peace Tower and Canadian flag, designed by David O'Malley of Ottawa. The theme song for the franchise drive was Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down". [Finnigan, pp. 196-197]

The Senators' bid was considered something of a longshot. Jim Durrell, mayor of Ottawa at the time, but later part of the Senators' front office said "It's not that the area isn't a big enough market to support a professional hockey team, it's just that we're not going to get it."MacGregor(1996), pg. 14.] NHLPA head Alan Eagleson was quoted as saying "local fans are being led through the petunia patch if Bruce Firestone thinks he can land an NHL expansion franchise for Ottawa this century, well into the next or ever." [Robinson, pg.31] Despite the naysayers, 11,000 fans sent in $25 non-refundable pledges toward season-tickets by November 1990. [Finnigan, pg. 199]

In December 1990 the NHL held a league meeting in Palm Beach, Florida to consider expansion applications. The NHL executives were reportedly impressed by the Ottawa presentation, including Finnigan's participation, the several hundred fans and the marching band who traveled to Palm Beach, but apparently were more impressed at the fact that the group was one of the few willing to pay the $50 million franchise fee without reservations. [Stein, pp. 78-90] On December 6, 1990, the Terrace group was approved to purchase one of the two franchises (along with the Tampa Bay Lightning) to start play in the 1992-93 season. [Finnigan, pg. 201]

Financing struggles

Paying the NHL

The Senators ran into financial trouble almost at once, as Terrace Investments needed to borrow money to meet the $50-million franchise fee. The original franchise fee had been expected to be $30 million. Terrace formed a limited partnership with community ownership, [cite web
url=http://senators.nhl.com/team/app?service=page&page=NHLPage&bcid=Com_founders
author=Senators staff |publisher=Ottawa Senators |accessdate=2007-08-27 |title=list of partners
] the first investor being the Ottawa Nepean Canadians Sports Club, who with 66 other limited partners would own 48% of the club. [Citation
title=Senators cash crunch sidelines little guys|newspaper=The Ottawa Citizen|date=February 8, 1996|author=Ottawa Citizen staff |pages=pg. C1
] To complete the franchise fee payments, Ottawa high-tech mogul Rod Bryden would pay $3 million of his personal funds and become 50% owner of Terrace itself. [MacGregor(1993), pg. 26]

In 1991, the team was struggling to make its interim payments to the NHL. Team president Jim Durrell arranged an agreement with Ottawa-born singer Paul Anka, whereby Anka would invest $1 million in the club and arrange for other investors to invest $10 million. The agreement gave Anka $547,000 worth of units in the Senators, an option to buy half of the Palladium project for $4 million, a $450,000 performance contract for 3 concerts, alternate NHL governorship, a $50,000 annual salary and other perks.MacGregor(1993) pp. 24-25] The team would also institute a Paul Anka Award to a player showing "community involvement, leadership and good sportmanship."

The agreement was a failure. Anka provided a list of show-business investors but no introductions, and apparently had lost interest.MacGregor(1993) pp. 26-27] In January 1992, after the Senators made their final payment making the franchise unconditional, the club filed a suit to declare the agreement void.Citation |newspaper=The Ottawa Citizen |title=Terrace, Anka settle their legal dispute over team, Palladium |last=May |first=Katherine |date=September 22, 1993 |pages=pg. B1] Anka returned to Ottawa demanding $7 million and a 10% interest in the Palladium. Bryden turned him down. Anka would launch a $41.6 million lawsuit against the club, and Terrace counter-sued for $28 million. The lawsuits would be settled out of court in 1993 with the Senators paying Anka $375,000 to compensate for the concerts and $150,000 as an option to buy Anka's shares by 1995.

The Palladium project

Since the location for the new arena was on land designated for agriculture, the arena and development had to be approved by the Ontario government. The Ontario New Democratic Party government of Bob Rae was not sympathetic to the conversion of farmland and would not lend any assistance to the project. As the rezoning hearings dragged on, Firestone was offered $20 million to relocate to Anaheim, which had an arena, but no team. Firestone turned it down, claiming "I didn’t bring back the Ottawa Senators to play in Anaheim."cite web
title=The Team That Helped Build a City
first=Dr. Bruce |last=Firestone
url=http://www.eqjournalblog.com/?p=35|accessdate=2007-08-27
] Eventually, the rezoning was approved with conditions. The Palladium's size was reduced to 18,500. Terrace had to pay for a necessary highway interchange. Terrace had to suspend its plans for the rest of the "West Terrace" development, which limited the site's value. Only the lands to the south of the 417 were allowed to be developed, and the lands on the north side of the 417 were to remain farmland. According to Firestone, Terrace's investment lost $80 million in value to secure the zoning. Eventually, the strain to complete the payment on the franchise to the NHL and to build the arena led to Firestone's resignation on August 17, 1993 after Terrace missed mortgage and development payments. He was replaced as club president by Bryden, who would lead the franchise for the next ten years.

Financing of the arena project was difficult. Terrace had four financing deals fail.Citation
newspaper=Ottawa Citizen
title=Behind the arena deal; Palladium negotiations stick-handled by Ogden Corp
first=Kathryn |last=May
date=December 22, 1993 |page=pg. F1
] As it became clear that the Senators could not finance a needed highway interchange without government backing, the provincial government was persuaded successfully to provide a $27 million dollar loan for the highway interchange construction.Citation
title=Palladium wins loan; all systems go; Infrastructure financing opens flow of money
newspaper=Ottawa Citizen |first=Kathryn |last=May |date=December 22, 1993 |pages=pg. A1
] In the end, the firm of Ogden Entertainment, a New York city facilities management firm, backed the project with a $20 million loan in exchange for a 30 year contract to manage the facility.Citation|newspaper=Ottawa Citizen|first=Elizabeth |last=Payne|title=Senators promise they're here for the long haul |date=April 15, 1994 |pages=pg. A1] In addition, U.S. banks loaned $110 million, the federal government gave the Senators $6 million, $10 million from Terrace and $15 million from a Canadian pension fund.

The Senators played the first game at the Palladium (today called Scotiabank Place) on January 17, 1996. One month after opening, Corel Corporation bought the naming rights and the arena was renamed the Corel Centre.

The bankruptcy

The debt payments weighed heavily on the Senators. For several years, Bryden tried to reschedule the debt on the arena. There were various attempts at filing tax losses to write off the debt, all rejected by the federal government. In 2002, Ogden went bankrupt. It had re-invented itself as Covanta Energy and failed not long after the Enron scandal. This led to the Senators filing for bankruptcy on January 9, 2003, when it could not arrange financing to pay all it owed to Covanta, becoming due because of Covanta's bankruptcy.Citation|newspaper=Ottawa Citizen|first=Bert |last=Hill|title=Doting 'parent' picks Sens in 'All-Ogden' Cup final|date=June 2, 2007 |pages=pg. C2] On August 26, 2003 [cite web |url=http://www2.scotiabankplace.com/eng/building/history.cfm |title=History |publisher=Scotiabank Place |accessdate=2008-01-14] the team and arena was purchased by Biovail CEO and Toronto St. Michael's Majors owner Eugene Melnyk who had shown interest for several years in the team. The limited partnership between Terrace and the limited partners was dissolved and Covanta's creditors received the proceeds of the sale towards the money it was owed for the NHL franchise fee and the Palladium.

1992-1995: Expansion club struggles

The team would name Mel Bridgman as their first general manager (GM) in 1991 after being turned down by Scotty Bowman and John Muckler. [MacGregor(1993), pp. 22-23] The decision was criticized by the press due to Bridgman's lack of GM experience. [MacGregor(1993), pg. 22] In the coaching department, the club would pick Rick Bowness, formerly the Boston Bruins head coach as their first head coach assisted by Alain Vigneault, E. J. Maguire and Chico Resch. John Ferguson would be named director of player personnel.

The Expansion draft day on 1992-06-18 was memorable. The team's laptop computer failed and the club was unprepared with a backup plan, and picked several ineligible players. Not much talent was available as other teams protected young prospects. The players the Senators did select were "journeymen NHLers or players who had good years in minor leagues but no longer were considered prospects."Garrioch, pg. 225] While side-deals during the draft were not allowed, the team would select players in concert with the other teams and in return, other teams gave the Senators Neil Brady, Jody Hull, Brad Marsh and Steve Weeks during the summer, all who would make the team. In the Entry Draft, the Senators would name Alexei Yashin their first ever pick but he would not join the team until 1993. The team would have to work hard to earn wins. [MacGregor(1993), pg.]

1992-93

:main|1992-93 Ottawa Senators seasonThe new Senators played their first game on October 8, 1992, in the Ottawa Civic Centre against the Montreal Canadiens. There was lots of pre-game spectacle — the skating of Brian Orser, the raising of banners commemorating the original Senators' eight Stanley Cup wins, [The Senators would raise nine banners on opening night. They have subsequently raised two further banners (for the 1906 and 1910 seasons) in March 2003.] retirement of Frank Finnigan's jersey number and the singing of the anthem by Alanis Morissette. [Citation|newspaper=Ottawa Citizen|date=October 9, 1992|first=Wayne |last=Scanlan|pages=pg. A1|title=Maybe Rome was built in a day; Senators in stunning 5-3 debut victory over Habs; 10,449 fans went wild and it was magical]

NHL president Gil Stein took part, presenting Bruce Firestone with a "certificate of reinstatement" to commemorate Ottawa's return to the league after 58 years. [The certificate does not mean that the original franchise was restored. The NHL lists 1991 for the franchise founding date, which is the date of the final franchise payment, in their official publications.] The ceremonial face-off between Laurie Boschman and Denis Savard was done by Frank Finnigan, Jr. (his father having died on Christmas day, 1991), Firestone, Stein, and original Senator Ray Kinsella. The Senators would play in the 10,000 seat Civic Centre until January 1996.

The Senators would defeat the Canadiens 5–3 that night, but it would be one of the few highlights that season for the Senators. The club would tie with the San Jose Sharks for the worst record in the league that year, winning only 10 games with 70 losses and 4 ties (24 points) in the 1992-93 season. The Senators hold the NHL record for least road wins (1) for their record that season. Their points total for the season was one point better than the NHL record for least points in a season ever. The Senators had aimed low. Firestone had set beating the old record the Senators' goal for the season, as the team planned to finish low in the standings for its first few years in order to get high draft picks. [MacGregor(1993), pg. 250]

[
Alexandre Daigle(front) and Alexei Yashin(rear)]

;Daigle CupAmong the disappointments during the early years of the resurrected Senators was Alexandre Daigle, the number one overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. During the 1992-93 season, it had become clear that Daigle would be the number one pick. The Quebec Nordiques publicly announced that they would trade several players for him, as they wished to build a new arena and needed a marquee francophone player. As the season progressed, both the Senators and the San Jose Sharks were neck and neck in last place, and at that time, NHL rules meant the worst team would get the first pick. This 'competition' was variously dubbed the 'Daigle Cup' and the 'Yelnats Puc'.MacGregor(1993) pp. 227–255]

Near the end of the season, the Senators would call other teams to ask for their opponent's best players to be playing them in upcoming matches, making plans to field a weaker squad if their opponent did so also. The club made no trades to improve its position, not wanting to lose the number one pick. After the season, Bruce Firestone would make comments to the press about how the team deliberately lost games, expecting that comments would be 'off the record'. Instead, his comments were reported, the NHL investigated, and the team was fined $100,000 for his comments. The NHL changed its rules as of the 1995 Draft so that a lottery would be held for the top draft picks. [cite web |url=http://www.beckettpedia.com/default.aspx/Beckettpedia/NHLEntryDraft.html |title=NHL Entry Draft |publisher=Beckettpedia |accessdate=2008-01-04] [cite web |url=http://www.nhlscap.com/draft.htm |title=NHL Entry Draft Information |accessdate=2008-01-04 |publisher=nhlscap.com]

In 1993, the Senators would sign Daigle to a $12.25 million contract, the largest rookie salary in league history, which would lead to a cap on rookie contracts a few years later. The club would promote Daigle over Yashin, as seen in the yearbook photo. In 1995, coaches Rick Bowness and Alain Vigneault would be fired after demoting Daigle to part-time status.Citation |publisher=Canadian Newswire |title=Bowness takes the fall after three rough years with Senators |date=November 20, 1995] In the end Daigle did not come close to the career the Senators hoped for. After scoring only 74 goals in just over four seasons, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. He is regarded as one of the biggest draft busts in sports history. [cite web|url=http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/tom_layberger/06/22/draft.busts/1.html |title=Wasted picks: The 10 biggest NHL Draft busts |publisher=CNNsi.com |first=Tom |last=Layberger |date=June 22, 2006|accessdate=2007-11-05]

1993-95

After the 1992-93 season, Bridgman was fired and replaced by team vice-president Randy Sexton. In the 1993-94 season, the club would add prospects Daigle and Alexei Yashin. Yashin would have an outstanding rookie season and become a finalist for the Calder Trophy. Yashin led the team in points with 30 goals and 79 points, and Daigle had 51 points. The Senators would make some progress, improving their record to 14 wins and 37 points, but would again finish last in the league.Garrioch, pg. 227]

During this period, the club may have been more focused on building the Palladium, for which construction began in July 1994. In the strike-shortened 1994-95 season Yashin and Daigle led the club in points again, although their point totals declined. The '94-95 Senators team record declined also from the previous season, finishing with 9 wins and 23 points (this was over only 48 games), to finish last in the league again.

1995-1998: Ottawa's turnaround

One month before the Senators were to open the new Palladium, after three straight last place finishes, and poor attendance at the Civic Centre, the Senators organization was in turmoil.Citation |newspaper=Ottawa Citizen |date=December 11, 1995 |title=Mood growing uglier with NHL's worst club |last=Panzeri |first=Alan |pages=pg. D2] Star player Alexei Yashin, angered that management favoured Daigle over him despite posting higher numbers, was a contract hold-out. First round draft choice Bryan Berard, who had left the Senators training camp unsigned to a contract, had publicly stated that he would never report to the Senators. After head coach Rick Bowness demoted Daigle had been demoted to the fourth line, general manager Randy Sexton fired Bowness and his assistant coach Alain Vigneault on November 20, 1995. He replaced the coaches with Prince Edward Island Senators coach Dave Allison and gave the assistant coach job to former Hartford Whalers head coach Pierre McGuire, who was working as a scout for the Senators. Daigle was returned to full-time duty, but Sexton's changes did not improve the teams' play.

The situation was a big concern for the Senators ownership and especially for Ogden, which had a lot invested in the soon-to-open Palladium, and which did not want to open the Palladium to poor attendance. Ogden brought in Roy Mlakar to assist in sorting out the turmoil. He would eventually become team president and CEO, posts he still holds today. [Citation |newspaper=Ottawa Business Journal |title=President/CEO & COO appointments |date=April 20, 1998 |pages=pg. 31]

The turnaround process started with the firing of Sexton on December 11, 1995 and the hiring of Anaheim Mighty Ducks assistant GM Pierre Gauthier as GM, Ottawa's first with previous NHL executive experience. [Citation|newspaper=Ottawa Citizen|title=Gauthier takes over Senators' helm|date=December 12, 1995|first=Ken |last=Warren|pages=pg. C2] Before the end of January, Gauthier had signed Yashin to a three-year contract, traded Berard to the New York Islanders for Wade Redden, [Citation|newspaper=The Globe and Mail|title=Leafs get Muller in 7-player, 3-way deal Rhodes goes to Ottawa, Isles get last year's top draft pick, and Beaupre heads to Toronto|first=David |last=Shoalts|date=January 24, 1996] and hired Jacques Martin as head coach. [Citation|newspaper=Ottawa Citizen|first=Roy |last=MacGregor|page=pg. A1 |title=Promise and pain at the Palladium: Finally, Senators find the spark; Fans love new coach and his new ways |date=January 25, 1996]

In the midst of the upheaval, the new Palladium had opened. The Senators, still coached by Allison, lost their opening game in the arena 3–0 to the Montreal Canadiens on January 17, 1996. The event was much more subdued than their franchise's first game. The Cup banners were raised, but the winches jammed, blocking the view of many fans. There were no entertainment big names, and only Firestone and Bryden participated in the ceremonial face-off. [Citation|newspaper=Montreal Gazette |title=Senators reach into history in opener; Ceremonies at new arena try to evoke successes of past |first=Pat |last=Hickey |date=January 18, 1996] The club would lose its first four games at the Palladium, winning none for Allison who was fired on January 24 after the team lost 22 of 25 games. While Ottawa finished last in the league for the fourth year in a row, the 1995-96 season ended with renewed optimism, partly from the debut of new star Daniel Alfredsson, who won the Calder Memorial Trophy, the NHL Rookie of the Year Award, the first Senator to do so. Alfredsson, selected 133rd overall in 1994, was also selected to play in the 1996 NHL All-Star Game.

The 1996-97 season would see the Senators qualify for the playoffs for the first time, in dramatic fashion. They clinched the seventh seed on the last game of the regular season, thanks to a late goal from Steve Duchesne against Dominik Hasek, then of the Buffalo Sabres, giving the Senators a 1-0 win and the first playoff appearance for an Ottawa-based team in 67 years. The Senators then faced the Sabres in the first round of the playoffs and were eliminated in the full seven games. Despite holding a lead in game seven, Alexei Yashin put the puck in his own net, allowing Buffalo to tie the game and eventually win the game and the series on a goal by Derek Plante in overtime.

The next season, 1997-98, saw the Senators improve further. They improved their regular season record, finishing with their first winning record in franchise history (one game over .500). In the first play-off round they upset the top-seeded and the heavily favoured New Jersey Devils in six games to win their first playoff series. The Senators next faced the eventual Eastern Conference champion Washington Capitals and lost in five games. It was in this season that the team unveiled its 'third jersey' in red with the Centurion head logo 'rotated' to face forward. The jersey and logo would be used until the end of the 2006-07 season.

After the season, Rick Dudley would become general manager, after Gauthier returned to Anaheim to become the Ducks' general manager. Dudley would be the Ottawa GM for only a year, leaving to join the Tampa Bay Lightning, (for which the Senators received Rob Zamuner as compensation) [Citation |newspaper=Edmonton Journal |date=July 1, 1999|last=Staff |pages=pg. D4] and was replaced by Marshall Johnston. [Citation |newspaper=Calgary Herald |title=Sens turn to Johnston as new general manager |date=June 9, 1999 |pages=pg. D2 |last=Canadian Press]

1998-2004: Emergence as Stanley Cup contenders

The Senators have qualified for the playoffs every year since. However, they met with limited success at first, only winning five series in their first nine trips to the post-season.

In 1998-99, the Senators jumped from 14th in the previous season to 3rd, with 103 points--the first 100-point season in club history. However, they took an embarrassing pratfall in the playoffs; they were swept by the Sabres and only scored three goals in the process.

Ottawa was locked in a contract dispute with then-captain Alexei Yashin during 1999-2000. Yashin held out for the entire season, hoping either to play elsewhere or claim his contract was for 1999-2000, not a year of service. The team responded by suspending him for the entire season and granting the captaincy to Alfredsson, who still holds it today. Yashin tried to sign on with a team in Switzerland, but the International Ice Hockey Federation banned him from playing internationally until the dispute with the Senators was resolved. An NHL arbitrator rejected Yashin's request to make him a free agent, instead ruling that he owed the Senators one more season if he ever returned to the NHL. The Senators even took legal action to recover damages suffered as a result of the dispute.

Despite the distraction, the Senators' regular season was successful as they finished with 93 points to qualify for the playoffs in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Like the previous year, they had a quick playoff exit, losing in six games in the first round to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yashin returned for the 2000-01 season, no longer the captain of the team. Despite being booed at home and in most arenas, being cursed as "Alexei Cashin" [cite web |url=http://www.tv.com/alexei-yashin/person/424816/summary.html|title=Alexei Yashin Photos, Alexei Yashin News |accessdate=2008-02-15] or "Cashin Yashin" [cite web|url=http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/hockey/news/2001/12/11/sayitaintso_senators_reax/ |title=Senators fans remember the heartbreakers |accessdate=2008-01-07] by the fans, he played well for the Senators. And the Senators had another successful season, finishing with 109 points, winning the division and good enough for second in the Eastern Conference. For the third straight season, the Senators could not win a playoff round, losing again to Toronto in the first round, this time in a 4–0 sweep. After the season, on the day of the 2001 Entry Draft, Yashin would be traded to the New York Islanders for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and the Islanders' first round draft pick (second overall), which the Senators used to draft Jason Spezza. Yashin would sign a $87.5 million ten-year contract with the Islanders.

In 2001-02, the Senators regular season points total dropped to 94 points, third in the division, but the team did qualify for the playoffs. Jacques Martin stepped aside as head coach for the final two games to allow assistant coach Roger Neilson to have 1,000 games as head coach in the NHL. [Citation |title=Neilson to answer milestone's call: A gracious move by the Senators will allow valued assistant Roger Neilson to join an exclusive coaching fraternity. Allen Panzeri reports |newspaper=Ottawa Citizen |last=Panzeri |first=Allan |pages=C1 |date=April 9, 2002] In the first round, they upset the Philadelphia Flyers in five games, limiting the Flyers' high-powered offence to just two goals for the franchise's second playoff series win. This led to a second round series with Toronto, the third straight year the Senators had met the Maple Leafs in a 'Battle of Ontario.' The Maple Leafs won the series in a tense seven-game affair, after the Senators had led the series 3–2 after five games.

After the disappointing end to the season, there was speculation that front-office changes were coming. In the end, GM Marshall Johnston retired, but Martin and Mlakar were re-signed. [Citation |title=Senators keep coach, but GM is leaving: Johnston opts to go |newspaper=National Post |date=May 18, 2002 |pages=S2 |last=Warren |first=Ken] John Muckler was hired on June 12, 2002, [Citation|newspaper=The Globe and Mail |title=Mlakar makes Muckler GM, best man |pages=D2 |last=Naylor |first=David |date=June 13, 2002] the Senators' sixth GM, and the first with previous experience as a general manager (with Buffalo). He had been interested in the Ottawa job in 1991, but he chose not to wait for the Senators to make him an offer, and he joined the Buffalo Sabres organization.

In 2002-03 off-ice problems dominated the headlines. The Senators filed for bankruptcy on January 9, 2003 after a long history of debt. They continued regular season play after getting some emergency financing from the NHL. Despite the off-ice problems, Ottawa won the Presidents' Trophy, finishing with a franchise-record 113 points, making them the first Canadian team to win it since the Calgary Flames in 1989. This was also the highest finish by an Ottawa team in 77 years (since the original Senators finished first overall in 1926). In the playoffs they defeated Yashin and his New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers before coming within one game of making it into the finals, falling to the eventual champions, the New Jersey Devils.

2003-04: End of the Jacques Martin era

In the off-season, Eugene Melnyk would purchase the club to bring financial stability and the team entered the 2003-04 season with high expectations. Coach Jacques Martin would guide the team to another good regular season, finishing with 102 points. This was good for only third in the tightly-contested division, as the Bruins would have 104 and the Leafs 103.

The seedings meant that the Senators would play the Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2004 playoffs for the fourth straight time. By now, Ottawa had developed a strong rivalry with their Ontario cousins and there was a great deal of pressure on the team to finally defeat the Leafs. Despite missing their captain Mats Sundin and other veterans, the Leafs would win the series on the back of 'hot' goaltender Ed Belfour who had two shutouts, defeating the Senators in seven games. In the seventh game, Senators goaltender Patrick Lalime would surrender three goals before the first period was done and would be replaced by backup Martin Prusek. The Senators were not able to come back from the 3–0 deficit, losing 4–1. [Citation |newspaper=Calgary Herald |title=Leafs capture battle in Ontario|last=Fitzgerald |first=Sean |pages=pg. E5 |date=April 21, 2004] It was Lalime's last appearance in a Senators' uniform, and Jacques Martin's last game as coach. Two days after the Senators' loss, Martin was fired. [Citation|newspaper=Ottawa Citizen |title=Creator and victim of high expectations |last=Scanlon |first=Wayne| date=April 23, 2004 |pages=pg. A1] Lalime was later traded to the St. Louis Blues for a 4th round pick in the 2005 NHL Draft.

After losing eight of twelve playoff series, including all four series in five years versus the Leafs, team management felt that a new coach was required for playoff success. Muckler even suggested that the new coach would have "to fix the dressing room", implying the team was not responding to Martin. [Citation|newspaper=Star-Phoenix |last=Panzeri |first=Allen |date=April 23, 2004 |pages=pg. B2 |title=Abbreviated playoff ends Martin's run as coach of Senators] On June 8, 2004, Bryan Murray of nearby Shawville, Quebec, became the team's fifth head coach, leaving the Anaheim Ducks where he had been general manager. He would not actually coach until 2005 due to the NHL lockout, instead spending time on scouting.

2004-present: An elite team

On June 8, 2004, Bryan Murray born in nearby Shawville, Quebec, became the team's fifth head coach, leaving the Anaheim Ducks where he had been general manager. He would not actually coach until 2005 due to the NHL lockout, instead spending time on scouting.

;2004-05: Lockout timeThe Senators like the other NHL teams did not play during the lock-out. Most players chose to play in Europe, although some, like Jason Spezza played for the Senators farm team, the Binghamton Senators. Prior to the lockout, the Senators had acquired free agent goaltender Dominik Hasek. He did not play for any teams during the season, but did practice with Binghamton. Daniel Alfredsson had a very good season in Sweden, and his club team won the Swedish championship.

2005-06: High expectations unfulfilled

The media predicted the Senators to be Stanley Cup contenders, as they had a strong core back after the lockout, played in an up-tempo style fitting the new rule changes and Hasek was expected to provide top-notch goaltending. The team rushed out of the gate, winning 19 of the first 22 games, in the end winning 52 games and 113 points, placing first in the conference, and second overall.

Prior to the season, the Senators had acquired Dany Heatley in a blockbuster trade with the Atlanta Thrashers for Marian Hossa and Greg DeVries. Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza immediately formed one of the league's top offensive lines, [ cite journal | last=Garrioch |first=Bruce |journal=The Hockey News |date=October 30, 2007|title=Team Reports] dubbed the "CASH line" by fans in a contest held by the Ottawa Citizen. (The name is made from the initials of Captain Alfredsson, Spezza, and Heatley. [Citation|newspaper=Ottawa Citizen |date=November 17, 2005 |title=The Cash Line easily wins the vote|last=Citizen staff|pages=pg. C1] Another nickname the line has picked up is the 'Pizza Line', and is the nickname used by the Citizen's rival paper, the "Ottawa Sun". [citation|newspaper=Ottawa Sun|date=October 2, 2007 |last=Garrioch |first=Bruce |title=Pizza Line Ordered Up] ) The line made a dramatic debut in the first game, with Alfredsson scoring a goal to force overtime and Alfredsson and Heatley scoring goals in the league's first shootout. Heatley became the first Ottawa Senator in franchise history to reach 100 points and the first to reach the 50-goal mark. The line is notable as a top offensive line, the top line of all time for the Senators, and is widely regarded as one of the top lines in the NHL earning such quotes as 'best trio in the NHL', [ cite journal | last=Garrioch |first=Bruce |journal=The Hockey News |date=October 30, 2007|title=Team Reports] 'most dangerous line in hockey', [cite web|url=http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2007/11/14/ash_spezza/|title=Spezza back on top line?|last=Mendes|first=Ian|date=May 29, 2007|accessdate=2007-11-29|publisher=TSN] 'high-flying trio', cite web |url=http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/news?slug=mr-nhlfinals052807&prov=yhoo&type=lgns |title=Check mates |publisher=Yahoo Sports |date=May 29, 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-29 |last=Romig |first=Matt] "league's highest scoring line" [cite web |url=http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/news;_ylt=AqyyEUJPi5WxNNhWxnp6nOp7vLYF?slug=ap-allstar-eastroster&prov=ap&type=lgns|publisher=Yahoo Sports |title= Spezza, Heatley join Alfredsson at all-star game |author=Associated Press |date=January 11, 2008 |accessdate=1008-01-11] and 'potent first line' [cite web| url=http://www.nysun.com/article/55460 | title=Senators' Top Line Must Divide to Conquer |last=Greenstein | first=Kevin |date=May 30, 2007|accessdate=2007-11-30] in the sports media and hockey fans, both of the Senators and other teams. [cite web |url=http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071015204227AAEkW7A |publisher=Yahoo Answers | date=October 29, 2007| accessdate=2007-11-29 |title=Top nhl line today?| author=hockey fans}] [cite web |url=http://talkingthrash.blogspot.com/2007/11/best-line-in-nhl.html| title=Best Line in the NHL?| date=November 20, 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-29|author=Talking Thrash weblog]

Despite the regular season success, the team entered the playoffs under a cloud. In February, Hasek had suffered an adductor muscle injury while playing for the Czech national ice hockey team during the 2006 Winter Olympics. [Citation |title=Hasek likely finished |newspaper=Leader Post |last=Scanlan |first=Wayne |date=February 16, 2006 |pages=pg. C3] He had played only one game for the Czech team and returned to Ottawa to heal but would not play for the Senators again. Rookie netminder Ray Emery had to take over the starting goaltender duties, leading the media to predict an early playoff exit due to Hasek's absence. [cite web
url=http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/hockey/nhl/specials/playoffs/2006/04/21/predictions/?cnn=yes |title=SI.Com predictions |author=SI.com staff
accessdate=2007-08-24
] Hopes were raised in the first round, when Emery would become the first rookie netminder since Philadelphia's Brian Boucher in 2000 to win a playoff series when the Senators defeated Tampa Bay, four games to one. However, the Senators then lost to the Buffalo Sabres in the second round, a series in which all games were decided by one goal.

This was the last hurrah for several Senators, as Zdeno Chara, Hasek, Martin Havlat, Bryan Smolinski and Brian Pothier all left the team after the season. Chara, Hasek and Pothier signed with other teams as free agents. Havlat and Smolinski were traded away to Chicago.

2006-07: Trip to the Stanley Cup Finals

The Senators' season went off to a poor start, and was marked by a struggle to reach a .500 win-loss ratio. Until December, the team had a 21-18-1 record; however, they had much more success in the remaining half of the season, eventually finishing second in the division after the President's Trophy-winning Buffalo Sabres and earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They ultimately finished with 105 points, their fourth straight 100-point season and sixth in the last eight.

In the playoffs, Ottawa's fourth placing in the Conference meant that the first-round playoff series was against the fifth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. Some media were expecting the Penguins to win the series because the Penguins had won the season series, the Senators' past playoff troubles and the strong young talent of the Penguins, including Sidney Crosby. [cite web|last=Picarello|first=Robert|publisher=Fox Sports|title=NHL - Predictions: Eastern Conference |url=http://msn.foxsports.com/nhl/story/6666298|accessdate=2007-10-01] However, the Senators won easily by a score of four games to one, including a 3-0 win in the fifth game. This was the only series where the Senators were the higher-seeded team.

The second-round series was versus the Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey Devils, in a rematch of the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals. The Senators again won by a score of four games to one.

Next, the Senators faced off against the Buffalo Sabres in the Conference Final, looking to get even for losing to the Sabres in the 2006 playoffs. The Senators took the series, again by a score of four games to one, earning the Prince of Wales Trophy as Eastern Conference Champion and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, to face the Western Conference champion Anaheim Ducks. Daniel Alfredsson scored the series-winning goal, (see [http://youtube.com/watch?v=P3S8Fwm-oic video] ) in overtime, redemption for being beaten a year before on the goal that eliminated the Sens from the playoffs. It was also the first series win by the Senators against the Sabres.

;First Stanley Cup finals in the capital in 80 yearsThe 2006-07 Senators thus became the first Ottawa team to be in the Stanley Cup Finals since the 1927 Stanley Cup Finals. Despite the 80 year gap, one fan attended games both the 1927 and the 2007 Finals. The third game of the series and first home game for Ottawa on June 2, was attended by 99–year old Russell Williams as a guest of the Senators. He had attended the last Finals game in Ottawa on April 13, 1927, played in the old Ottawa Auditorium.cite web |url=http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070602/senators_070602?s_name=&no_ads= |title=Ottawa man nostalgically recalls Sens' last cup win |last=Cheadle |first=Bruce |publisher=ctv.ca |date=June 2, 2007|accessdate=2007-12-27] Both the 1927 and 2007 games were won by the Senators.

The city was swept up in the excitement of being in the finals. [cite web|url=http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story/?ID=209233&hubname= |title=Ottawa Unites to embrace Senators |last=Wallace |first=Lisa |publisher=TSN.ca |date=May 29, 2007
accessdate=2007-11-02
] Businesses along all of the main streets posted large hand-drawn 'Go Sens Go' signs, residents put up large displays in front of the their homes or decorated their cars. [cite web |url=http://www.reuters.com/article/sportsNews/idUSKRA47816120070604?sp=true |title=Ottawa captivated by Stanley Cup finals return |last=Keating |first=Steve |publisher=Reuters |date=May 29, 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-02] A large Ottawa Senators flag was draped on the City Hall, along with a large video screen showing the games. A six-story likeness of Daniel Alfredsson was hung on the Corel building [cite web|url=http://www.usatoday.com/sports/hockey/2007-05-27-4282159028_x.htm |title=Tale of two cities: Fired-up Ottawa, laid-back Anaheim |publisher=USA Today |last=Peters |first=Ken |date=May 29, 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-30] and the Senators organization held rallies at City Hall, and car rallies of decorated cars paraded from Lynx stadium, through downtown to Scotiabank Place. [cite web
url=http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=83fd382f-1a25-474c-843c-0628b5701406&k=42535 |title=Ottawa Senators fans paint the town red |first=Meagan |last=Fitzpatrick |publisher=CanWest News Service|date=May 24, 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-01
]

The series marked the first time that a NHL team with a captain from Europe had made the finals, as Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson is from Sweden. Previously, only Americans or Canadians had captained teams in the Finals. Alfredsson would be one of the bright lights for the Senators in the series, as he had been in all of the playoff series. But he would be one of the few bright lights as Anaheim won the series in five games bolstered by strong defensive play and opportunistic scoring.

The first two games were in Anaheim, both won by the Ducks by one goal margins. Game three went to the Senators, but game four in Ottawa was won by the Ducks, for an insurmountable 3 games to 1 lead. The Ducks would finish the series in game five at home. The Ducks had been favoured to win the Cup since before the season started. [Citation |author=Hockey News staff|journal=The Hockey News|date=October 3, 2006|pages=pg. 22] The Senators were the third consecutive Canadian franchise to reach the Final and they suffered the same fate as the Calgary Flames of 2004 and the Edmonton Oilers of 2006.

Logo and jersey design

The team colours are red, black and white, like the original era Senators, and like other Ottawa sports teams (such as the Ottawa Renegades, Rough Riders and 67s), with added trim of gold. The colours are attributed to the colours of the defunct Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association, the Ottawa Hockey Club being a member club.

The club logo is officially the head of a Roman general, a member of the Senate of the Roman Empire,Citation |newspaper=Ottawa Citizen |date=May 24, 1991 |last=Scanlan |first=Wayne |title=Senators show off new logo] projecting from a gold circle. There have been several versions of the team logo. The original, unveiled on May 23, 1991, described the general as a "centurion figure, strong and prominent" according to its designer, Tony Milchard. Milchard intended the logo to be similar to that of the Chicago Blackhawks head logo. Leaked before its unveiling, the logo design was unpopular with fans, being compared unfavourably to the American Express card, the USC Trojans and the Trojan condom. The original had the words "Ottawa Senators" within the circle. This logo was slightly revised in 1996 to remove the team name from the gold circle and replace it with laurels. [Ottawa Senators Media Guide 2007–08, pg. 2]

The original home jersey was white with black and red stripes. The original 'away' jersey was black, with white and red trim. Shoulder patches used a winged 'S' 'established MDCCCXCIV' (1894) logo. The league changed its policies on coloured and white jerseys and the white jersey became the 'away' jersey. The club would use the white jersey with the original logo until the end of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals.

In 1998, the Senators unveiled a new logo, taking the head, which had been in profile, and rotating it so that it was face-first. [Citation |newspaper=The Ottawa Citizen |title=Hockey Talk |pages=pg. F3 |date=January 24, 1998] The new logo was unveiled with a new red 'third' jersey, prominently using 'curved' or 'swoosh' stripes. [Citation |newspaper=Ottawa Citizen |last=MacGregor |first=Roy |date=March 26, 1998 |title=Senators pull out all the sweaters |pages=B1] On the shoulder, the original logo was used as a shoulder patch. The original dark jersey, (then the 'away' jersey) which was mostly black, was retired after the season. The red jersey became the home jersey and it remained in use until the end of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals.

Starting in July 2000, the Senators reused the alternate logo on another third jersey, designed by Ottawa firm Hoselton Brunet, this one black with red and gold sleeves and a gold stripe with laurel leaves along the bottom of the jersey.Citation |newspaper=Ottawa Citizen |last=Panzeri |first=Allen |date=July 12, 2000 |pages=B3 |title=Senators rush the unveiling: New third jersey appears on Internet, throws timing all off] On the shoulders, was a modified version of the original Peace Tower logo of the expansion campaign, which the management liked. Like the original logo, this design was leaked onto the Internet. This jersey was in use until the end of the 2006–07 season.

2007–08 Update

On August 22, 2007, the Senators unveiled a set of new jerseys, which have a more refined, streamlined look to them,. [cite web
url=http://senators.nhl.com/team/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=336188
title=Senators Introduce Updated Primary Logo
author=Ottawa Senators staff
publisher=Ottawa Senators
date=August 22, 2007
accessdate=2007-08-22
] The team retired all three previous jerseys and did not have a third jersey for the 2007–08 season. The updated look came in conjunction with the launch of the new "Rbk EDGE" jerseys by Reebok, adopted league-wide for the 2007–08 season.

At the same time, the team updated its logos, designed by local firm Acart Communications. The new primary logo is an update of the old secondary logo, which according to team owner Eugene Melnyk, "represents strength and determination." [cite web|url=http://tsn.ca/nhl/news_story/?ID=216706&hubname=nhl|title=Senators unveil new look for 2007-08|author=TSN staff|publisher=TSN.ca|date=August 23, 2007 |accessdate=2007-08-23] The logo was modified in several ways, updating the facial features, removing facial colouring, reducing size of the gold semi-circle and updating the cape of the warrior.cite book |title=Ottawa Senators Media Guide 2007–08 |pages=pg.2 |year=2007 |publisher=Ottawa Senators] The new secondary logo is an update of the old primary logo. Only the primary logo will appear on the jerseys, as the secondary logo will be on Sens' merchandise. The new shoulder patch 'O' logo replaces the winged 'S' shoulder patch with the jersey logo of the original Ottawa Senators club.

References

Bibliography

* cite book | last=Finnigan |first=Joan
title=Old Scores, New Goals: The Story of the Ottawa Senators
publisher=Quarry Press
isbn=1550820419
year=1992

*cite encyclopedia |last=Garrioch |first=Bruce |title=Ottawa Senators, 1992-93 to date |encyclopedia=Total Hockey |year=1998 |publisher=Total Sports |isbn=0836271149 |pages=pgs. 225-227
*cite book | last=MacGregor | first=Roy | title=Ottawa Senators | year=1996 |isbn=0886826829 |publisher=Creative Education
*cite book | last=MacGregor | first=Roy | title=Road games : a year in the life of the NHL | year=1993
publisher=Macfarlane Walter & Ross |isbn=0921912587

*
*cite book |title=National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2002 |year=2001 |publisher=Dan Diamond & Associates |last=NHL staff
*cite book |title=Ottawa Senators : great stories from the NHL's first dynasty |last=Robinson |first=Chris |publisher=Altitude Publishing |year=2004 |isbn=1551537907
*

Notes

ee also

*Battle of Ontario
*List of NHL players
*List of NHL seasons
*List of ice hockey teams in Ontario

External links

* [http://www.ottawasenators.com/ Official website of the Ottawa Senators]
* [http://www.bellsensplex.ca/ Official website of Bell Sensplex]


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