It was a tumultuous year in Sens Land, as they news off the ice often overshadowed the happenings on it. The Senators parted ways with a lot of familiar faces in 2011, and added new pieces to the family that should help over the long term. Here is a look back at the year 2011 in Hockey Country.
JANUARY – FALL FROM GRACE
January was a month that Senators fans and players would love to forget and never be forced to relive again. Playing without their top player (Jason Spezza) who was injured on Boxing Day 2010, the Senators fizzled as the calendar turned, and had one of the worst months in club history. The Sens went 1-7-3 in the month and went from playoff hopeful to a contender for the last overall spot in the league.
OTHER JAN. NOTES
- The only bright spot in a dismal month was that the one win they did have was prospect Robin Lehner‘s first career NHL win, a 6-4 victory over the New York Islanders.
- Erik Karlsson represented the Senators at the NHL All Star Weekend in Raleigh, NC
FEBRUARY – WINDS OF CHANGE
As the Senators’ slide continued, losing their first 5 games of February, the club hit rock bottom in the NHL and GM Bryan Murray started a drastic dismantling of the team. On February 10th, the Murray sen shockwaves through Sens Army by dealing fan favorite Mike Fisher to the Nashville Predators, getting an early jump on trade deadline time. Next was Chris Kelly to Boston, Jarkko Ruutu to Anaheim, Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson and Alex Kovalev to Pittsburgh. They claimed Marek Svatos off waivers from the Predators and called up players like Erik Condra, Colin Greening and Bobby Butler (among others) to fill the void. The moves added a stockpile of draft picks and cut the Senators’ payroll, as the rebuild was in full force.
OTHER FEB NOTES
- Chris Phillips‘ Team Red won the annual Skills Competition, with a surprise in the fastest skater competition. Rookie Colin Greening set a franchise record in the event, besting the time set by Antoine Vermette.
- Daniel Alfredsson played his final game of the season on Feb 7th as he finally succumed to a hip/back injury that had bothered him for most of the season. There were worries that it could mean the end of his career as the 38 year old had struggled skating with the injury.
- It was an emotional night on Feb 26th as the Senators hosted Do It For Daron night, to honour former Senator player and current Assistant coach Luke Richardson‘s daughter Daron, who had taken her own life in November 2010. It was a fundraising night to raise money for DIFD, an initiative in partnership with The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health.
- Craig Anderson made a splash in his first game as a Senator. He shut out the rival Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 in a shootout to gain instant love from Sens Army.
MARCH – ANDERSON & SPEZZA CARRY THE LOAD
Craig Anderson proved to be a steal (at least short term) in the one-for-one trade for Brian Elliott, as Anderson started to steal the show with his play as he led a young squad to a surprising 9-6-1 record in the month. Also turning heads was Jason Spezza, who demonstrated the ability to be the dominant all-around player that Sens fans have been frustrated not to see on a daily basis for years. He dominated offensively, defensively and in the faceoff circle in many games over the Feb-Mar period.
OTHER MAR. NOTES
- The Senators started signing the next wave of prospects, as they signed FA forward Wacey Hamilton as well as draft picks Derek Grant and Mark Borowiecki. Then, at the end of the month, they won a bidding war for NCAA free agent Stephane DaCosta, inking the Paris native to a two-year deal.
- With his stellar play since coming over from Colorado, Anderson was anointed as the Senators goalie of the present and awarded a 4 year, $12.75 M contract extension.
APRIL – MURRAY STAYS, CLOUSTON GOES
With the future of the club’s leadership in doubt since January, owner Eugene Melnyk answered the questions by awarding Bryan Murray a three year contract extension. Murray’s moves during February likely saved his job and the play of Craig Anderson and the young players who came up from Binghamton showed Melnyk enough to believe that Murray was capable of directing the rebuild. Coach Cory Clouston wasn’t so lucky, as moments after the club’s final game in Boston he was let go along with assistant coaches Greg Carvel and Brad Lauer.
OTHER APRIL NOTES
- After missing the playoffs and finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference, many of the young Senators players were assigned to Binghamton for the AHL club’s attempt to have an extended playoff run.
- After falling behind 3 games to 1, Binghamton won three straight overtime games to win the opening round of the AHL playoffs over the Manchester Monarchs.
- Senators players representing thier countries at the World Hockey Championships included Jason Spezza (CAN), Ryan Shannon (USA), Milan Michalek (CZE), Stephane Da Costa (FRA)
MAY – Bolstered Binghamton Lineup Advances in AHL playoffs
The Binghamton Senators overcame series deficits and a vast array of injuires to advance to the AHL’s Calder Cup finals against the Houston Aeros. After dispatching the Monarchs in 7 games, the Senators defeated the Portland Pirates in 6 games and dispatched the Charlotte Checkers in four straight.
OTHER MAY NOTES
- Zack Smith and Colin Greening were awarded with one way contracts, 2 years and 3 years respectively. The duo was instrumental in the end-of-season run for the Senators as well as the current Binghamton playoff effort. The Senators also signed draft picks Louie Caporusso and Jakob Silfverberg to entry level contracts.
- The Senators will once again host a world IIHF event, as it was announced that the 2013 Women’s World Championship would be held in Ottawa April 2-9, 2013.
- Senators prospects David Rundblad and Jakob Silfverberg were on the Silver medal winning Swedish National team at the World Championships. Milan Michalek won a bronze medal with the Czechs.
JUNE – B-I-N-G-O!!! & A New Coach is Named & Prospects Galore
The offseason proved to be more newsworthy than the season for the Senators. The Binghamton Senators won the organizaiton’s first ever championship by defeating the Houston Aeros in 6 games. Goaltender Robin Lehner was named the playoff MVP, which was rewarding after a season in which he struggled with injuries and inconsistency.
Also, Paul MacLean was named as the new head coach for the Ottawa Senators. He gained instant fame in the city for his moustache, but also for being an energetic, 180 degree departure from his predecessor in terms of personality and demeanor. He said all the right things at his press conference and it was perceived as another step forward in the rebuild.
The next step happened in Minnesota as the Senators were busy in the first two rounds of the NHL entry draft. They used their 6th overall pick on a rising star, Swedish centre Mika Zibanejad. They then used their second first round pick on Plymouth Whalers forward Stefan Noeson and acquired a 3rd first round pick and selected Peterborough Petes’ forward Matt Puempel. In the second round, the Sens went local, selecting Ottawa 67’s forward Shane Prince, who was a steal with the 61st pick.
OTHER JUNE NOTES
- After weeks of rehabbing his injury without getting desired results, captain Daniel Alfredsson decided to go the surgery route, in an effort to be able to return to the NHL next season. The back surgery was successful and Alfie was optimistic about returning in the new season.
- Mark Reeds and Dave Cameron were added to the Senators coaching staff after leading their respective OHL teams to the Memorial Cup. Cameron was in the running for the head coach position that went to MacLean.
- At the draft, the Senators also added enigmatic prospect Nikita Filatov from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 2nd round pick. Filatov brings skill but wasn’t able to find full time employment in Columbus. It was a gamble on Bryan Murray’s part, but one that was well received.
- The Senators closed the month by opening their annual development camp, featuring all of the new faces acquired as well as a number of prospects that won the Calder Cup in Binghamton.
So that wraps up part 1 of my Year In Review. Hope you are having a great 2012 already, and check back later for part 2.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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