It has been something of a bittersweet decade for the Ottawa Senators. On one hand, they’ve spent the first decade of the 21st century as one of the most talented and dynamic teams in the NHL. On the other hand, they have almost nothing to show for it.
One appearance in the Stanley Cup final and a string of playoff disappointments at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs have pretty much provided the defining moments of the past 10 years.
But the Senators, at times, have been very good. And that’s why here at The Hockey News, we put three Senators on our Team of the Decade. In our Jan. 4 issue, we chose our team of the decade not by choosing the best 20 players, but by selecting the best team, meaning we constructed a roster of two scoring lines, a checking line and an energy line with three sets of defencemen and a starting and backup goalie.
Filling in the right side on the second line is Daniel Alfredsson, who was selected along with centre Pavel Datsyuk and left winger Ilya Kovalchuk. For Alfredsson, the selection was recognition of the remarkable consistency and professionalism he has displayed over the past 10 years with the Senators.
To be sure, there have been few players in the NHL who have played as well at both ends of the ice throughout the entire decade than Alfredsson. Only Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla (our first-line right winger) have scored more points than Alfredsson since Jan. 1, 2000, and even though he has never won a Selke Trophy, he has always been one of the league’s premier two-way players.
Two Senators were put on our fourth line flanking centre Rod Brind’Amour — Jarkko Ruutu on the left side and Chris Neil on the right. Both players bring with them the kind of energetic and physical play you need from your fourth-line players and, more importantly, they can both contribute significant minutes without being a liability.
Only Donald Brashear has more penalty minutes through the decade than Neil and his ability to move up the lineup and play a more significant role makes him valuable. And there has not been a much better shift disturber over the past few seasons than Ruutu, who also comes in handy during shootouts.
Alfredsson, Ruutu and Neil may not be the best players in the NHL, but we’ll take them on our team anytime … at least for this decade.