The Senators, a team that each spring races the ice on the
Rideau Canal to see which melts first, addressed their perennial
lack of grit this summer by bringing in former enforcer Don
Jackson as an assistant coach under Jacques Martin. Jackson--who
as a coach in the minors was suspended for 10 games for punching
out an opposing mascot--can no longer scare the hell out of the
other team, but maybe he can scare the hell out of his own, an
efficient, disciplined club with little of the jam necessary to
succeed in the playoffs.
Ottawa, the second-seeded Eastern Conference team in the playoffs
in two of the past three years, has won just two of 14 postseason
games while capitulating in three straight first-round losses.
While the faltering Senators won't slink back into the primordial
expansion ooze (Martin's system is sound, and there is a wealth
of solid if not elite players), they are no longer a Stanley Cup
The first reaction in Canada's capital to the draft-day trade of
stalwart center Alexei Yashin might have been "good riddance,"
but his 40 goals are irreplaceable. Right wing Marian Hossa, who
sat out most of training camp in a contract dispute, is on the
cusp of being a scoring star and must continue to produce. Radek
Bonk, who performed admirably two years ago when Yashin was
sitting out the season in the longest of his tiresome contract
disputes, inherits the No. 1 center role, and winger Martin
Havlat, who scored 19 goals as a rookie, could see time in the
middle. The biggest decision will be whether to fast-track rookie
center Jason Spezza, drafted with the No. 2 pick acquired from
the Islanders in the Yashin swap; at times in the preseason he
The Senators will win with goaltending--Patrick Lalime proved
himself a credible No. 1 last year--and a six-deep defense that
includes offensive threat Sami Salo and 24-year-old Wade Redden,
who the Senators hope will build on his career-high 10 goals and
47 points of last season and develop into a franchise defenseman.
Make no mistake: With Redden, Havlat, Hossa and 32-goal scorer
Shawn McEachern, Ottawa, which had the NHL's fourth-best record
with the 23rd-highest payroll last season, is still a nice team.
But that's precisely the problem.
The Senators are one of four teams to finish with 95 or more
points in each of the last three seasons. Ottawa hasn't won a
playoff series over that span, while the other three clubs--the
Stars, Devils and Avalanche--have won Stanley Cups.
CATEGORY SI RANKING SKINNY
FORWARDS 17 Loss of Yashin will hurt; Havlat could break out
DEFENSE 10 Great depth, mobility; Redden must be consistent
GOALTENDING 13 Lalime, Hurme were unexpectedly strong last year
SPECIAL TEAMS 15 PP is weak; Fisher could be a shorthanded demon
MANAGEMENT 14 G.M. Johnston has gathered lots of talent