Team Profile: The Ottawa Senators

The Senators for me are another one of those teams that I just kind of don’t have an opinion of one way or another. While they found very little success this season, I think they have a talented enough roster to come back fighting this season.

Here is the abridged overview:

  • Located in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference
  • Founded in 1992
  • Located in Ottawa, Ontario
  • Arena: Canadian Tire Centre
  • Owner: Eugene Melnyk
  • GM: Pierre Dorian
  • Head Coach: Guy Boucher
  • Captain: Erik Karlsson
  • Minor League Affiliate: Binghamton Senators
  • Stanley Cups: none

And now for some facts about the team:

They are based on the original Ottawa Senators (part of the Original Six). When the NHL expanded into the U.S., the Senators financial losses forced them to move to St. Louis in 1934. They were unsuccessful in St. Louis, so the NHL suspended the franchise and transferred the players to existing NHL teams.

54 years later, Bruce Firestone successfully lobbied the league to award Ottawa a new franchise, which became todays Ottawa Senators.

 The first season was successful for what the owners wanted. They had a goal of not setting a record for fewest points in a season, and wanted to finish low enough in the standings in order to get higher draft picks. So good job?

They operated like that the next few seasons. Intentionally finishing low in the league standings (last, 3 years in a row, actually), to get high draft picks, with the goal to eventually develop into a strong contender. But understandably, fans got restless and attendance began to dwindle.

They made the playoffs for the first time in 1997 under new management and coaching staff. They lost to the Sabres in the first round, but it was progress.

The Senators had to file for bankruptcy in 2002, and continued to operate with emergency financing. Despite financial issues, they won the Presidents Trophy that season, and were one win away from making it to the finals.

In 2007 they did make the Stanley Cup Finals, and became the first Ottawa team to do so since 1927 (with the original Sens). They lost to the Anaheim Ducks.

They entered into a bit of a rebuild state with shake ups among the front office staff.

In 2010, they traded Mike Fisher to the Predators. Conveniently he had just purchased a home in Nashville with his new wife, Carrie Underwood. Since he was a fan favorite, this led to some backlash against Carrie Underwood (totally makes sense…) and some local radio stations banned her songs from being played on air.

At some point the Senators acquired Ales Hemsky from the Oilers via trade, so for part of the season he played on the same line as then captain, Jason Spezza. At the end of that season Spezza requested a trade, which eventually led to him becoming a Dallas Star.

This past season they failed to make the playoffs (as did all Canadian teams, so…), and fired their head coach, Dave Cameron. They brought on Guy Boucher for the new season.

Notable Players:

  • Daniel Alfredsson
  • Frank Finnigan
  • Dominik Hasek
  • Jason Spezza
  • Bobby Ryan
  • Erik Karlsson
  • Dion Phaneuf
  • Alexei Yashin
  • Wade Redden
  • Marian Hossa

Like I said above, I don’t have a particularly strong opinion about this team. I think they are a bubble team that might surprise some teams down the stretch.

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Ottawa Senators Logo 
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Team Profile: The Toronto Maple Leafs

And here we have another Original Six team. With that of course comes a long and distinguished history. Recently they have struggled quite a bit, and are currently in a rebuild stage, but with the addition of first overall draft pick Auston Matthews, as well as a group of young dynamic players, their time as a bottom dwelling team might be coming to an end.

Here is the abridged overview:

  • Located in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference
  • Founded in 1917
  • Located in Toronto, Ontario
  • Arena: Air Canada Centre
  • Owner: Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment
  • GM: Lou Lamoriello
  • Head Coach: Mike Babcock
  • Captain: vacant
  • Minor League Affiliate: Toronto Marlies
  • Stanley Cups: 13

Because of time constraints (this is what happened when you procrastinate), here is a list of interesting facts about the Leafs:

The NHL was formed in 1917 because owners of the teams in the NHA couldn’t legally vote out one if its members, Eddie Livingston, owner of the Toronto Blueshirts. So instead, the owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs, and Ottawa Senators created their own league. Livingston and the Blueshirts were left in the NHA by themselves.

The new league wanted a team in Toronto, so they allowed Arena Company to borrow players from the Blueshirts to create a team. The team didn’t have an official name at the time but went by Torontos or Blueshirts. The Arena Company, rather than return the borrowed players, kept them and formed their own team, the Toronto Arena Hockey Club.

At one point the teams colors were green (they were the Toronto St. Patrick’s at the time).

Conn Smythe (yes of the playoff MVP trophy), purchased the team in 1927. He was the one that named them the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Apparently there is some debate about the origin of the name, the Leafs. The most commonly accepted and most likely source of the name is the Maple Leaf Regiment from World War I. But another source says Smythe got the name from a team he had once scouted, the East Toronto Maple Leafs. Since the name is a proper noun, it is the Leafs, not Leaves.

The Leafs held the first NHL All-Star Game. It was held to benefit their star forward, Ace Bailey who was nearly killed when he was checked into the boards at full speed (always scary, but this was pre helmet era, so…)

During the 1942 season, they became the first major pro-sports team to come back from 3-0 to win a best of 7 championship series. This was against the Red Wings.

They won the Stanley Cup in 1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967.

The Leafs hosted the 1999-2000 All-Star Game, where Wayne Gretzky’s number was retired League-wide.

The Leafs have an intense rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings, as well as the Ottawa Senators.

Currently the Leafs are the most valuable franchise in the NHL, and rank 37th in the world. They are the only NHL franchise to crack to top 50.

1992-1993 Stanley Cup Championship had a bit of controversy as a missed high sticking call on Wayne Gretzky eventually led to him scoring the game winning goal in Game 6. The Leafs had been leading the series 3-2 at that point, and eventually lost Game 7.

During the 2013 playoffs, which came after the shortened season due to the lockout, the Leafs lost in 7 games against the Boston Bruins. “It was 4-1” incites a bit of anger in most Toronto fans, I think. The Leafs had jumped to a 4-1 lead in the 3rd period, but the Bruins completed a comeback to send the game into overtime, where Patrice Bergeron scored to win the Bruins the series.

At the conclusion of the terrible 2015 season (where the Leafs set a franchise record for 11 consecutive games without a win), they cleaned house. Most of the coaching and front office staff were fired or relieved of their duties. Mike Babcock was named head coach, and Lou Lamoriello was named General Manager.

The cleaning of house continued as they shipped Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for prospects and draft picks. They also eventually traded Dion Phaneuf to the Senators as well. This huge overhaul in both staff and players certainly indicated the beginning of a rebuild. This past season they finished last in the League, but this earned them the first overall draft pick, Auston Matthews.

Notable Players (there are so many, so please excuse this super short list):

  • Tim Horton
  • Ace Bailey
  • Mats Sundin
  • Curtis Joseph
  • Doug Gilmour
  • King Clancy
  • Darryl Sitter
  • Felix Potvin
  • Tie Domi
  • Phil Kessel
  • Dion Phaneuf
  • James Reimer

The Leafs right now are a young team in the middle of a rebuild. I honestly see them being very successful in the long run as I think they have a wily and smart GM as well as an effective coach. It’s kind of easy to poke fun at them now, but they have a game plan, and seem to be sticking to it. Maybe they won’t make the playoffs this season. But I can’t imagine it will be long.

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How does it feel to have the hopes and dreams of an entire franchise resting on your shoulders, Auston Matthews? (source: Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)

Team Profile: St Louis Blues

Personal feelings aside, and the grudge held against them, the St Louis Blues are an admittedly formidable opponent. Physicality and offensive prowess both, the Blues play their game well.

Overview:
Western Conference
Central Division
Established: 1967
Arena: Scottrade Center
AHL Affiliate: Chicago Wolves
Owner: St. Louis Blues Hockey Club
Coach: Ken Hitchcock
Notable Former Players: Al Arbour, Chris Pronger, Brett Hull,
Current Captain: Alex Pietrangelo
Goalies: Jake Allen, Carter Hutton
Notable Current Players: Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen, Scottie Upshall

Facts:
Though St. Louis had not originally bid for a team, the owners of the Black Hawks at the time wanted to be rid of their arena in St. Louis that had fallen to neglect. The Wirtz family had significant influence over the league and with their persuasion, the chairman Clarence Campbell announced that they wanted a team in St. Louis because there was a sufficient facility to house the team.

The original owner of the team, Sid Salomon III, was well loved by his players. Mostly because he gave them all sorts of gifts, like cars and Florida vacations. In return, his players did their best to play well for him for each game.

The Blues made the playoffs in their first three seasons because the playoff format at the time required an expansion team to appear. They were swept all three times, and then when the playoff format changed and their division suddenly included the Black Hawks and the Red Wings, they under-performed and missed the playoffs several seasons running.

Due to financial troubles after their decline, at one point there were only three people employed by the team before Salomon could find a buyer. One of those three, Emile Francis, served as team president, general manager, and head coach.

In a 1986 Playoff game 6 against the Flames, the Blues scored three goals with 12 minutes to go in the third period to tie the game which they subsequently won in overtime. This game is now dubbed the Monday Night Miracle locally.

Won their only presidents trophy in the 1999-00 season.

The Blues were the only team to make the playoffs in every year of the 90s.

St. Louis Blues v New York Rangers
(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com)

Team Profile: Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators, despite being a fairly young team, are not afraid to make big waves. From playoff upsets to shocking trades, there’s no doubt that the Predators are a fascinating team to watch. While their last playoff appearance ended rather spectacularly, they aren’t a team to be underestimated.

Overview:
Western Conference
Central Division
Established: 1997
Arena: Bridgestone Arena
AHL Affiliate: Milwaukee Admirals
Owner: Predators Holdings
Coach: Peter Laviolette
Notable Former Players: Shea Weber (LOL
Current Captain: Mike Fisher
Goalies: Pekka Rinne, Marek Mazanec
Notable Current Players: P.K. Subban (LOL), Roman Josi, James Neal, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg

Some facts:
In June of 1997, Gary Bettman granted conditional franchises to Nashville, Columbus, Atlanta, and Saint Paul. Because Nashville already had an arena built after an attempt to get the New Jersey Devils to relocate to Nashville, the Predators were the first of the four to begin play.

When construction began for a bank in downtown Nashville in 1971, a partial skeleton of a sabretooth tiger was found. This became the inspiration for the logo that was created for the Predators, and then a name was picked to match the logo.

Predators’ fans sometimes throw catfish onto the ice, a tradition modified off the Red Wings octopus.

In 1981, the Minnesota North Stars had a minor league affiliate in Nashville, the Nashville South Stars.

Bob Suter, who played for the USA in the 1980’s miracle on ice, played his only professional hockey season with the Nashville North Stars. Ryan Suter, his son, played for the Predators for seven seasons.

The Predators made their first Stanley Cup playoffs debut in 2004, but lost the Red Wings in the first round. They have never appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Predators helped Montreal break the internet on June 29, 2016, when they made the extremely bizarre 1-for-1 trade Shea Weber for P.K. Subban.

p-k-subban

Team Profile: The Winnipeg Jets

I’ll be honest, half the time I forget the Jets are in our Division. Since relocating from Atlanta, the Jets have been fairly quiet. Because this team was established in 2011, this history will be super short and sweet.

  • Located in the Central Division of the Western Conference
  • Founded in 1999 as the Atlanta Thrashers (relocated for the 2011 season)
  • Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Arena: MTS Centre
  • Owner: True North Sports and Entertainment
  • GM: Kevin Cheveldayoff
  • Head Coach: Paul Maurice
  • Captain: Blake Wheeler
  • Minor League Affiliate: Manitoba Moose
  • Stanley Cups: none

 And here is a slightly more in depth history. Again, this will be super short. I went over the origins of the original Winnipeg Jets in the Arizona Coyotes Profile. So here I will focus on the Atlanta Thrashers since they are the team that became the present day Jets.

The Atlanta Thrashers were founded in 1997 as an expansion team. In their 12 years as a franchise they only made it to the playoffs once. They didn’t win a single playoff game during that run.
As early as 2009, True North Sports and Entertainment had interest in buying the team to relocate them to Winnipeg. They had put in a bid for the Phoenix Coyotes. Despite the fact that they were unsuccessful, their approach was praised by Gary Bettman and the rest of the owners, which would help them when it came time to make a bid for the Thrashers. Finally in 2011 it was confirmed that the Thrashers were purchased with plans to relocate them to Winnipeg.

Season ticket sales for the yet unnamed team exceeded expectations, selling out within minutes. The name was revealed as the Winnipeg Jets on June 24th when the team was introduced to make their first selection in the 2011 Entry Draft.
Since then, they have made the Stanley Cup playoffs once, in 2015. They were swept by the Anaheim Ducks.
This past season they finished 25th overall. They were able to win the 2nd overall draft pick this year in the lottery, selecting Patrik Laine.

 Notable Players:

  • Blake Wheeler
  • Dustin Byfuglien
  • Andrew Ladd

 Again, this team flies under the radar quite a bit, especially in the competitive Central Division. They are a young team, so they likely need some time to establish themselves. I’m not complaining. The Central Division is scary enough as it is.

I thought the Injury Gnome was a Pittsburgh thing…

Oh, Jamie Benn needs surgery? The dummy hurt himself training. No big deal, it’s the offseason. Even if he misses the World Cup, he’ll be fine for training camp. All is cool.Wait, now Tyler Seguin is hurt? It’s ok, they’re just taking him out because the tournament is too short for him to recover. He’ll be fine in 10 days or so…wait, a hairline fracture? Well that sucks. But ok, he’ll be back early in the season even if he isn’t ready for the opener. We’re still ok.

Faksa with concussion symptoms. That sounds bad…he’ll be cleared soon, though, right?

Hemsky left the game early… A groin injury? Damn man, that sounds terrible.

Ok, well at least the tournament is over for our guys. Training camp! We made it! Hold up, Eakin got hurt the first day? What the hell? How does that even happen? Now Shore? Dickinson out until early November recovering from hip surgery? Ok, maybe I’m getting a little concerned now…

Ok, Janmark is missing a preseason game. I’m sure he was just given an extra day to recover, no reason to panic about him being pulled from the lineup at the last minute. Hmm, well him being on crutches doesn’t sound too good, but I’m sure it’s just a bump…he’s out 5-6 months?!? 

Holy crap, ok, this is not funny anymore.  

Basically me for the last couple of weeks.

– Italia

The World Cup of Hockey 2016

Team USA’s exit from the World Cup of Hockey is something I have mixed feelings about.

On one hand, I’m sorry for the players. They did as they were told and as they had been selected to do. They were chosen for grit and for the physical aspects of the game. They played to those guidelines. It wasn’t enough.

So on the other hand, I hope that this will help spur the future Team USA management groups into considering all aspects of the game as opposed to only the physical ones. Coach Quenneville once said something that boiled down to: if a team is focused on hits, that means they don’t have the puck. The self-congratulatory way the Team USA management proclaimed that they had built a team to be gritty failed to take into account a need to score goals.

They decided that skill players could be interchanged for players that liked to play a physical game, and players on the blue line should be big and imposing as opposed to players inclined to moving the puck forward. How did they expect that to go? You can play a physical game all you want, but if the opponent is simply faster than you, how are you going to hit them? How do you catch them to get the puck back?

To me, after looking at the roster, I was skeptical, but it was really the coaching decisions that made me feel like the ending was inevitable. Starting Quick over Bishop? Byfuglien is the healthy scratch? I mean, okay, yeah, maybe, but you have to play smart. You have to make creative plays and you have to move fast. Just playing a gritty game isn’t going to win it for you.

And while Team USA going out is sad, it’s not surprising.

Team North America going out? Now that’s disappointing beyond imagination. This team is something unprecedented.

The amount of raw talent on Team North America is unreal. Not only are they fast, they’re creative. They’re willing to try plays and combinations that some of the more experience players won’t. Chris Chelios rightfully said that they’re willing to try things because they don’t see them as being impossible yet. The talent of this team, the unique blend of speed and skill is something we won’t likely see again. Even if the NHL does a World Cup with another Team North America, and McDavid, and Eichel, and Matthews are all still eligible, it’d be insane for their respective nations to allow them to play for anyone but their own country.

McDavid has already said he wants to play for Team Canada in the next one. And Team Canada would be foolish to not allow it. I would expect similarly with some of the other younger guys. If they even have another Under 24 team for the next World Cup.

Team North America was fascinating to watch. Dynamic, fast, smart, enthusiastic. It’s incredibly disappointing that we won’t get to see them play further.

I hope Team North America understands how much the hockey community appreciated them. The fastest game in sports, and they not only made it faster, but they played it with so much skill and genuine love for the game. This is the future of hockey, and it’s beautiful.

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To Team North America: Thank you. It was an absolute pleasure watching you play.

And to Team USA: what did you expect lol

-Caitlynn