Ottawa was a charter member of the National Hockey League when it was formed in 1917. They finished out of the playoffs in their inaugural season, but the Senators would capture their first Stanely Cup championship in 1920 by defeating the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey League. After a slow start the following year, the Senators bounced back and defeated the Vancouver Millionaires to win back to back Stanley Cups. The Millionaires would exact some revenge the following year as they defeated Ottawa in the finals. Despite their on-ice success, the Senators played in one of the smallest NHL markets. With increasing competition from bigger American teams, they would soon begin to feel the pinch. The Senators would go on to win two more Stanley Cups in the 1920s, before the team would dissolve and move to St. Louis in 1933-34. They played their finally season (1934-1935) as the St. Louis Eagles.
Over fifty years after the Senators had left Ottawa, a local group comprised of Bruce Firestone, Cyril Leeder and Randy Sexton got things in motion to bring an NHL franchise back to Canada's capital. The trio had access to land in the Ottawa subhurb of Kanata and the National Hockey League was looking to add two new expansion franchises. Even though the financial stability of the group was questionable, the NHL awarded a team to Ottawa and the Senators began play in 1992. They openend up in the downtown Civic Center, facing off against the Montreal Canadiens. In what would be one of the biggest upsets, the Senators defeated the Canadiens 5-3 in front of a packed home crowd. The Senators though would suffer through a miserable season (one of few to come) as they did not win on the road in 39 games. The team was patched together with a handful of American Hockey League players were out of their league as the Senators finished with a 10-70-4 record for 24 points; the worst ever for an expansion team. The following off-season they drafted QMJHL star Alexander Daigle with the first overall pick; a pick that spurned an NHL investigation into whether the Sens had purposely lost games to get that pick.
The Senators continued to make some progress as Alexi Yashin and Alexander Daigle made positive on-ice contributions. The team finished its second year with 37 points but off-ice problems continued as Alexi Yashin and Bryan Berard were involved in contract standoffs with the team. The Sens finished out of the playoff run in the lockout shortened season and by the 1995-96 campaign, a similar scene of contract disputes involving Alexi Yashin was being replayed. Yahsin left for Russia and midway through the year in a flurry of moves Anaheim Mighty Ducks assistant Pierre Gauthier was brought in as general manager. Soon after the management change, Yashin was inked to a five year $13 million contract and the team was set to move out of the Civic Center to its new building, the Palladium (Corel Center). The Senators also hired Colorado Avalanche assistant Jacques Martin as their head coach and traded for defenseman Wade Redden. The upcoming offseason saw the Sens continue to make moves as they looked to finally turn the corner.
The new look Senators came through in the 1996-97 season with a 31-36-15 record with 77 points. They faced off against the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the playoffs; making their postseason debut after a sixty plus year drought. The Sens had a 3-2 lead in the series and seemed primed to knock off the Sabres. But the Buffalo team would fight back and win the next two games to send the upstart Senators packing. The defeat though bitter, was still a refreshing change from their dismal performances in those initial expansion years. Management changes continued as general manager Pierre Gauthier retired due to family reason, and his replacement Rick Dudley took over the reins. The Sens continued to improve, finishing the 1997-98 regular season over .500 with a 34-33-15 record for 83 points. Their playoff campaign began by facing the New Jersey Devils in the first round. In a fiesty matchup the Senators came up on top in a six game series but lost their second round series to the Washington Capitals in five games. The breakout season for the Senators franchise came in the 1999-2000 season when the team racked up a first place finish in their division. Their 44-23-15 record for 103 points wasn't easy to come by as the Senators found themselves in an eerily similar situation of a contract dispute with Alexi Yashin. But in a disappointing playoff performace, the Sens were swept by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round. Yashin who had held out for the whole season, was told that he still owed the Senators a year of play. Yashin was back the following year as the team finished second in their division but were once again bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. This time it was their provincial rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, defeating them in a six game series. The teams would meet again in the following year and once again the Maple Leafs would prevail over the Sens in the first round.
In what would be the end of a somewhat tumultous era, Yashin was traded in the summer of 2001 to the New York Islanders for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and the Islanders' first round pick, which the Senators used to draft Jason Spezza. The Sens finished that regular season with a 39-27-9-7 record, finishing third in their division. They faced off against the powerhouse Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the postseason. The Senators pulled off what most regarded as an upset by defeating the Flyers in a quick five game series, but once again faced their playoff nemesis, the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round. The Senators were once again on the losing end of the deal as they stretched the Maple Leafs to seven games before bowing out. Under the guidance of coach Jacques Martin and with Marshall Johnston calling the shots in the front office, the Senators would bounce back in the 2002-03 regular season. They finished with a 52-21-8-1 for 113 points and finished first in their conference and divisions. Financial woes were back for the team as the Senators filed for bankruptcy in January 2003. Even with an uncertain financial future, the Sens continued to succeed on the ice, defeating the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. Up next were the familiar Philadelphia Flyers, who were handled in a six game series before the Sens went up against the New Jersey Devils. This series saw an offensive minded Sens team go up against a Pat Burns coached defensive juggernaut. In a tough seven game set the Devils defeated the Senators, and went on to win the Stanley Cup. The 2003 offseason did bring some form of closure on the ownership side as Canadian billionaire and Biovail founder Eugene Melnyk purchased the Senators from Rod Bryden and the bankruptcy court.
Ottawa Senators Overview:
Founded: 1917-1934, 1992
Arena: Corel Centre
Stanley Cups won: 4 (1920, 1921, 1923, 1927)