LOOK BACK TO LOOK AHEAD
As I sit and look back over the past 5 months, it is hard for me not to find comparisons between the way the 2010-11 Senators's season ended and the way their 1995-96 season ended. In the midst of all the players leaving town, Murray set his sights on one position player that he felt could play a pivotal role in moving the team forward. That need was to solidify the number one goalie position. Enter Craig Anderson.
In the winter of 1996 new GM Pierre Gauthier was brought into the fold after three and a half seasons of painful expansion hockey. 'The Ghost' appeared on the scene and simply said, "We'll get it done." One of his first steps was to also solidify the number one goalie position. Enter Damian Rhodes.
When Craig Anderson and Damian Rhodes joined the Sens there were instant changes, for the better. As the 95-96 season and 10-11 season drew to a close both teams were winning regularly, upsetting playoff bound teams and gaining much needed confidence in one another.
Behind the bench both teams had endured coaching changes. Out were guys (Allison and Clouston) who had both succeeded at the AHL level, but had struggled in the NHL. Enter coaches that were known for structure, giving players roles and were well liked by their troops- Jacques Martin and Paul MacLean.
The comparisons do not stop there. As the 2011-12 season is about to start for the Senators and looking back at the 1996-97 roster, both appear to have been built very much the same way. Both teams were lead by Number One Centremen (Yashin and Spezza) that were desperate to show they could be leaders and aging team captains (Cunneyworth and Alfredsson) that were entering the twilights of their careers.
Here are a few more…
- Offensive first round pick D-Men that had been traded for and entering their rookie seasons with tons of expectations- Redden and Runblad
- Veteran offensive D-Men that still having something left in the tank - Duchesne and Gonchar
- Young Centremen that had shown potential but were struggling to show if they were 2nd liners or depth guys - Bonk and Regin
- Past first round wingers who had shown glimpses of promise, but had not yet found their role - Daigle and Filatov
- Speedy veteran wingers that could contribute on the scoresheet, but without any real consistency - McEachern and Michalek
- Heart and soul D-Men that may lack skill, but make up for it in heart and desire - Pitlick and Carkner
- Veteran D-Men that were calming influences on a team trying to find their way - York and Phillips
- European D-Men that had the ability to step up offensively when needed, but again lacked the much needed consistency - Laukkanen and Kuba
- Physical wingers that were willing to step up and take care of any problems that arose - Lambert and Neil
There are differences that can be seen, and to this end there may be a wash. The 2011-12 team has a young All Star Defenseman in Karlsson and two potential offensive threats in Butler and Da Costa. Meanwhile in the summer of 1996 Gauthier signed a free agent goalie that was expected to compete for the back up spot, enter Ron Tugnutt who went on a run that was unimaginable, and the rest was history.
So what does this all mean?
Can the 2011-12 Senators catch magic in a bottle and slip into the playoffs? Their own history has shown that it is possible.