Which Country Makes The Best Senators?
by Chet Sellers
Is all this talk about next year’s Olympic hockey rosters getting you So-chi-arged up thinking about which NHL stars will be selected to play for their countries? What if we did the same thing . . . with the Senators? Let’s find out!
Okay, we want to organize an Olympic-style tournament with all-time Senators players. To do so, we’re going to need some basic control over time and space in order to grab these guys at their career peaks and get them together in one place, and we’re also going to need a fairly strong belief in the fundamental supremacy of nationalism. But once we’ve got that, we can put the teams together with a few simple rules – each country doesn’t need to ice a whole team, but does need enough historic depth to have a goalie, two forward lines, and two D-pairings.
Off the drop a couple of the major world players are out. Russia doesn’t have a goalie (Ray Emery doesn’t count), while the Finns have a goalie but not enough skaters. The Slovaks have some of the most talented players the Senators have ever had (like Hossa, Chara, Demitra, Bondra, and Mezsaros) but can’t ice many more than that. Sorry, Slovaks; if you fellas could team up with the Czechs on this one, you’d crush everybody. Not too late to rethink that Velvet Divorce maybe.
Enough preamble. Here are your four squads:
F: Heatley-Spezza-Daigle; Schaefer-Fisher-Neil
D Redden-Phillips; Duchesne-Methot
Canada’s problem is that they’re too deep at centre (Fisher gets the second-line nod over Vermette, Kelly, Van Allen, Comrie, Laich, and Turris) but thin on the wings. You’re rolling your eyes at Peter Schaefer, but who do you take instead? Randy Cunneyworth? And no moving centres to the wing; this is a fake tournament, not a fantasy tournament. On defense, the first pairing is obvious and the second isn’t; Methot’s only played a season with the Senators, but he’s probably at least as good a pick as Norm MacIver, Jason York or Curtis Leschyshyn. And Lalime gets the nod over Emery in goal, mostly because there’s no fighting in international play.
F MacEachern-Cullen-Shannon; Foligno-Smolinski-Eaves
D Corvo-Pitlick; Kudelski-Pothier
What a bunch of beauties. If you wanna argue you could put Tom Chorske and/or Erik Condra as wingers on the second line, and maybe Tom Preissing in one of the D pairings, but let’s be honest – even if Anderson stands on his head, these guys aren’t winning anything, except maybe "Most likely to trash the official tournament hotel" (Kanata Comfort Inn, FYI).
F Michalek-Bonk-Prospal; Havlat-Straka-Varada
D Kuba-Rachunek; Neckar-Musil
Whoa, these guys are loaded. The Czechs aren’t getting many points from the blue line (those gunners all play for the Slovaks), but they have the deepest top six in the tournament. Pre-tournament questions abound about their focus, however, as rumors begin to swirl about long nights in the Market with strong beer, loud singing, and certain of the American players’ wives; to a man, the flashy Czechs always respond the same way: "Prosím, ne neúcta přehrávače, nenávist hra."
F Arvedson-Zibanejad-Alfredsson; Silfverberg-Johanssen-Dackell
D Karlsson-Persson; Rundblad-Olsson
Strongest two-way forwards; best scoring D; sickest flow. I’ve done my best to put these guys together according to the instructions; while they look like they could use a few more parts, I just can’t find anything else in the box. To their credit, nobody on this team stays up past 10 PM, except for Lehner, who hasn’t slept in six years.
Since we have the time/space power to hold our tournament anywhere, we decide to have it at the Civic Centre in 1995; the food and parking are terrible but national team Starter jackets are doing brisk business in the concourse. In the first round of a knockout bracket, the Canadians fall 5-3 to the Swedes when their forwards repeatedly lose the possession game along their own boards, which lets the Swedes feed Karlsson at the point for 42 shots on goal. In the other first-round matchup, the Czechs roll the Americans 6-1, but do themselves no favors with the hometown fans by playing “Rock You Like A Hurricane” after every goal as they feather their mullets toward the crowd.
In the final, the Czechs lead the Swedes 2-0 in the second when Dominik Hasek pulls his groin, left hamstring, and neck all at once. Backup Martin Prusek is unable to hold the fort against the Swedish power play and Robin Lehner’s increasingly-aggressive pokecheck intimidates the Czechs into settling for a lot of bad-angle shots, allowing the Swedes to come back and win 3-2 in overtime. After the game, team captain Alfredsson remarks, “Outside of the 2006 Olympic gold, and the Bridgestone Messier Leadership award, and the King Clancy, and the Calder, and some tournaments in Sweden when I was a kid, and the 50-50 at a couple of Blazers games, and hopefully one day the Stanley Cup, obviously . . . this is the most important thing I’ve ever won.” Then he goes to raise the trophy, which is a life-sized solid gold bust of Bryan Murray’s head, but Lehner appears to be having a serious conversation with it that Alfredsson knows not to interrupt.
And there you have it. Tell me in the comments below if you think I’ve got it wrong. When does the season start again?