Franchise Best: Ottawa Senators 2002-2003 Season

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TORONTO - FEBRUARY 15: Patrick Lalime #40 of the Ottawa Senators stops Mats Sundin #13 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the NHL game at Air Canada Centre on February 15, 2003 in Toronto, Ontario. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 2-1. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI)

The Franchise Best Series comes to you to dive into the all-time best single season for every organization. This, of course, includes post-season results. Join us for a look back at some of the most memorable moments in each franchise’s history. Here is the Ottawa Senators‘ best season.

The Ottawa Senators 2002-03 season was the best season ever played by the team in Canada’s national capital. Although the season did not end with Daniel Alfredsson lifting hockey’s holy grail, the Senators tied a franchise-best total in wins and points. The season did come to an end with the Senators winning their first and only Presidents’ Trophy.

Ottawa Senators 2002-03 Season

2001-02 and Off-season

The year previous to the franchises best season had the Ottawa Senators finish third in the North Eastern division with a record of 39-27-9-7 for 94 points. The team was lead by the Swedish captain at the tune of 71 points (37 goals and 34 assists).

The Senators faced the Atlantic Division-winning Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, where they upset the second-seeded Flyers in five games. The run that could have been came to an end in the second round where the Senators met with Ontario rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs would dispatch the Senators in Game 7 on May 14 by a score of 3-0.

Off-Season Acquisitions

At the conclusion of the 2001-02 NHL season, Ottawa made three trades, as well as a signing that was instrumental to the success of their season.

The Ottawa Senators acquired Josef Boumedienne from the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 23rd. On June 29, the Senators acquired Brian Pothier from the Atlanta Thrashers. Ottawa then acquired Peter Schaefer from the Vancouver Canucks on September 21st.

Combined, Boumedienne, Pothier, and Shaefer totaled 89 games played and 29 points that season.

In addition to the off-season trades, the Senators also signed two draft picks, signing 2000 first-round selection Anton Volchenkov and 2001 fourth-round selection Christoph Schubert.

The final significant transaction made by the Senators in the prelude to 2002-03 was re-signing Alfredsson to a two-year contract.

Important Storylines

Team Files Bankruptcy on January 9th, 2003

A team that supposedly had everything going for it, the on-ice success of the Senators did not translate into success of the franchise off-ice. Faced with around 360 million dollars of debt, owed to the NHL, CIBC and Fleet Banks and outright debt of the Corel Centre,  he Ottawa Senators declared bankruptcy protection on January 9th, 2003.

Owner at the time, Rod Bryden gave the fans little hope at the time of creditors lending another $14 million to keep the team on the ice

There is more than a chance that this team will not play in Ottawa.”

Months later in August of 2003, pharmaceutical tycoon Eugene Melnyk came forward and purchased the Ottawa Senators for around $127.5 million. His payment worked out to $100 million for the team itself and another $27.5 million for the Corel Centre.

Despite the lingering financial and ownership woes, as well as withheld payment, the Senators on the ice were able to remain focused on their play and were still able to play to one of the best seasons in franchise history.

Depth Scoring

As mentioned, Ottawa’s roster had it all. The team was built around its ability to roll four solid lines, all capable of putting the puck into the opponents net. On the entire roster of players who had played at least one game that season, all but three players managed to score a point.

The goal scoring was evident as the Senators finished tops in the Eastern Conference with 263 goals scored. While Marian Hossa led the team with 45 goals, a total of 7 players finished the season with at least 15 goals scored.

Club Records

As it would be expected, the franchises’ best season was a season marked by notable club records.

The first record to be made occurred on January 2nd, 2003. Marian Hossa tied the time for the quickest three goals by a single player. Hossa scored three goals within a 7:05 span against the Atlanta Thrashers, in a game that finished with an 8-1 win for the Senators.

The next record set by the 2002-2003 Ottawa Senators was the longest shutout streak, reaching a total time of 244:47. The streak began after the Vancouver Canucks scored their sixth goal in a 6-4 victory over the Senators on January 8th. It concluded in the third period of play against the Anaheim Ducks. During the eight-day shutout streak, the Senators played to a record of 4-0. This stretch included victories against the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks.

The final record set was a six-game road winning streak. The streak began on March 18th with a 6-5 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. It ended with a 3-1 win over their Ontario-Rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 16th. This was the final game of the regular season.

Top Scorers

It has already been made clear that the Ottawa Senators 2002-2003 season roster could put the puck in the net. It was also done in a spread out fashion, but as any team would have the Senators still had their stars.

The top-three scorers of the Senators finished the regular season as such:

  1. Marian Hossa- 80GP, 45G, 35A, 80P, 19.75S%, 10GWG
  2. Daniel Alfredsson- 78GP, 27G, 51A, 78P, 33PPP
  3. Todd White– 80GP, 25G, 35A, 60P, 5GWG

While they may not have been putting the puck into the net, the goaltenders of the Senators were just as instrumental in the teams’ success as the top goal scorers.

  1. Patrick Lalime– 67GP, 39-20-7, 142GA, 2.16GAA, 0.911SV%, 8S0
  2. Martin Pruskek– 18GP, 12-2-1, 37GA, 2.38GAA, 0.911SV%

In Season Additions

Many believe that all successful teams come as a result of landing the biggest name at the trade deadline, but the Ottawa Senators 2002-2003 season debunks such an assumption.

During the season the Ottawa Senators made a handful of trades that did not add too much regarding on-ice performance or results, for at least the 2002-2003 season.

Below are the players that the Ottawa Senators acquired during the season, and how the players combined stats were little to be excited about.

Greg Watson and Billy Thompson (FLA), Dean Melanson (WSH), Vaclav Varada (BUF), Joey Tetaranko (FLA), Rob Ray (BUF), Bob Wren (NSH), Bryan Smolinski (LA).

Among the eight additions made via trade by the Ottawa Senators, the stat line looked like this; 28 games played, five goals scored, 11 assists, for a total of 16 points. In the playoffs, the additions were a tad bit more helpful, totally 15 points in 36 games played between two players (Smolinski and Varada).

Playoffs

Round One vs. New York Islanders

Entering the NHL Playoffs as the favourite, the Senators were expected to brush off the eighth-seeded New York Islanders, who finished the season with three wins in their last ten games. The Islanders finished the season one game above .500 at 35-34-11-2 for 83 points, 30 less than the Senators.

The series opened with an upset, as the Islanders pulled off a 3-0 road win to take the 1-0 series lead. The Senators responded in game two with a 3-0 win of their own. Leaving Ottawa tied 1-1, the team went on to the island and won both games at the Nassau Veteran’s Coliseum, with one victory coming in overtime. With game five taking place back in Canada’s capital many expected the series to end. The Senators did precisely that, winning game five 4-1 and winning the series by the same line. The Senators were lead in round one by the scoring duo of Todd White and Marian Hossa. Both forwards scored three goals in the series.

Round Two vs. Philidelphia Flyers

Continuing into the second round as the team to beat, the Senators faced off against the fourth-seeded Flyers. The Flyers took down the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-game series in round one. The Flyers finished with 107 points, one shy of the division-winning Devils.

The first four games of the series did not see either team win back-to-back games, splitting both their home and away games.

Game five saw the Senators assert more of the offensive dominance that they were known for all season, scoring five goals against the Flyers, including captain Alfredsson’s third of the playoffs. The scoring would continue into game six, where the Senators had their first of two chances to eliminate the Flyers. Backed by an 18 save performance by Patrick Lalime on 19 shots, and another five-goal output by the Senators’ offense, the Ottawa Senators, won game six 5-1, eliminating the Flyers in six games.

Round Three vs. New Jersey Devils

The Eastern Conference Final that everyone had predicted saw the top two seeds in the East face off for the Prince of Wales Trophy. The first two games of the series both in Ottawa, saw each team pick up a victory. Ottawa won game one thanks to an overtime goal scored by Shaun Van Allen. It was his first of the playoffs. Game two went the way of the New Jersey Devils as Martin Brodeur stopped 30/31 to earn his team the 4-1 victory.

The Devils continued their hot play at home winning both games three and four. This put the Senators on the brink of elimination, trailing 3-1 in the series. The Senators pushed back, winning game four 3-1 thanks to Martin Havlat and Todd White’s fifth goals of the playoffs. Game five back in New Jersey also went the way of the Senators after Chris Phillips scored the second of the playoffs in the first overtime.

Playing in their first ever Eastern Conference Finals, the Senators were the hosts of the deciding Game 7. Unfortunately for the Ottawa fans, the historic run would come to an end. At the hand of the Devils, the Senators were eliminated after losing game seven 3-2.

Top Playoff Performers

The memorable run of the Ottawa Senators 2002-2003 season may not have ended with the Stanley Cup, but if it were not for the following top performers in the playoffs, it would have ended a lot sooner than it had.

Patrick Lalime– 18GP, 11-7-0, 34GA, 1.82GAA, 0.924SV%, 1 S0

Marian Hossa- 18GP, 5G, 11A, 16P, 3PPG

Radek Bonk– 18GP, 6G, 5A, 11P

Martin Havlat– 18GP, 5G, 6A, 11P, 2GWG

End Result

The Ottawa Senators 2002-2003 season was the first taste of post-season success for the fans in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The success in the regular season was the first President’s Trophy to be won by a Canadian team since the 1988-1989 Calgary Flames.

This historic season in Ottawa also remains tied for the most successful regular season in team history. The team record remains at 53 wins and 113 points.

While the season may not have ended with hockey’s holy grail paying a visit to Parliament Hill, the on-ice success gave a taste of hope to the fans.

The same level of success would not be felt again for a few years. The Ottawa Senators would lose to the Anaheim Ducks in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. Next, the Senators would again fall short in 2017 losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.

1 COMMENT

  1. Good article! Small correction Sens lost in the 2007 finals. The 2006 team was epic but lost to Jason Pominville.

    Enjoyed the trip down memory lane, was fun cheering for them when they were elite!

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