The modern day Ottawa Senators have had some respectable seasons and iced some star players in their 24-year history, but they’re still a far cry from the dominant Ottawa Senators the NHL saw in it’s baby years. The Senators superstars at every single position during the first three years of the NHL’s existence and rightly dominated the league as a result.
The Ottawa Senators transferred over to the NHL from the National Hockey Association, which needed a fresh start after being ravaged from the effects of World War I. During their first year, they struggled, finishing effectively last, as the Wanderers weren’t able to stay in the league after having their building burned down. At the time, the Senators had many of their star players, but weren’t able to consistently put up great numbers. Frank Nighbor, one of their two best forwards along with Cy Denneny, was also injured and only played in 9 games.
It was during the subsequent season that everything began to click. Goaltender Clint Benedict improved from being a solid goaltender to becoming the best in the league by a long shot. Not only that, but the Senators added two star defensemen in Sprague Cleghorn and Harry Cameron to join Georges Boucher, who himself was a budding star. Unsurprisingly, the Senators’ strength was their defensive play, where they allowed 53 goals in 18 games (the Canadiens were second with 78 goals).
Unfortunately, their dominance did not translate into playoff success in 1919, as the Senators lost to the Canadiens in the playoffs. As it would turn out, no Cup winner would be declared in 1919 due to the flu pandemic that ravaged both teams in the finals.
In the 1919-20 season, the Senators churned out one of the most dominant seasons in NHL history. They finished with a 19-5 record and scored almost twice as many goals as were scored against them. Again, while they were strong offensively, their defense was their calling card, led by Clint Benedict, with one of the most dominant goaltending seasons in NHL history. The Senators only let in 64 goals, whereas the next best team, the Toronto Arenas let in 106 goals. It would be unfair, however, to credit all the defense to Benedict, as Boucher and Cleghorn did an admirable job as well on the back end, Cleghorn scoring 16 goals while he did it.
The NHL was beginning to see success with the war ending in 1919, and the Senators were part of a league record attendance of over 8,500 attendees in a game against the Arenas. The Senators topped off the 1919-20 season with their first Stanley Cup victory winning in five games in a best-of-five over the Seattle Metropolitans. The Senators had begun their surge as a powerhouse and would set the stage for the years to come.