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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

The horror of the Ottawa Senators expansion draft

It is well documented how poor the expansion draft set up was in 1993 for the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning. If you want to read more about the Senators' disaster, check out this article from The Hockey Writers where the re-do the draft with the benefit of total hindsight. This is evident in the players that were eligible to be selected by the two teams, which were a combination of players whose best days were behind them, or low-rate prospects that would never pan out. This becomes evident in looking at the players selected by Ottawa, including one Darcy Loewen, who is featured in this post.

The Senators expansion draft crop can be put into some broad categories. Players such as Sylvain Turgeon, Mark Lamb, Peter Sidorkiewicz, Brad Shaw and Laurie Boschman were veterans who had relatively successful careers; Turgeon, Shaw and Sidorkiewicz were all named to the all-rookie team in their first seasons, and Turgeon played in the 1986 all-star game. Boschman played for 13 seasons, and Lamb won a Stanley Cup with Edmonton in 1990. The glory days for these players were well behind when they joined Ottawa, however.

The second group includes 11 players who lasted only one season or less with the Senators, with two (John Van Kessel and Chris Lindberg) never suiting up for the team. Only Shaw, Turgeon, Lamb, Kent Paynter, Darren Rumble and Darcy Loewen played more than two seasons with the team. Three players (Mike Peluso, Lindberg and Blair Atcheynum) played more than 100 games after their time with Ottawa. The tale of Blair Atcheynum is a curious one, as after four games with Ottawa in 1992-93, he languished in the minor leagues until re-emerging in the NHL in 1997-98. He then played five seasons with three franchises for a total of 192 games. The most damning fact is that 15 players from the expansion draft played less than 20 NHL games after their time in Ottawa.

Needless to say, the success of more recent expansion teams like the Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken were made possible by the colossal failure that 1990s expansion teams like Ottawa went through.

Card 418 - Luke Richardson

A defenceman, Richardson was drafted seventh overall by Toronto in 1987. Having played two seasons with Peterborough in the OHL, Richardson made his NHL debut in 1987-88, scoring four goals and 10 points in 78 games. The four goals would be his career-high for goals in a season, a total he equaled two seasons later. During that season Richardson was involved in an infamous incident with Minnesota's Dino Ciccarrelli. Ciccarelli hit Richardson a few times in the head with his stick. Richardson escaped serious injury, and Ciccarelli was later convicted of assault and served a day in jail.

After four seasons with the Leafs, Richardson was traded to Edmonton at the start of the 1991-92 season in a seven-player deal in which Glenn Anderson, Craig Berube and Grant Fuhr went to Toronto. In his first season as an Oiler he would score a career-high 21 points. A durable player, Richardson would miss only 13 games over the next four seasons, during which time he was also an assistant captain.

In July 1997 he signed as a free agent with Philadelphia, where over five seasons he would record 100+ penalty minutes each season. In the 2000 playoffs Richardson came the closest he ever would to the Stanley Cup Finals as the Flyers lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games to New Jersey.

The summer of 2002 saw Richardson sign in Columbus, where he played for three seasons (two as captain) before a trade back to Toronto in March 2006. He played 21 games for the Leafs as the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 1998. Richardson’s final three seasons were spent with Tampa Bay and Ottawa, where he retired after two games played in the 2008-09 season.

In 21 NHL seasons Richardson played in 1417 games (34th all-time), scoring 36 goals, 201 points and recording 2055 penalty minutes (32nd all-time). After retiring he became an assistant coach with Ottawa, eventually becoming coach of their AHL team in Binghamton from 2012 to 2016. For the 2017-18 season he was an assistant with the New York Islanders, then worked in Montreal for four seasons. In 2022-23 Richardson was hired as the head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks.

YouTube clip: dropping unpopular agitator Matthew Barnaby during a January 2002 game between Philadelphia and New York.

Card 419 - Ken Quinney

A right winger, Quinney was drafted 203rd overall by Quebec in 1984. In the season before the draft he scored 64 goals and 118 points for Calgary in the WHL. Quinney turned pro with Fredricton in the AHL in 1985-86, earning 40 games with the Nordiques over the following two seasons, scoring four goals and 13 points.

From 1988 to 1990 Quinney played entirely in the AHL with Halifax, finally re-appearing with the Nordiques in 1990-91 for 19 games, scoring three goals and seven points; these would be his final NHL games. Quinney signed as a free agent with Detroit in 1991, and played two seasons with Adirondack in the AHL, winning the Calder Cup in 1992.

1993-94 saw Quinney move to Las Vegas in the IHL, where in his first season he scored 55 goals and 108 points in 79 games, earning a first-team all-star selection. He played four more seasons with the Thunder, earning a second-team all-star selection in 1998 behind a 91-point campaign. Quinney’s final three seasons of pro hockey were played with Frankfurt in Germany.

In three NHL seasons, Quinney played in 59 games, scoring seven goals and 20 points. He has settled in Vegas, working in the youth hockey system and as a firefighter with Clark County. His son, Gage, became the first Nevada-born player in the NHL, suiting up for the hometown Golden Knights in 2019-20.

YouTube clip: a brief scrap with Allen Pederson of Boston during a 1987-88 game.

Card 420 - Mike Donnelly

An undrafted left winger, Donnelly signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers in 1986 after playing four seasons at Michigan State. In his senior season Donnelly set the NCAA record for most goals in a single season with 59 in 44 games, a record that still stands. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and led the Spartans to an NCAA title, where he was named tournament MVP.

Donnelly turned pro after his remarkable senior season, playing primarily with New Haven in the AHL, but also playing in five games for the Rangers, scoring two points. He squeezed in 17 games with the Rangers the following season before a trade to the Buffalo Sabres (the Sabres would use the draft pick acquired alongside Donnelly to draft Alexander Mogilny).

Donnelly played 74 games with the Sabres over the next three seasons, scoring 11 goals and 27 points during that time. He continued his scoring ways from college in the AHL, scoring 43 goals and 98 points in the 1989-90 season with Rochester. In September 1990 Donnelly was traded to Los Angeles for Mikko Makela. Given a chance with the Kings, Donnelly scored 29 goals and 45 points in his first full NHL season. In 1992-93 he equalled his total of 29 goals, adding 69 points. The Kings made the Stanley Cup Finals that season, with Donnelly playing in all 24 games, scoring six goals and 13 points. 1993-94 saw Donnelly scored 21 goals, his third straight season breaking the 20 goal mark.

Early in the lockout shortened 1994-95 season he was traded to Dallas for a draft pick. Donnelly played 59 games for the Stars over two seasons, spending some time in the IHL. In 1996 he signed with the New York Islanders, playing three games. 1997-98 was Donnelly’s final pro season, split between the IHL and Switzerland.

In 11 NHL seasons, Donnelly played in 465 games, scoring 114 goals and 235 points. In 1991-92 he finished sixth in the NHL with 28 even-strength goals. In 2002 he rejoined the Kings as a scout, a role he held until 2016 when he became director of player development, the position he still holds today.

YouTube clip: scoring in Game 4 of 1993 Stanley Cup Finals against Montreal.

Card 421 - Darcy Loewen

A left winger, Loewen was drafted 55th overall by Buffalo in 1988 after scoring 74 points and 231 penalty minutes with Spokane. He played one more season in the WHL, turning pro in 1989-90 with Rochester in the AHL. Through Loewen’s first three pro seasons he appeared in 12 games for the Sabres while playing steadily in the minors.

Loewen’s big break game in the 1992, when he was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the expansion draft. His first season as a Senator was the best of his career, playing in 79 games, scoring four goals and nine points while racking up 145 penalty minutes, all career highs. His final NHL games came in 1993-94, playing in 44 with Ottawa, recording three assists.

For 1994-95 he signed with Las Vegas in the IHL, where he played in the next four seasons. 1998-99 saw Loewen move to Nottingham in the United Kingdom before returning to North America at the end of the season to suit up with Idaho in the WCHL. He played two more seasons with the Steelheads before retiring in 2000.

In five NHL seasons, Loewen played in 135 games, scoring four goals and 12 points while recording 211 penalty minutes. The man nicknamed Chainsaw in Ottawa for the reckless abandon he played with coached one season of youth hockey in Red Deer in the early 2000s before returning to Las Vegas and settling into a career as a firefighter in North Las Vegas.

YouTube clip: getting thumped by the much larger Chris Gratton during a February 1994 game between expansion cousins Ottawa and Tampa Bay.

Card 422 - Brian Skrudland

A centre, Skrudland signed as a free agent with Montreal in 1983 after playing three seasons in the WHL with Saskatoon. Turning pro in 1984-85 with Nova Scotia in the AHL, he made an immediate impact, being named playoff MVP as the Voyageurs won the Calder Cup. Skrudland graduated to the big club the following season, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 65 games. Continuing his winning ways, Skrudland won the Stanley Cup in his rookie NHL season, scoring two goals and six points in 20 games. His biggest goal game in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Calgary, when he scored the fastest overtime winner in NHL history (nine seconds).

A consummate defensive forward, over the next five seasons Skrudland settled into a groove of scoring 10+ goals a season, and breaking the 30 point barrier four times while earning Selke Trophy consideration each season. Following a second Cup Finals appearance in 1989 (a loss to Calgary), Skrudland was named an assistant captain and set a career-high with 42 points.

In January 1993 Skrudland was traded to Calgary for Gary Leeman. He played 22 combined regular season and playoff games with the Flames before being selected by Florida in the 1993 expansion draft. Named the first captain in franchise history for the Panthers, he scored a career-high 15 goals to go along with 40 points and earned a Selke Trophy finalist nomination in their debut season. In 1996 Skrudland made his third Cup FInals appearance, scoring four points in 21 playoff games as the Panthers were swept by Colorado.

In summer 1997 Skrudland signed with the Rangers, playing only 59 games before he was traded to Dallas with Mike Keane for Bob Errey and Todd Harvey. After playing only 40 regular season games with the Stars in 1998-99, Skrudland played in 19 playoff games and earned his second Stanley Cup as the Stars defeated Buffalo. He played 22 games the following season before retiring.

In 15 NHL seasons, Skrudland played in 881 games, scoring 124 goals and 343 points, also appearing in the 1991 all-star game. From 2000 to 2003 he was an assistant coach with the Flames, returning to the Panthers organization from 2010 to 2016 as an assistant coach and director of player development. Skrudland currently works in sales in Calgary while also participating in NHL and Canadiens’ alumni events.

YouTube clip: the aforementioned fastest overtime goal in NHL playoff history.

Card 423 - Joel Savage

A right winger, Savage was drafted 13th overall by Buffalo in 1988. He played one additional season with Victoria in the WHL, turning pro in 1989-90 with Rochester. The following season he would make his NHL debut, playing in three games with the Sabres, recording one assist. Unfortunately these would be the only NHL games of Savage’s career.

After spending 1991-92 with Rochester, Savage moved to the IHL where he played for three teams over two seasons. He signed an NHL contract with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in September 1993, but never suited up for the team. That season he was part of two championship teams, winning the Turner Cup with Fort Wayne in the IHL, as well as the Spengler Cup with Canada. Following a year with the Canadian National Team, Savage carved out a lengthy career in Europe, playing from 1995 to 1999 in Germany and from 2000 to 2004 in Switzerland.

Following his hockey days, Savage was president of Havaday Developments, a company that developed golf courses in British Columbia in partnership with Gary Player. Recent news article show that he is now working in the oil sands industry.

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