Because of all the off-ice issues, a lot of people forget how good Alexei Yashin was when he played for the Ottawa Senators.
Yes, Yashin demanded his contract be re-negotiated three times in a five-year period with the Sens. Yes, Yashin once took a whole year off in order to get a new contract. Yes, he fought the Sens in court (and lost) because he believed that full year off meant he should be a free agent. And yes, he donated $1 million to the NAC, just to have it refused because one of the provisions was that his parents would get $425,000 in consulting fees.
But on the ice, he was the best Senator of the 1990s. Not even Daniel Alfredsson came close to what Yashin could do during that time.
He was the first ever draft pick for the Ottawa Senators.
As a rookie, he scored 79 points and was nominated for the Calder.
In 1998-99, he had 94 points, and finished second in voting for the Hart trophy.
In Yashin’s seven seasons with the team, he led in goals six times, and points six times. He scored 40 goals twice, and hit 70 points five times.
And he was the captain of the team for a few years.
He was also pretty durable. He played in every game his last four years with the Sens. He only missed two games his first two years. And the one year he missed a lot of games, it was due to holding out.
All-time, he’s second on the team in goals, fourth in assists and third in points. Of anyone who has played at least 100 games, Yashin is second in goals-per-game and third in points-per-game.
In the playoffs, he was pretty good his first couple of seasons. He had six points in seven games his first playoff season, and eight points in 11 games his second playoff season. Both times, he was second on the team in points. After that, the wheels fell off, as he had only one point in his next two playoff rounds (both first-round exits).
And Sens fans won’t admit it now, but even after all his contract disputes, they still loved him. I remember saying that Ottawa should trade Yashin right after he sat out for a year. Sens fans looked at me like I was crazy. After all, he was part of the team, and Sens fans were supportive. They believed he would want to prove he was worth what he thought he was worth, and that he was talented enough to lead the Sens deep into the playoffs.
Sure, he gets laughed at now. And history doesn’t look at him too kindly. But he was quite simply the best player on the Sens at any point during the 1990s. And if he had stayed, he probably would have been number one on this list.