The 2016–17 Ottawa Senators season was the 25th season of the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League (NHL). After failing to make the playoffs in 2015–16, the Senators replaced their management and coaching staff, promoting Pierre Dorion to general manager, and hiring Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford and assistants to coach the team. The team would defy the predictions of much of the media by qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and then by winning two rounds in the playoffs before losing in double overtime in game seven of the Eastern Conference Final to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
As of 2018, this is the only time in the post-Daniel Alfredsson era where the Senators were close to the finals and it would've been their first finals appearance since 2007. Coincidentally they were close to rematching the Anaheim Ducks, whom they lost to in the 2007 Finals.
The season was notable for off-ice issues. Despite the success of the team, attendance at Canadian Tire Centre dropped during the regular season, to the lowest average gate by the team in 20 seasons. The team fired its head of marketing early in the season. The team also replaced its president, co-founder Cyril Leeder, with Tom Anselmi in January 2017.
On April 10, 2016, the day after the final game of the 2015–16 season, general manager Bryan Murray announced his resignation as manager and that he would continue in an advisory role with the club. Assistant general manager Pierre Dorion was elevated to the general manager position. On April 12, the Senators fired head coach Dave Cameron. On May 8, the Senators hired former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher as their new head coach. On the following day, Marc Crawford was announced as associate coach. On June 15, the Senators hired Rob Cookson as an assistant coach. Cookson had spent the last four seasons as an assistant to Crawford with the Zurich Lions of Switzerland's A-League where he contributed to the team's championship in the 2013-14 season. Prior to this, he was a member of the Calgary Flames coaching staff for 11 seasons from the 2000-01 to 2010-11 seasons.
The Senators announced that they will retire the #11 jersey of former team captain Daniel Alfredsson. The ceremony will take place on Thursday, December 29, prior to the Senators' home game against the Detroit Red Wings. This will be the second jersey to be retired by the modern Senators franchise since they came back into the league. The first jersey retirement ceremony the club held was for the late Frank Finnigan of the original Ottawa Senators, who had his #8 jersey retired prior to the current franchise's inaugural game on October 8, 1992 against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Senators opened the regular season at home on Wednesday, October 12 against their provincial rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The first away game of their schedule was Monday, October 17 in Detroit against the Red Wings. They will conclude their home schedule on Saturday, April 8 against the New York Rangers. Their last regular season game will take place a day later in Brooklyn, New York against the Islanders.
On December 29, 2016, before a game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Senators retired the #11 jersey of former player Daniel Alfredsson. On January 24, 2017, the Senators honoured Bryan Murray as the first member of their "Ring of Honour" at the Canadian Tire Centre, before a game against the Washington Capitals. On January 25, 2017, the Senators announced a new team president Tom Anselmi, replacing founder Cyril Leeder who steps down as president of the team.
On March 17, 2017, the NHL announced that an outdoor game would be played at the TD Place Stadium in Ottawa on December 16, 2017. Known as the NHL 100 Classic, it is a regular-season game for the Senators and the Montreal Canadiens. This will commemorate the first NHL game, held in Ottawa on December 19, 1917, between the Senators and Canadiens. It is one of the events to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the NHL and the 150-year anniversary of the founding of Canada. According to NHL president Gary Bettman: "To launch our next 100 years, we believe it is only right to bring the Canadiens and the Senators back together."
The attendance at home games dropped in 2016-17 according to ESPN. The Senators drew an average of 16,744 per game for a total of 686,534 for the season. This was 87% of capacity. In 2015–16, the Senators drew an average of 18,084 per game. The drop in attendance was noticed by the media, especially after games in the playoffs did not sell out. The drop, which was the third-largest in the league in the last ten years, was attributed to various factors, including a payroll systems issue for Government of Canada employees, lack of support for francophone fans, grumbling about the owner and other factors. Early in the season, the club fired persons in its marketing department, which led to at least one lawsuit.
On April 6, the Ottawa Senators qualified for the 2017 playoffs with a 2–1 shootout win over Boston Bruins. On April 8, the Ottawa Senators clinched home-ice advantage in the first round for the first time since 2007 after a 3–1 victory over the New York Rangers.
The Senators played the Boston Bruins in the first round. This was the first Ottawa–Boston series since the 1927 Stanley Cup Finals, the first for the contemporary Ottawa franchise versus the Bruins. The Senators defeated the Bruins four games to two and moved on to the second round.
The Senators faced the New York Rangers in the second round. This was the second postseason meeting in the last five years between the two teams. The New York Rangers won the series 4-3 back in 2012. The Senators defeated the Rangers four games to two and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. This marks the third time in franchise history the Senators have made it to the third round, and the first time since 2007, when they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final after defeating the Buffalo Sabres in five games.
The Senators took on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. This marked the fourth time the two teams have met in a postseason series, with the Penguins taking three out of the four matchups. The Ottawa Senators are the only Canadian team to advance to the Conference Final in three different seasons in the last 20 years. The Senators would fall in seven games to the Penguins, with the seventh game being decided in double overtime. The Penguins would go on to defeat the Nashville Predators to win the Stanley Cup.
[a] The New Jersey Devils' first-round pick (#11 overall) went to the Ottawa Senators as a result of trade that was made on June 25, 2016 that sent Ottawa's first-round pick (#12 overall) and a conditional third-round pick (#80 overall) to the Devils.
The Ottawa Senators' seventh-round pick went to the New York Islanders as part of a trade that saw Shane Prince being traded to the Islanders on February 29, 2016.