May 28, 2016

Chris Phillips

When Chris Phillips announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 2016 season, he joined Gilbert Perreault and Denis Potvin as the only first overall draft picks to play an entire career of more than 1000 games all with his original franchise.

Phillips was no superstar like Perreault or Potvin. Instead he was the definition of a "stay-at-home defenseman" both literally and figuratively.

The Ottawa Senators drafted Phillips first overall in the 1996 NHL draft. He would go on to play 1179 regular season games with the Senators, and another 114 in the playoffs.

Through it all he saw superstars - Alexei Yashin, Dany Heatley, Zdeno Chara, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson - come and go. He saw coaches fires, playoff collapses and even the team filing for bankruptcy.

Through it all Chris Phillips was the one constant in the nation's capital city.

History will not remember Chris Phillips as one of the better first overall draft selections. A superstar he was not.

But he was a steady, stay-at-home defenseman for 19 NHL seasons - only three players in that entire draft played more games. He handled some big minutes in those games, too. He played hard and honest hockey, tough in a usually clean way.

Phillips was an underrated skater, as the big man looked a bit awkward with his short stride. In actuality he had decent speed and mobility for a bigger defenseman. It allowed him to mature into reliable defensive player.

For all the minutes played Phillips was not much of an offensive threat. He manned the point strongly, holding the line and getting pucks through blocked lanes and onto the net.

Unfortunately the most famous goal Chris Phillips ever scored was accidentally scored on his own net in game five of the Stanley Cup final against Anaheim in 2007. Yet Phillips took every reporter's question after that game when many players would have hid in the trainer's room. It is how Chris Phillips handled that situation that speaks far more about the man than the incident itself.

Ottawa never did win a Stanley Cup in Phillips' time there. Twice at the World Championships he also finished as a runner up, winning a silver medal with Canada in 2005 and 2009. He did win back-to-back World Junior gold medals in 1996 and 1997.

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