Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has been making the rounds and laying out his plans for the future.
Friday morning, the owner took to Ottawa’s CFRA 580 Radio to tout the future of the franchise, but he also made the messaging clear: it’s time for the general manager and the hockey operations department to get things together.
The future may be bright, in Melnyk’s estimation, but it’s not difficult to imagine why his communications may fall flat. He hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the Ottawa fanbase, but his comments about who accounts for a real fan may represent a strike across the proverbial bow.
“I think the key for us is, first of all, to identify who is a Senators fan or not,” Melnyk said on Prime Time Sports Thursday. “We tripped up one of these guys, or somebody did, and it turned out it was some little 12-year-old in Toronto that was upset with the Senators in general. I’m a high-profile person that is an easy target, so let them do what they want to do. I basically ignore 99 percent of it.”
Without a doubt, Melnyk’s array of very public failures hasn’t helped and an attitude of ignoring 99 percent of backlash based on the theory that it doesn’t come from “real fans” may not help either.
From the firing of head coach Guy Boucher – Melnyk said that was up to general manager Pierre Dorion – to the debacle of the LeBreton Flats deal that even drew the ire of Ottawa’s mayor, the team owner has his back against the wall.
There’s a credibility problem for the Senators and it starts at the top. Sending Dorion packing may be next on Melnyk’s to-do list, but most people would place the blame even higher.
The Senators currently sit with the fifth-lowest cap total in the NHL and have traded a small army of critical players over the last year. The team is unrecognizable on most nights, with a few small flourishes of hope on the horizon.
Melnyk did go on record stating to spend close to the salary cap for every year from 2021 to 2025, but that statement from February didn’t restore faith.
The good news is that the Senators have a pile of draft picks, 17 of which are in the first three rounds over the next three years, and that can help renovate an organization’s identity. There’s also some thrilling prospects in the pipeline, like Erik Brannstrom and Vitaly Abramov.
But really, is it enough? Melnyk’s goodwill with the Ottawa fanbase – yes even many of the real fans – is all but gone. In its place is a ragged relationship between the owner and, honestly, everyone else. And, to the surprise of no one, his latest publicity tour doesn’t seem to be helping.
(Photo credit: NHL)