Dear Eugene Melnyk,
Following a press conference that had nothing to do with the Ottawa Senators’ current season, you confused lots of people by chiming in with your thoughts on what has been an undeniably frustrating year. The words you spoke during that media scrum have stirred up an unbelievable amount of controversy, and, quite frankly, have added fuel to the fire of the questions surrounding the pending offseason.
After digesting what was your “two cents” on the situation, I just have two simple questions for you:
#1 – Why Now?
Gino Reda nailed it on TSN’s “That’s Hockey” when, instead of focusing on the controversy of the words you spoke to the Senators’ media, he focused on your impeccably inconvenient timing. With a handful of games remaining, I’m dying to know why you felt it necessary to criticize a season that is just weeks from its end – when you could’ve done so in a much more expected setting at the team’s locker clean out.
Your public outburst has forced your players to have an added weight of negativity on their shoulders as the season comes to a close; instead of being able to focus on simply ending the year with some pride. Because, as you said yourself, nobody’s job is safe.
Your frustration is perfectly understandable, but your timing couldn’t have been worse. There is nothing this team can do to change until the offseason arrives.
Aside from your timing, many other questions surfaced after your statements. Most notably:
#2 – Who Is To Blame?
During your rant, you did a great job of placing partial blame on many different aspects of the team. From the roster, to the coaching stuff, and even management, you certainly made it clear that this team is struggling in many different areas and needs to make changes going forward. You did, however, perfectly avoid shouldering any of the blame yourself as the owner.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) March 22, 2016
Money may not be the prime source of why this team has struggled, but, there is something to be said in regards to Ottawa’s place in the overall standings of the league being shoulder-to-shoulder to their NHL rank in dollars spent. In this season alone, 13 out of the 16 top teams in the league are ranked in the top 16 in spending. Again, money isn’t everything – but maybe that’s something worth looking in to.
One quote in particular that stuck with me was when you took your disappointment as far back as the home opener of this season, calling into question the decision to start rookie goaltender Matt O’Connor in that first home game against the Montreal Canadiens. In your words, he got “clobbered”.
“Some days you look like Stanley Cup champs and then you look like AHL players. We’ve got to make some changes, I know that.” – Eugene Melnyk (Silver Seven Sens)
The reason I took interest to that quote was I felt you did the goaltender – and the team – a disservice by calling O’Connor out like that. The Senators’ lost that game by a score of 3-1 and were outshot 34-21. With a rookie goaltender between the pipes, facing that amount of shots and letting in just three goals is fairly impressive.
Where it gets even more interesting is 34 shots is hovering around the average of shots that Ottawa’s goaltenders face on any given night. That fact should be way more alarming and front of focus than your rookie AHL goaltender having to start opening night because your backup goalie is hurt.
At the end of the day, people just want answers. You’ve done your complaining (and somehow managed to talk about horse racing while doing it), now it’s time to gear up for an offseason full of expectations. And, thanks to you, those expectations just got bigger.