Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk put his organization on notice, saying that “nobody is safe” and noting that changes need to happen in order for the team to make the playoffs next season.
Melnyk spoke to reporters Tuesday to discuss the team’s 25th anniversary. Instead he got deep into his team’s troubles and what needs to be done to fix them. The Senators are 34-31-8 on the season and are seven points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with nine games to play. Last year the team went on a run from 14 points out of the playoffs in February to make the postseason.
According to Sport Club Stats, the Senators have a 0.4 percent chance of making the playoffs this season.
“I’m looking at all of it, right across the board, nobody is safe when you have a year like we just did,” Melnyk said. “The status quo would just get us there again next year and this team cannot survive not making the playoffs. We have to do it by guts, we have to do it by hard work and we can get there and that’s what we need to do. Nothing more. You can’t just throw money at things. We know teams that have thrown money at things for decades and they’ve gotten nowhere. We need to do it a different way and I think we are.”
Melnyk dodged a question about the future of longtime general manager Bryan Murray who has intimated in the past he will leave the team after this year but has also noted that he could continue on. The 73-year-old Murray is battling colon cancer, but hasn’t slowed his duties since he revealed the diagnosis. He was recently at the league’s general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.
“I think the same answer I had back in December. It’s ‘day-to-day’ we’re grooming people, we’re looking. I think after the season is done they just – Right now I leave it to Bryan,” Melnyk said. “If he wants to – we’re about go to through the next 14 months of some really tough decisions in hockey that can change the whole complexion of a lot of teams.”
Melnyk also was critical of the potential expansion draft calling it a “killer” for current teams because of the quality of player they may lose. At the GMs meetings, league execs discussed a framework for the draft which, they hoped would be one of the deepest drafts in NHL history. He saw this as a reason for Murray to potentially stay around to prepare the organization for all the potential changes that could happen.
“The Vegas team if that’s the one chosen, they paid $500 million for the privilege of picking – these players they are going to get, you guys have done the analysis. They’re going to be some good players we can’t protect because of the numbers,” Melnyk said.
Overall, Melnyk summed up the year as a “roller coaster of hope and despair.”
Melnyk was critical of decisions by coach Dave Cameron, noting how in the team’s home opener, the coaching staff started unproven backup Matt O’Connor in goal. He allowed three scores on 34 shots on goal in a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. The Senators are one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL, allowing 2.97 goals per-game. They also have the league's lowest-rated penalty kill at 75.4 percent. According to War on Ice, the Senators have a 47.5 CF% 5-on-5, meaning the opposition holds onto the puck more even strength.
“I go back to the very first game you put in the second goalie, like ‘what was that about on opening night?’ and the guy gets clobbered. That’s not fair to him, that’s not fair to the fans,” Melnyk said. “It’s just a lot of little tiny mistakes that all of a sudden escalates and gets serious and gets in people’s heads and the next thing you know some days you look like Stanley Cup champs and then you look like EHL players. We just have to make some changes. I know that.”
He also noted that the Senators lost some games in December through “inconsistency and stupidity.”
When asked about Cameron specifically and if he’s under a “microscope” Melnyk said, “I think every single aspect of the team is under the microscope.”
This is not the first time Melnyk has put his team on notice. In January of 2011 he gave an interview to the Ottawa Sun about the difficulties the Senators were experiencing.
After that season the Senators fired coach Cory Clouston and brought in Paul MacLean.
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