Oh, how short the memory of hockey fans can be.
There’s no denying it: The last two seasons for fans of the Ottawa Senators have been rough. The 2017-18 campaign saw the team finish second-last in the NHL with 67 points. With only nine games remaining on the schedule this year, a record of 25-42-6 for 56 points has them in the league’s basement.
It’s been a quick and spectacular fall from grace for an organization that came within a goal of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017. Yes, it was less than two years ago that the Senators lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in double overtime of Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Things have been pretty grim since then in the Canadian capital and Eugene Melnyk, Ottawa’s owner, made it clear at the beginning of this season that the team would be taking the time necessary to complete a proper rebuild.
While he has taken a lot of heat for that decision and some of the others he has made as of late (especially on social media), the 59-year-old is willing to weather the storm for the sake of the plan.
“For our fans, our real fans, we’re doing the best we can,” he said during a Thursday interview on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown. “All you can do is keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve had a great record for the past 15, 16 years since I’ve owned (the team). We’ve gone to Stanley Cup Finals, we’ve gone to Conference Finals, we’ve had All-Star Games, we’ve had (NHL) drafts… We’re doing more than most franchises as far as what we do for our fans.”
On top of his chatter about the good times that the franchise has seen lately, he reminded fans that being good simply isn’t good enough in the league anymore.
“We had a good team, but you don’t get participation badges in the NHL,” he said in reference to that 2016-2017 squad that came close to glory. “You either win or you don’t. And, to win a Stanley Cup, I believe you have to have four, five superstar types all around the same, young age… And, a very, very hot, top-flight goalie.”
“The whole objective is, three years out, that we have a true Stanley Cup contender and that we don’t have the gaps that some… teams have and that we stay within the cap.”
Say what you want about the man, you have to respect his commitment to the process despite the negativity from outside (and sometimes inside) the Canadian Tire Centre.
His organization has many exciting young prospects, a number of draft picks on the horizon and the willingness to be patient. For the sake of Melnyk and all of those connected to the team, we can only hope this is all worth the wait.
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