Senators owner Eugene Melnyk had been unusually quiet during the team's recent string of losses, but he finally spoke to the Ottawa Sun, revealing a little bit of the Senators' plans going forward. Not to be outdone, the Globe and Mail spoke to inside sources who clarified on some of Melnyk's points. Both articles are must-reads for any Senators fan, but I've gleaned the most important points from each for the convenience of our readers. I should note I've separated them by articles, because the Sun article features concrete quotes from Melnyk's mouth, while The Globe & Mail's points are from "insider tips," which perhaps should be read with a grain of salt.
From the Sun piece:
1. Bryan Murray and Cory Clouston are staying for the season - Given that the GM and head coach have made it this far, it makes sense that Melnyk has no plans to make any changes. Still, after embarrassing losses like the 7-1 blowout by the Canadiens, many fans anticipated that one (or both) would be gone.
2. The Senators need a game-changer - Melnyk stated that he believes the Senators need a gamechanger. This is a pretty vague statement, but it at least illustrates that Melnyk accepts that the Senators cannot afford to continue making small tweaks, but need to make a fundamental adjustment to the club.
3. There is a plan in place - "Don’t think for one second that we’re not putting a plan in place that’s methodical, calculated and with a lot of forethought to win a Stanley Cup. The reason I’ve been quiet is I’ve been working on a plan. That plan is now in motion." How long term is that plan is the question: "We’re going to do what it takes to bring the Stanley Cup to Ottawa, whether it takes one, three or five years. It will happen. You have my commitment." One year? Even three years is extremely optimistic. This type of comment makes me worry that his plan might be a short-term one, which seems highly unlikely to work.
Now, moving on to the Globe & Mail's piece:
4. Bryan Murray will stay on in an advisory role - In case you questioned Melnyk's commitment to Murray, it seems as though Murray will remain in the organization past this year in an advisory role, ala Scotty Bowman with the Blackhawks. This seems to suggest that the next GM will be someone who is perhaps younger or who does not have GM experience (perhaps a current Assistant GM). I like the idea of Murray staying on to share his wealth of hockey experience with the next GM, I just hope that Murray (and Melnyk) don't inhibit the new GM's autonomy.
5. Interviews with prospective GMs have already started - Melnyk has not wasted time thinking about the future, and has already had short interviews ith potential GMs with deeper interviews to come later. The new GM will be in place before the NHL Entry Draft in June. In case you're wondering why they don't get the new GM in place for the trade deadline to start moulding the team as they see fit, our friends at The 6th Sens pointed out that the most likely reason is that the next GM is currently an Assistant GM with another team in the league who cannot leave their post midseason. Makes sense.
6. Murray's intention is to sell, sell, sell - Murray's orders are to sell as much as possible at the trade deadline. Obviously, Ottawa would be fine to let Alex Kovalev and Sergei Gonchar go, but the Globe also namedrops Chris Phillips and (gasp!) Daniel Alfredsson as possibilities if they'd agree to the deals.
7. The offseason plan is to chase prospects, not expensive free agents - This is perhaps the biggest shocker after two summers of Kovalev and Gonchar signings -- the new GM (with Murray's help) will be looking to prospects rather than big free-agent signings. The reason for this is pretty obvious -- the team will be mediocre next year in any event, so the team might as well have a low payroll to reduce losses.
Even though he's keeping his cards close to his chest, it's a relief to see Melnyk finally speak out about the situation. However, I do find myself feeling a bit skeptical about all of this, particularly because Melnyk talks about how he has a plan going forward that he has been working on. As mentioned in point 4, I fear that Melnyk's enthusiasm for the team will get in the way of the next GM's autonomy to make the decision that he feels are best for the club. Hopefully, Melnyk is a smart enough businessman to realize that he has to step back and let the next GM do what is necessary in order for the team succeed.
Needless to say, it's going to be an interesting next year or two for Senators fans, even if the on-ice product will almost certainly continue to be hard to watch.