1) Media availability
Despite not making the playoffs, the Ottawa Senators gave their fans a busy week. The players, coach, general manager and owner made themselves available to the media this week, so we had a lot to talk about. Bryan Murray, as usual, was quite open and honest. He admitted that he was not very happy about Paul MacLean's approach to players. When asked about Jason Spezza's future as an Ottawa Senator, Murray said that they hadn't talked about a contract yet. There was nothing overly surprising about Murray's comments.
MacLean, was quite conservative in his comments. He was open about the fact that the team "did not play hard enough for long enough to put them in the playoffs." But he made a point to emphasize that it was a complete team issue, and was not the fault of an individual player or specific area within the team. He refused to bite when the media tried to lay the blame on Karlsson or Spezza, and said that you cannot blame this on one player. He may not have given the media anything to run with, but I liked the way he balanced his answers with honesty and discretion, to avoid throwing anyone under the bus.
Eugene Melnyk's comments, on the other hand, were a little more interesting.
2) Everyone hates Melnyk... again
I could leave this section as is, and you would all know what I'm referring to. But let's elaborate, shall we?
First of all, despite his frequent mishaps and questionable decisions, let me clarify that I don't hate Eugene Melnyk as much as it may seem here. I am, and will always be, grateful that he came in and saved this team when it needed him most.
Now that we got that out of the way: Just when you thought Sens fans couldn't dislike their owner any more, Melnyk opened his mouth. Like Murray, he gave us no reason to believe that MacLean was going anywhere, or that Spezza's future was anything other than uncertain. But it all went south when he started talking about money... shocking!
Melnyk said it's easy to spend money in this league, but the organization doesn't want to spend money just to spend money. Yes, because Stanley Cup winning teams are known for being frugal with their salaries..
If the financial situation is as bad as Melnyk has alluded to recently, then he needs to take action. He needs to either sell the team to someone who will spend money, or find investors to give the organization money to spend. These struggles aren't going to go away until the team starts winning, and the team will not start winning until he spends more money. This isn't Moneyball, you need to spend money to win in this league.
The smart thing to do, although it's too late for this, is to join forces with Jeff Hunt, and make the Ottawa Senators part of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (Ottawa REDBLACKS, Ottawa Furry, Ottawa 67s). Jeff Hunt, unlike our current owner, knows how to make sports teams profitable against all odds. He made an OHL team successful in an NHL city. He also brought the CFL back to Ottawa after a number of failed attempts, and has already sold 15,000 season tickets. Melnyk has a lot to learn from Hunt, and I would love to see Hunt teach him.
Unfortunately, this is likely nothing more than a pipe dream for Sens fans. But we can continue to dream, can't we?
3) Jason Spezza: Will he stay or will he go?
You know what we haven't done in a while: Talked about a possible Jason Spezza trade (Sarcasm... again). It seems like every couple of months, speculation around Spezza's departure begins to swirl. Personally, I don't see why you would make a guy your captain, only to trade him a year later. You committed to him, you have to follow up.
My opinion aside, the general consensus is that Spezza is gone. Let me just point out that up until early 2007, fans were calling for Daniel Alfredsson to be traded after the team got off to a terrible start. And every time they made an early-playoff exit, the same thing happened. Spezza needs a 2007-like Stanley Cup run that makes this fan base view him as a God, much like they did Alfredsson. Whether or not he has enough time left for this remains to be seen.
So if he goes, what should we get for him? We need a stronger top-six forward core, so I would expect nothing less than a top-six player and another asset. It may seem like a lot, but this is a PPG player who, when at his best, is one of the top players in the league. Knowing our luck, as soon as he leaves, he will find his groove and light up the league once again.
4) Kyle Turris
If Sens fans have anything to feel good about after this year, it's the play of Kyle Turris. He made serious strides in his game this season. He found chemistry with Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan, and was arguably our best (and most consistent) player this year.
So, if Spezza does get traded, Turris might end up in the first-line-centre position. The question then becomes: Is Kyle Turris a first-line centre? When Spezza went down with a back injury last season, Turris struggled with the pressure of being number one. Sure, that was then and this is now, but I still don't know how I feel about Turris as our number-one centre.
At the end of the day, Murray could replace Spezza with another top-line centre, and none of this would matter.
5) Who to cheer for in the playoffs?
After the Sens cleaned out their lockers and management gave their thoughts on the season, the playoffs actually started. With only one Canadian team in the playoffs, and that team not being the Ottawa Senators, I imagine many Sens fans are stuck on who to get behind. I am no bandwagon jumper, and I will never actually cheer for another team, but I tend to lend my support to Canadian teams in the post-season. Regardless, I think we will see the Chicago Blackhawks repeat as Stanley Cup champs.
Who are you cheering for in the playoffs? Do you find a team to get behind, or do you refuse to lend allegiance to anyone else and hope they all somehow lose?