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Five Thoughts for Friday

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Melnyk, Karlsson, trades, and that’s pretty much it

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

It’s a Melnyk and Karlsson themed edition of Five Thoughts this week, since there hasn’t been much else to talk about.

That wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it would be

Sens fans went into this trade deadline expecting the worst. Based on what insiders had been saying, and what little the Senators’ front office had been saying, it sounded like the team was gearing up for a total firesale. They were ready to get rid of Karlsson, Hoffman, Brassard, Pageau, Smith… pretty much everyone who wasn’t Mark Stone or Thomas Chabot. When Brassard was traded, it felt like it was the first domino to fall.

And then nothing else happened.

For some reason that still hasn’t been explained, it sounds like the firesale has been delayed a few months. And now the question is: is there hope?

One of the most distressing things about all the rumours that surfaced right before the trade deadline was how sudden it all was. One day, we had a bad hockey team. The next, everyone we loved was as good as gone. But now there’s time.

Time to get used to it, maybe, but also time to right the ship. Obviously, there isn’t much we can do as fans, but maybe we can hope that Dorion and Melnyk will change their minds. Or that Melnyk will sell before the end of the season.

Maybe those are both long shots, but at the very least we have a few months to appreciate our favourite players while they’re still here.

The Brassard trade

I’ll admit that, in the moment, I didn’t care very much about the trade itself.

I still don’t think this team can compete with Melnyk as the owner. As long as the Sens’ front office is the thinnest in the league, and money has to be a priority in every decision, nothing matters. This team will not be good.

And, like I said, it sounded like Brassard would be the first of many players to be traded for no discernible reason. When the trade broke, I was mostly upset that the Sens were going through with this senseless “rebuild” after all.

But now that the deadline has passed and Ottawa hasn’t made any other significant moves… it doesn’t look that bad?

Brassard was good, and I’m sad to see him go, but I didn’t see him as an essential member of this team. Plus, getting a first round draft pick and a goaltending prospect isn’t bad, even though it’s almost impossible to predict how goalies will turn out.

Still, it’s hard to be happy about the trade when I don’t trust this organization to build a winning team, and I still don’t understand why management thinks it’s time to rebuild in the first place.

What exactly is the plan here?

Last night, Eugene Melnyk caused a bit of a fuss in the Sens fanbase when he sent a letter to season ticket holders, after several days of complete silence regarding the team’s direction or plan moving forward. The letter was… frustrating, to say the least.

I don’t think there’s anything Melnyk could have said that would have made fans change their minds about him, but this certainly didn’t help at all.

First of all, we can talk about the fact that he mentions what he did for the team 15 years ago, as if that should make him immune to criticism even now. It’s pretty remarkable that he has the guts to demand loyalty from fans when in recent years he’s done nothing but talk down to us and blame us for his failures.

He says that he’s “demonstrated [his] commitment to giving [us] the best possible team over and over again,” which is just hilarious. The entire letter is vague and nonsensical and doesn’t really say anything important.

But most infuriating is the lack of clarity regarding the team’s direction. He opens the letter by reminding us that this is the same team that almost made the Stanley Cup Finals last year, then only a few paragraphs later announces that it’s time for the Sens to rebuild. He seems to be implying that fans should renew their season tickets because the team was good last year, even though the team is most definitely not going to be good next year, and most of the players who made the team good will probably have been traded away before the start of next season. How does that make sense?

He talks about getting younger, faster, and more skilled, but this team is already young, fast and skilled. Or rather, its good players are already young, fast and skilled. The old, slow players are all pretty easy to get rid of. But apparently, trading Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman is going to help us achieve this goal?

It doesn’t feel like there’s a plan in Ottawa right now, and it certainly doesn’t feel like the team cares about its fans. This letter won’t help at all.

For once, can we please hold on to a superstar?

Personally, my least favourite part of last weekend’s excitement was seeing people actually defend a move that I still consider to be completely indefensible.

One particularly frustrating narrative I saw emerging was that Karlsson had an attitude problem, or that if he didn’t get along with the front office, then it was a problem with him, not them. I might have been able to accept this argument if Karlsson wasn’t the latest of many, many talented players to have a huge falling out with Eugene Melnyk.

Alfredsson, Spezza and most recently Kyle Turris have all had pretty public disputes with the Sens’ ownership. At this point, either the Sens have astonishingly bad luck in choosing players, or the problem isn’t the players, but the owner.

Melnyk is the common denominator in all this. I’m tired of the character assassination that goes on every time a player I like leaves Ottawa on bad terms. It’s happened so many times now that I refuse to place any blame on the players anymore. I blame the guy who’s been driving them out of town.

It’s happened too many times for it to be a coincidence.

#MelnykOut

And all this brings me to my final point: the #MelnykOut campaign that took off during trade deadline weekend.

This isn’t just a hashtag anymore. A group of fans have now raised over $10,000 for a huge campaign against Eugene Melnyk. That includes at least one billboard, ads in newspapers, signs that people can print out and bring to games, and more.

But a lot of people have been wondering: what exactly is this trying to accomplish?

The main goal, of course, is to get Melnyk to sell the team. But will he care enough about billboards and ads and signs? I don’t know. Will the league take notice and force him to sell? It seems like a long shot.

Personally, what I like about this campaign is that it tells Melnyk why fans are mad, and why the arena isn’t selling out. It’s obvious that the only way to actually hurt Melnyk is to stop buying tickets, but it would be really easy for him to see that and twist the narrative to make us look like fickle, disloyal fans. This campaign tells Melnyk, and the entire league, that the problem in Ottawa is not the losing or the fact that star players are leaving town, but the fact that the fans won’t buy tickets until the owner is gone.

In other words: It’s not us, Mr. Melnyk. It’s you.