Eugene Melnyk is not exactly Ottawa’s favourite person right now. It seems the man sparks outrage every time he opens his mouth. #MelnykOut is Sens Twitter’s favourite hashtag, and the phrase even went up on a few billboards around Ottawa recently.
In an attempt to mend a few fences with Sens fans, Melnyk announced recently that he would be holding three town halls, alongside General Manager Pierre Dorion, during which season ticket holders could ask him any questions they wanted about the team. As confirmed by a few people in attendance, the questions were not screened in advance, so people could actually ask anything.
As you might expect from events that involve Eugene Melnyk speaking off script, it sounds like they were some of the most entertaining evenings this franchise has provided its fans in months.
Strangely, the Sens did not allow any audio or visual recordings during the event, although they did allow people to Tweet or take notes on pen and paper. Considering that one of the goals of this press conference was to communicate with fans, it seems weird that they would limit these town halls to season ticket holders, and only to those able to make it out to Kanata on a weeknight or a weekday morning. Limiting the questions to just season ticket holders makes sense, but they could have at least let other people watch the event. I’m not sure what they wanted to accomplish by banning all recordings, because it’s 2018 and you know people are going to find out what you said. By doing this, Melnyk was ensuring that fans would get all of their quotes from Twitter, thus allowing the people live-tweeting the event to potentially twist the narrative and take his words out of context. When he inevitably gets backlash for his comments at this event, he’d better not complain about being taken out of context, because he set himself up for this.
Nevertheless, some brave souls decided to record the town halls after all, and you can listen to them on Soundcloud.
The recording of the first town hall comes courtesy of our friend Tariq Anwar (@TariqAnwar00 on Twitter). The best part of this recording is his and his sister’s comments throughout the event.
The second one was recorded by Mitch Brulé (@MitchBrule).
An anonymous fan recorded the third one, and Tariq put in on soundcloud as well.
A lot was said at these events (although many of the answers were the same, and in all three cases Melnyk opened by defending himself for a solid 20 minutes and reminding fans of what he did for us 15 years ago, which, wow). Also, many of the things he said were false. He even contradicted himself many times. I will try to narrow down the main talking points, then recap all the other little things he mentioned.
Obviously, the most popular topic of conversation was Erik Karlsson, and his future with the team. Melnyk and Dorion’s comments were less than reassuring.
They both said many times that they want Erik to stay, and that they will offer him a contract on July 1st. They also said that that contract will be for eight years. How much will they offer? That wasn’t quite as clear. They also said definitively that they will not trade Erik Karlsson at the NHL Draft.
During the second town hall, Dorion said that the organization would offer Erik “more money than we ever imagined.” But in the first one, Melnyk said this:
Melnyk says the Senators could get outgunned on a Karlsson extension and there's only so far you can go.— The 6th Sens (@6thSens) April 11, 2018
It is worth pointing out that the Senators are the only team that cannot get outgunned on a Karlsson extension, seeing as they are the only team allowed to offer him a contract for the next year. So unless they plan on lowballing him, they should be able to sign him before anyone else makes an offer.
It is also worth pointing out that both Melnyk and Dorion definitely knew this question was coming and probably had time to plan out their response. So the fact that they brought this up is just great.
This particular part of the second town hall doesn’t exactly inspire confidence:
Melnyk seems to scoff and roll his eyes at “contracts in the 10-12 million dollar range”— Mitch Brulé (@MitchBrule) April 11, 2018
Outdoor Game Comments
Another common theme was Melnyk’s comments at the outdoor game. Friend of the blog Shaila Anwar asked him if he would apologize, and this is what he said:
Melnyk calls the NHL 100 comments a misunderstanding. "If it makes everyone feel better, I apologize".— Kevin Lee (@BringBackLee) April 11, 2018
He also claimed that he was misrepresented by the Very Dishonest Press, and that he never actually threatened to move the team or threw his fans under the bus. You can listen to the tape right here and decide for yourself how misrepresented he was.
He did offer a slightly better apology later on, though:
Asked again Melnyk admits he made a mistake with his comments at the Outdoor game. Says in hindsight he should not have answered the question. Says his timing was bad.— Dan Séguin (@SeguinSports) April 11, 2018
The Fake News Media
One of the biggest themes that emerged from these town hall meetings was the complete lack of trust the organisation has in the media. Yes, right after saying that “losers look for blame,” Melnyk went ahead and pointed fingers at the media, accusing them of being #FakeNews.
I will also say on behalf of @TSN1200, we have asked for interviews with Pierre Dorion and Eugene Melnyk frequently thru-out the last half of the season. That would be their opportunity to 'set the record straight'. None of those asks were answered. https://t.co/wEXTQvCAhG— John Rodenburg (@TSNJR) April 11, 2018
Melnyk says he doesn’t know what’s going on with the media. He is tired of trying to have to educated the “Sports writers” on the business side of things. So Dorion will be the one talking to the media from now on— Mitch Brulé (@MitchBrule) April 11, 2018
What’s really funny about this particular complaint is that Ottawa sports media has actually been pretty easy on Melnyk so far, and many fans have been frustrated with reporters for not asking the tough questions.
Also, apparently the mainstream media people aren’t the only ones spreading lies:
Fan asks about marginalizing Karlsson return with Bobby Ryan, Dorion says don't believe everything you read. Blames media and bloggers - lack of accountability.— The 6th Sens (@6thSens) April 11, 2018
.@sportingnewsca Melnyk mentions Alfie wanted to go to Detroit. A few boo's could be heard. Dorion on rumours - mentions, "so many lies with Twitter, bloggers." #SensTownHall— Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) April 11, 2018
Well, I guess this makes me part of the Fake News Media. Don’t listen to anything I say. Don’t believe anything you read on this website. We’re all just trying to run Melnyk out of town by misquoting and misrepresenting him. We’re probably all billionnaires hoping to buy the team once he leaves.
(Also, Bobby Ryan told us that)
Melnyk admitted that the in-game experience at the CTC is not as good as the experience at other sports arenas. He offered a number of solutions.
He shot down the rumours about the team moving to Lebreton Flats, making it pretty clear that he wants the team to stay in Kanata:
Appears Lebreton is nowhere close to a done deal. Seems like there is still very much a chance the team stays in Kanata. Which tbh I’m shocked by— Mitch Brulé (@MitchBrule) April 11, 2018
Question about Lebreton Flats project and it’s progress. Melnyk says it’s a much more difficult process than he expected. Huge project with a tremendous risk. Seems to be questioning wether it’s worth doing.— Dan Séguin (@SeguinSports) April 11, 2018
He also apparently had a powerpoint lined up all about the horrible parking lot:
"Somebody 24 years ago was intoxicated when designing the parking lot" Melnyk even had a slide made up of our disaster of a parking lot! pic.twitter.com/nRRHwqKYJn— Kevin Lee (@BringBackLee) April 11, 2018
(He had 15 years to fix this parking lot, but okay)
Apparently he’s trying to fix that problem, which would be pretty great.
He did extend a bit of an olive branch to fans by reducing the prices of parking:
Melnyk says they are reducing parking from $20 to $12.— Brent Wallace (@tsn_wally) April 11, 2018
Also, the tarps are coming down!!!! And the organization has plans to replace them:
Plan is to turn the currently tarped areas into standup food or bar spots for fans to socialize.— Dan Séguin (@SeguinSports) April 11, 2018
They also mentioned providing incentives for fans to arrive early or stay late at the CTC, including discounts on concessions. Great news for people who live in Kanata, I guess.
Sadly, the organization also confirmed that the Racing Prime Ministers are no more. I, for one, will miss them a lot.
Obviously, many fans were rightfully concerned about the direction of this franchise, and, of course, Melnyk’s willingness to spend enough money to make this team competitive.
His answers, ah, weren’t great.
First, he claimed that the plan was to compete in “3 to 5 years,” not right away.
Then he said this:
.@sportingnewsca Melnyk - We're committed to winning. Scrap anything you've heard. #SensTownHall— Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) April 11, 2018
They also tried to explain that hiring fewer scouts is actually a good thing, because it allows for more chemistry or whatever, which sounds like a load of absolute bullshit.
Dorion on bumping up the scouting staff “numbers doesn’t equal quality”. “We just don’t want to go hire scouts.” “If we add people it’s got to be the right people.”— Brent Wallace (@tsn_wally) April 11, 2018
.@sportingnewsca Dorion feels a smaller hockey ops staff has a stronger say. Have constructive convo's. If we add, it's going to be the right people. #SensTownHall— Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) April 11, 2018
.@sportingnewsca Disgruntled fan challenges Melnyk for not spending.— Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) April 11, 2018
Melnyk explains #Sens have top of the line facilities. Dorion adds we spend. Discussed spending more $$ to acquire Duchene. Also last season's deadline acquisitions.
And, incredibly, this:
Dorion: "How many UFAs have left here?"— TSN 1200 (@TSN1200) April 11, 2018
Someone in crowd: "What about Alfie?"
Melnyk: "That was different. He wanted to go to Detroit."
Crowd: *Booing ensues*
Yes, he did actually say that.
Melnyk and Dorion were also quite critical of the coaching staff, and it sounds like Boucher might be on his way out.
In the second town hall, they said that they were committed to getting younger and faster, which seems like a great idea, but it kind of depends on them keeping a few key players. Namely their captain.
A few other things to note:
- The award for the hardest working player at development camp will be renamed to the “Jonathan Pitre award”
- Melnyk said that the Sens are a small market and a receiver for the NHL’s equalization fund.
- They will probably keep their first round pick.
- There will be more town halls! About 3 of them every year! Given the way these ones went, that sounds like the single biggest incentive to buy season tickets.
- Chris Neil has been named ambassador of Hockey Ops, along with Chris Phillips.
- Melnyk said that he would never sell the team at the first town hall, but at the second complained about how hard his job is and said that he’d love to give the job to someone else. I don’t think that means anything significant, but it was funny.
- He also said that the job of coach of the Ottawa Senators is harder than any other job in Ottawa, including that of the Prime Minister of Canada.