For reasons that might only be clear to Eugene Melnyk himself, the Ottawa Senators posted a conversation between Mark Borowiecki and the Sens owner at 10:05 PM on a Monday night. The video was marketed as the team sharing their vision of the future of the organization, “an exciting plan to rebuild our team” and was accompanied by the hashtage #OttawaRising
What I’m about to describe may beggar belief, so I would recommend that you watch it for yourself if you haven’t yet seen it:
The Ottawa Senators are proud to share the vision for the future of our team and this organization. We are about to launch an exciting plan to rebuild our team and we are inviting you to be a part of our rise to new heights. #OttawaRising pic.twitter.com/hok2jYCUVi— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) September 11, 2018
There are so many things that are wrong with this video that it’s hard to pick the worst of the bunch, but some choice moments include:
- Melnyk asking Borowiecki point blank “How’s the dressing room?” followed by Boro nervously turning the question back on Melnyk —- “That was something I was going to ask you!”;
- Melnyk suggesting that as many as “10 of the 22 players will be rookies, or players who have played less than 10 games” and the the following year “it could go up to 15 of the 22”;
- The on-going indictment of the team’s current leadership, never mentioning Erik Karlsson by name. In contrast, Boro is repeatedly lauded as a key veteran;
- Melnyk’s continued complaining that people keep talking about the possibility of his moving the team, when he was the one that first suggested it back at the Winter Classic
This whole thing reeks of Melnyk going rogue on his own staff. No self-respecting PR person would have let this abomination see the light of day, let alone suggested it. If there was one easily executed upon piece of feedback that emerged from the town-halls in the spring (remember those?), it was that the fans were sick and tired of Melnyk’s shtick. That he continues to act as the team’s de facto spokesperson on all matters, business or hockey-related, speaks to how badly the team is beholden to his every worst impulse.
Setting aside the optics of how things were being said, Melnyk’s message was loud and clear: there are dramatic roster changes coming. His comment about leadership not coming from any three players would certainly seem to be pointed at the Karlsson, Stone, and Duchene trio specifically. His vision of the 10 rookies this year, and the 15 (?!) next year cannot possibly be realistic without a major overhaul. The exact steps to reaching this rookie nirvana remain by necessity vague, but at this stage it sure seems like we’re heading there no matter what.
In a different time, with a different owner, with a different set of players on the roster many fans of the team might not be so opposed to a rebuild. The Ottawa Senators did, after all, finish 30th in the NHL standings last year. This wasn’t a good team; a youth movement might not be such a bad thing.
But this is not a different time, and with this owner it is impossible to look at this youth project without seeing the cost savings Melnyk will achieve this way. Why should we believe the organization is acting in any way other than to cynically cut costs and keep the owner afloat long enough to scratch out just a bit more equity from the asset? Nothing in this video tonight changed any of the big picture, and in fact it almost surely soured the team’s relationship with its fans even further. That’s an impressive piece of work considering everything that’s come before.