No Sens or Sensibility: The Eugene Melnyk Era

Two years ago the Ottawa Senators were a goal away from the Stanley Cup Final. Today they saw the last of their top three scores, Mark Stone, the man who should’ve been their next captain, a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come, shipped off to Vegas ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline. This, just days after both Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel were unceremoniously jettisoned to Columbus. A once proud organisation reduced to selling off valuable parts like smoke damaged furniture, presumably the result of the tire fire they’ve become.

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How exactly does one fall so far, so quickly, so completely? Manage to pull off this unprecedented, ignominious feat? We need look no further than much reviled owner Eugene Melnyk. An arrogant, self serving narcissist whose ignorance, greed and utter incompetence have run this organisation so far into the ground Cleveland Browns fans are sending sympathy cards…He is, at best, a man so singularly focused on dollars and cents he makes Ebeneezer Scrooge look like Santa Clause.

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“But don’t the players share some responsibility in this?” some fans will bemoan, grumbling as they look at the piles of money players earn, suggesting that it alone should be enough to keep them around. That, “if they truly wanted to be here, they’d stay”. There’s certainly some logic to that, and when you’re forking out hard earned dollars, (even if it’s to inflate the earnings of a pompous egomaniac who’d rather see the franchise fail than admit he’s too broke to run it properly), you’re allowed your say. However, in any other walk of life, would we argue this sentiment? If a friend, family member or hell, even casual acquaintance told you they weren’t certain about remaining at their place of employment due to the incredibly toxic atmosphere of said workplace or expressed concerns over the long term viability of the corporation, would you harp at them in the same manner? Suggest they stay? Why should these players be held to a different standard simply because they’re paid (far) more handsomely?

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Matt Duchene (one of the few players actually offered good money) elucidated this perfectly when asked why he didn’t re-sign with Ottawa. It wasn’t the contract, he stated that the Sens offer was fair, it was the ‘uncertain hockey future’ which was the sticking point. And, at this juncture, can you blame him? Why play Russian Roulette with your career? You’ll only ever have one, so if someone should choose not to while it away aimlessly under the stewardship of a buffoon, more power to them. Duchene, Erik Karlsson, Stone, they all loved this city and legitimately wanted to stay here, to be part of the solution, but alas, circumstance is a cruel mistress…

As for the guy making these deals? Pierre Dorion has one of 31 (soon to be 32) GM positions in the NHL and, after the deadline, addressed the media like a man who’d say anything to keep it. Ever playing Smithers to Eugene’s Monty Burns, the sycophant conjured a smile as he thanked (seriously) his boss for the opportunity to dismantle the team, like some half-assed Lego set on one of the “happiest days of his life”. I presume nobody from the Hanson company was operating Pierre at this point, but imagine if you looked closely, you could likely make out the strings.

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I will say Dorion did a decent job in acquiring some valuable picks and prospects in the these trades. Assets meant to represent hope for Sens Army in these darkest of times. However, why should any fan trust this management group to handle them properly? What kind of leadership is left to shepherd these kids along? What sort of message does it send them? Or in anyway entice them to stay? When the next batch of stars in Thomas Chabot, Drake Batherson, Brady Tkachuk (Who was very close with Stone) etc. have to be resigned, precisely what’ll change?

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The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, so why should anyone with even the slightest bit of common sense believe this is ‘the rebuild‘ that sticks? Or that they’ve suddenly stemmed the rot from within? At his presser, Dorion nostalgically rhymed off the names of past Sens stars, noting that when they were successful, they’d built through the draft. What he, conveniently, failed to mention is that Daniel Alfredsson, Karlsson, Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Alexei Yashin and co., nearly ever star they’ve ever had, has had a tumultuous exit. That they’ve been down this road too may times before…Fans are right to be angry, to be concerned about what will happen to this franchise. The worst thing they could be is apathetic. To accept that his should be the norm. This week was yet another glaring, agonising, example of how unable, or perhaps unwilling, Melnyk is to ice a legitimate NHL team, largely in part to his own shaky financial circumstances, and until something changes at the top, fans will be left with nothing more than a void where their team should be, as this traumatic history continues to repeat itself…

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