Eugene Melnyk’s bid for the completely made up ‘Worst Owner In The NHL’ award keeps getting stronger.
After a tense few months in which the owner of the the Ottawa Senators and fans of the club have publicly butted heads over the current direction of the franchise, Melnyk is trying to ensure whoever is left listening that everything is under control.
On Thursday, the Sens owner penned a public letter in hopes of changing the perception of his intentions for the franchise.
“This has been a disappointing season for our team,” Melnyk wrote. “Our place in the standings speaks for itself. Trust me, no one is more aware of this – and more frustrated by it – than I am. But one challenging year does not define our team. And if anything, the commitment to re-establish our great franchise and reclaim our place atop the NHL standings should unite all Senators fans, partners and season-seat members. Now is the time for us to focus on the future rather than dwelling on a difficult season,” the statement read.
You can see the entire letter here.
After going on a verbal rant the day before Ottawa hosted the NHL 100 Classic at Lansdowne park in December, one in which he blasted fan support during the 2017 postseason and not-so-subtly threatened to relocate the team if attendance didn’t improve, Melnyk back-peddled in his most recent public plea and re-iterated a commitment to keeping the team in Ottawa while improving the fan experience — though he remained very vague on the details of such a plan.
“The passion of our fans in the Ottawa Community is unlike any other in the NHL. As an owner, that is the most important thing of all. That’s why we are looking to improve every aspect of the Ottawa fan experience, to make our games more fun, accessible, and affordable and to have an even greatest presence in our community,” Melnyk wrote.
— Ottawa Citizen (@OttawaCitizen) February 24, 2018
In the months after coming within a goal of a Stanley Cup Final appearance, the Senators have been a tire fire, with the team toiling near the bottom of the for most of the year and the departure of superstar and team captain Erik Karlsson becoming more imminent with each passing week. A deal was close to being struck at the deadline, but it appears now — with the Senators in a self-proclaimed rebuild — that Karlsson will have to wait until before the draft to find a new home.
The team was able to move centre Derick Brassard for some quality assets including a first round pick, but hung on to other potentially valuable pieces like Mark Hoffman and Zack Smith. The crazy thing is, through all this drama, Karlsson has continued to re-iterate how much he loves Ottawa and wants to be a Senator for life, but Melnyk’s public critiques of Karlsson’s desire to be paid full market value and the subsequent escalation of tensions between the two parties may be a wound to deep to mend at this point.
Plus, Melnyk has proven be exceedingly cheap when it comes to the team he claims to love, and no matter what he says, it’s seems like he will never be able, or want, to spend the money needed to ice a sustainable, competitive roster around Karlsson — or anybody else.
The drama continues, and there’s sure to be whole lot more as Melnyk, fans, and Ottawa’s captain try to pick up the pieces of an all-but-shattered relationship.