Thoughts in Bold: Melnyk's Letter to Season Seat Holders

Thoughts in Bold: Melnyk's Letter to Season Seat Holders

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Thoughts in Bold: Melnyk's Letter to Season Seat Holders

To our valued Senators supporters,

This has been a disappointing season for our team. 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.

This introduction was the equivalent to Dave Cameron letting Matt O’Connor start the home opener of the 2015-16 season.

If anyone is more frustrated than Melnyk, look no further than the fans. Not only did they suffer through this season, they had their loyalty called into question by the owner. Melnyk had the audacity to proclaim that the market had to prove itself on a national platform that the NHL 100 Classic provided.

Imagine having the nerve to call into question the passion and wherewithal of a fan base that found a match for a liver transplant and literally saved his life.

You know what would have been a better introduction?

An apology.

An apology for embarrassing this fan base, overshadowing an important league event and for throwing Senators fans under the bus using an empty threat of relocation in a lame attempt to grab attention and spur the market to buy more tickets.

So far, the closest Melnyk has come to showing remorse for his comments has been to appear on Toronto television and refer to the reaction to his comments as “unfortunate”.

If anyone is more frustrated by the results than Eugene Melnyk, look no further than the fans. Not only did they suffer through this team’s poor performance on the ice, they were forced to endure the hardships off of it.

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.

It’s easy to talk about moving on when the owner wants to sweep his comments and this team’s performance under the rug.

I understand the desire for not dwelling on a difficult year, but this year’s results should drive this organization to meticulously examine and understand this organization’s shortcomings.

A 29th-place finish should not be the rallying cry for all of the parties Melnyk mentions, the pressure rests solely on the organization to prove that it has learned from its misfortunes and is taking measures to close the gaps and mitigate the chance that these mistakes reoccur in the future.

Remember, it was just a year ago we came within one goal of playing for the Stanley Cup. That grit and that fire are still part of the Senators’ DNA.

The Senators have been playing up the “we were one-goal away from the Stanley Cup Final” angle all season long and I can’t really fault them for using it as a beacon of optimism.

With that said, it’s intellectually dishonest to believe that this playoff run and high-water mark is an accurate reflection of their true talent level. (As an aside, the same argument could have been made for this year’s iteration as well. If Craig Anderson and Mike Condon could stop pucks at a league average rate, the Senators are a middle of the pack team.)

This was a middling team that was as one of the Eastern Conference’s wild card seeds and only qualified for the postseason in the last week of the regular season.

Melnyk himself has even admitted that last year’s success was unexpected, but the departures of some veteran characters has already started a shift in culture and just one week ago, there were rumours that the Senators were looking to change the culture of the team because of an incident in the dressing room between Pierre Dorion and his players. Elliotte Friedman touched upon this incident during a ‘Headlines’ segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

“Yesterday, on Friday, there was a meeting between Pierre Dorion … he went into the dressing to meet with the players and I’m told it was pretty tense,” explained Friedman. “He gave it to them and said, ‘Why is this going like this?’ and I heard the players gave it back a bit. Sometimes a relationship has got to hit rock bottom to get better and they’ve been better tonight.”

The “grit and fire are still part of the Senators’ DNA” makes for a good soundbite, but the unfortunate reality of the Senators’ situation is that it feels like the players and fans have lost faith in management and ownership to deliver a winner.

When I came on board, the Ottawa Senators were in deep financial trouble. Together, with your support, we brought this team back to life and we have had Canada’s most successful NHL on-ice performance over the past 15 years. Backed by Ottawa fans and the entire community, I have demonstrated my commitment to giving you the best possible team over and over again. Today, I am just as committed to the Ottawa Senators and to keeping them in the City of Ottawa as I was in 2003.

Melnyk likes to remind everyone that he bought this team out of bankruptcy and saved it from an uncertain future. Ironically, a Senators fan saved Melnyk from an uncertain future as well.

It’s not transparently clear what Melnyk is using to measure “Canada’s most successful NHL on-ice performance over the past 15 years”, but since the start of the 2003-04 season, the Vancouver Canucks (1,260 points in 1096 games) and Montreal Canadiens (1,251 points in 1,095 games) have both generated more points in the standings than the 1,235 points in 1,094 games that Ottawa has.

The Senators however lead all Canadian franchises during this same span of time with 44 playoff wins, but they also led all Canadian clubs with 45 postseason losses.

It’s a nice cherry-picked stat to make it seem like the Senators are really successful relative to their Canadian counterparts, but the Calgary Flames were a Martin Gelinas disallowed goal away from winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. The following season, the Edmonton Oilers lost 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. In 2011, the Vancouver Canucks held a 3-2 series lead over the Boston Bruins during their Stanley Cup appearance before ultimately losing in seven games.

All of these teams have been closer to drinking from Lord Stanley than any of Melnyk’s teams and some obscure statistic should not obfuscate that.

Enduring a tough year has given us a chance for clear-eyed evaluation. This is an ongoing process but I can tell you one thing: we are not looking to just tweak our lineup nor mortgage our future for stop-gap solutions.

The kind of change required to reclaim our standing needs a change in approach, requires difficult decisions and commitment to a plan. As an organization, and community, it meant saying goodbye to some very good players this year – quality men who gave their all on the ice and in the community.

These are probably the two most meaningful paragraphs in the entire letter, but unfortunately, there’s nothing said about how management or ownership plans on accomplishing this.

As a team, we need to get younger, faster and more skilled. We have already announced several key steps to making that happen.

Age-related decline statistics have been around for quite some time, but for whatever reason, the Senators have ignored them. Even after moving on from players like Chris Kelly, Dion Phaneuf, Johnny Oduya and Chris Neil, NHLNumbers.com’s data shows that only six franchises have higher average ages than the Senators.

I remain committed to investing what is needed to identify, draft and develop the players that embody what it means to be an Ottawa Senator. We have a strong foundation of players on this team and in the pipeline ready to contribute.

For an owner who admitted to cutting “everything to the bone” during his NHL 100 Classic interview, a reinvestment into scouting, player development, facilities, emerging technology, analytics or a proprietary database is paramount.

This organization simply has to do a better job of reallocating its limited resources. Instead of wasting a few hundred thousand dollars on veteran AHL depth fodder or on marginal NHLers or their signing bonuses, reinvest in areas that can play a larger role in this organization’s turnaround. Case in point, a few short weeks ago, the organization pissed away $250,000 on a Johnny Oduya games played bonus only for the organization to lose the player 10 games thereafter to waivers is an inexplicable waste of money. Hire another scout or bring two or three people into the fold to help the analytics branch of the hockey operations department.

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.

Winning the Stanley Cup seems paramount.

That’s why we are looking to improve every aspect of the Ottawa fan experience. And, of course, we continue to work towards realizing our vision for LeBreton Flats.

LeBreton Flats is the future, but it still feels unsettling that Tom Anselmi, the team president and CEO who was brought in to spearhead the LeBreton Flats redevelopment plan, recently resigned.

Over the coming months, you’ll learn more about our plans to improve the fan experience, to make our games more fun, accessible and affordable and to have an even greater presence in our community.

According to the season seat holder who received this emailed letter from Melnyk, his season ticket prices were raised for next season. He acknowledged that he would be renewing his seats.

 I’m in for one more year, but if Melnyk is still around at this time next year and nothing (in the front office) has changed, then I’m done.”

Every day we are mindful and proud to represent the passion, strength and integrity of the National Capital Region, both on and off the ice.

Every member of the organization understands our responsibility to make a positive community impact. We are dedicated to be an even larger part of Ottawa’s fabric, to ensure that no matter the outcome on the ice on any given night, we’ll always, always be winning in the community.

The work that the Sens Foundation and Rogers House do is invaluable.

On a personal level, let me repeat that I have every intention of rebuilding the Senators to become the finest team in the NHL and bringing a Stanley Cup to Ottawa.

“Rebuilding”. Now there’s a key word. Will Erik Karlsson want to stick around and not only play for this owner, but endure a rebuild?

I remain a diehard Sens fan. I know you are too. We value your support and hope you can join in our excitement about the future for this team. Thank you.

 

 

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