“It’s just a matter now of crossing some T’s and dotting some I’s,” Cameron told the crowd, according to Mississauga.com. “The one thing I’ve always said is that coaches are no different than players in terms of wanting to get to the National Hockey League.
“I’m really excited and humbled to get the chance to go to the best league in the world. You know, I was fortunate enough to make it as a player and now I’m really excited to be going back as a coach.” ~ Dave Cameron (via Bruce Garrioch, The Ottawa Sun)
And with this unintentionally hilarious announcement, the Dave Cameron era in Mississauga has drawn to a close. The coach who was too late in calling a critical timeout in the gold medal game of the 2011 World Juniors has now jumped the gun and announced his hiring before it was officially announced by the Senators.
As the Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren tweeted (@Citizenkwarren) did he think the news wouldn’t travel because there’s no national mail service?
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised though. Cameron, of course, was The Euge’s first choice for the Senators’ vacant head coaching position.
Unfortunately for Cameron, the sad part about this process is that fans will overlook his credentials and qualifications, preferring instead allude to his inability to win critical games – the World Juniors gold medal game; the OHL Finals; and the Memorial Cup Final – as justification for why he should not be hired and ignoring the fact that it’s impressive in itself just to coach in these three events – let alone have them all occur within the same year.
Perhaps more importantly, the inclusion of Cameron to Paul MacLean’s coaching staff represents just another instance of Melnyk having a significant hand in some of the hockey ops decision making.
Eventually, the debate of Melnyk being a meddlesome owner made its way to Twitter and former Senators Director of Communications Phil Legault took issue with this perception and published a series of tweets:
- Let’s keep hyperbole down and let things settle. Cameron has already proven himself. (Link)
- Go back to 2003: No Melnyk no Sens. “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”. His team, his decision, move along. (Link here)
- And that applies to any owner, as far as I’m concerned. (Link)
Rather than be limited to 140 characters, I’ll respond to each of these tweets here:
- As Yahoo! Sports’ Neate Sager correctly pointed out on Buzzing the Net, Cameron does not have much more to prove at the junior level even though his teams could only almost make the finish line this past season. What is left after coaching the world junior and Memorial Cup runners-up? (Yes, we heard every joke about how losing the big ones makes a coach perfectly qualified for the Ottawa Senators, but we haven’t heard an original joke to that effect.)
A similar kind of argument could have been made for Craig Hartsburg a few years ago too but look how that worked itself. Yes, Cameron may proven himself as worthy candidate, but does that justify his hiring?
It will be interesting to hear the organization’s response in light of this skepticism. There were lots of capable assistant coaches out there, so why him?
In fairness to Legault, he’s right in asserting that the Senators are Melnyk’s team and as the owner, he hired Murray and MacLean to make these hockey ops decisions. So yes, it may be Melnyk’s right as the owner to add his two cents to the discussion but at the same time the onus is on him to explain Cameron’s hiring over the many others also in consideration.
- “No Melnyk, No Sens” sounds like an inspirational poster that should adorn the bathroom wall in Bert’s Bar. In all seriousness though, I don’t want to be mistaken for some ungrateful schmuck who complains for the sake of it… but… this “he’s the owner, he can do what he wants, live with it” attitude is the kind of arrogant, country club attitude that I have a hard time stomaching.
“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to” may be the ultimate reality but “you’d cry too if it happened to you” may be the response of the fanbase.
Yes, Eugene rescued the Senators organization from bankruptcy but in no way should that give him carte blanche and absolve him from blame when it’s deserved. Fans criticize because they care and they want to see the situation get remedied. Ownership can espouse the virtues of loyalty to players and internal personnel but what of the loyalty to the fans who spend entertainment dollars to watch this organization play and deserve to have best product and coaching staff put forth?
Cameron may have been a qualified candidate but as the Ottawa Citizen’s Wayne Scanlan noted on Twitter, if the owner hadn’t made such a public showing during the Memorial Cup of Cameron’s candidacy for head coach, the optics wouldn’t as bad.
In consequence, we’re left with this inherent distrust the process that helps fuel the perception of Melnyk as a meddlesome owner. Even when other Melnyk-inspired actions – the Alexei Kovalev signing (allegedly), accepting a lesser return to send Mike Fisher to his preferred destination and his insistence that Ottawa acquire Gary Roberts at the 2007 NHL trade deadline that ultimately cost then-GM John Muckler his job – are taken into account, how can one not understand and appreciate the fanbase’s concerns?
So, like many others, I ask myself the question – why not allow MacLean the autonomy to assemble his own staff and get the dynamics and personnel that he would be comfortable with?
Paul MacLean is just an incredibly secure and confident person who doesn’t want to just hire his former colleagues and cronies. As we’ve seen through the decision to keep Luke Richardson and Rick Wamsley in tow, MacLean doesn’t exude that ‘it’s my way or the highway’ attitude and instead preferring to be amenable to open dialogue and communication. The latter being one of the basic tenets that he emphasized was important for dealing with his players.
And while I will try to avoid getting too caught up in this conspiracy theory that MacLean will have to look over his shoulder to keep an eye on Cameron, the optics of this hire are absolutely awful. If fans are picking up on the suspicious nature of the hire, you would be naïve to assume that the players won’t pick up on this either. They’ll know that the owner played a huge part in Cameron’s hire and that discredits his reputation before he even steps foot within their room.
Ultimately, it’s cause for concern that players could be put on edge knowing that Melynk potentially has a confidante in the dressing room. And in a worst-case scenario, it could potentially poison the environment. MacLean can say that he wants open discourse between the players and coaching staff but what good is that if Cameron is Eugene’s eyes and ears? You need that circle of trust.
- Could you imagine if Bob Kraft went to Bill Belichick and told him to him to hire one of his guys as an offensive coordinator?
Obviously that’s an extreme example but the premise is simple – what’s the point of hiring your hockey ops guys if you’re not going to give them the full autonomy to do their jobs themselves?
While fans may be concerned that Cameron is a potential successor to MacLean, the only succession we might see in the interim is Cameron filling the shoes of former assistant coach and whipping boy, Greg Carvel.
Welcome to the fishbowl that’s Ottawa Dave. I hope you enjoy your stay.