As his team prepares for game one of the Eastern Conference Final versus the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has been making the rounds through the media again.
Not only was Melnyk featured in another Bruce Garrioch Postmedia article (it seems like these pieces are done every round now), the owner jumped aboard his favourite Toronto radio program to talk to Bob McCown and Damien Cox on the Fan 590’s ‘Prime Time Sports’.
To listen to the full interview, you can scroll to the bottom of this post where there will be an embedded audio player.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
On why Eugene Melnyk had his phone out taking pictures at MSG during game six…
“I have (photographers), but people lose pictures. These are times that you never ever, ever, ever want to forget. I just made sure that I had a few nice pictures of the moment. I don’t know which game because I take them at every game. I keep every stub, but I’ve been to every single game but one. It’s been just fantastic going around to these arenas.”
It’s not often that you have a chance to clinch a series at Madison Square Gardens, soak it in.
On actually keeping ticket stubs…
“Yes, if we’re in the Stanley Cup playoffs, yeah. We’re making history.”
“We’re making history” might be a better tagline than #AllIn
On where these ticket stubs go…
“I will donate them to a museum no less. I’m actually giving the history museum my Queen’s Plate. They have a big Canada display and they have a whole hockey display. Apparently they’ve got a Northern dancer display and they asked me if I would give them my Queen’s Plate. I have a Queen’s Plate and I have all the trophies from all the Triple Crowns across Canada. So I’m donating them and hopefully people (come to see them) along with my ticket stubs.”
I’m not much of a horse racing fan, but I’m sure there’s got to be some Canadians out there who’d love to check out that exhibit.
On how he would categorize his degree anxiety as games approach and whether he’ll be a mess for game one in Pittsburgh…
“Probably, I bet you I will (be a mess). Yeah, yeah, yeah. The stakes are so high now that every goal and every minute counts. Even that game that we played – the last game – that we had to keep them out of the scorecard for the first 10 minutes. That was the first objective, the basic philosophy was if we could score a goal in the first period and then be either even or up, we win the game. And we got out of there 2-0, so we felt that there’s a little less pressure. You can blow a game in… you’ve seen it. You can blow a game within 90-seconds. It’s gone, three goals. You spend the next two hours sitting there looking at everyone else cheering against you, so yes, you get very nervous about these things.”
Nothing matched the anxiety during the third period of Tuesday’s series-clinching game.
Chris Neil had more total ice time than how long it took for the Senators’ third period two-goal lead to dissipate. Without the insurance marker, it did not stop the Senators from going into prevent mode where they spent most of the period defending within their own end. In the box score, the Senators were outshot 15-5 in the third period, but thanks to one glorious Jean-Gabriel Pageau empty net goal, the Rangers’ fate was sealed and Sens fans were given a few days off to collect themselves.
Heading into the series versus the defending Stanley Cup champions, I don’t feel any anxiety heading into game one.
It probably helps that the Senators are opening on the road for the first time during the playoffs or maybe it’s because they are being portrayed as significant underdogs going into it. Even though the past playoff history between these two teams has no implications on how this series will play out now, the fact that Pittsburgh has won each of the last four and handled the Senators rather easily lends itself towards lowering the expectations for what the Senators can do.
That doesn’t mean that I’m writing the Senators off.
For me, the Penguins don’t seem as daunting and for the first time in over a decade since the Senators disposed of them during their 2006-07 Stanley Cup run, the Penguins seem vulnerable. If a few things break right for Ottawa, there’s the possibility of an upset here.
On whether the Senators’ and Predators’ success now proves that you don’t need to spend to the upper cap limit to have success on the ice…
“Yeah, absolutely it does. I’ve always said it and by the way, we’re no slouch. Even though you say we’re in the bottom-third, there’s like $3-million between us and the (sixth-highest club) or something.”
Melnyk’s right here and I hate fans who belabour the point about this owner’s financial ability to spend to the upper reaches of the salary cap. It’s a colossal waste of energy and as Melnyk reiterated, it’s not like the gap between the haves and the have-nots is big. Compared to other league sports, it’s relatively small and it’s not a situation like baseball where the Tampa Bay Rays have to overcome sizable competitive advantages to knock off financial juggernauts like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox or even the Toronto Blue Jays.
Obviously this doesn’t mean that teams should get complacent and ignore trying to find market inefficiencies to overcome competitive advantages where they can because it’s still important for a smaller market team like the Ottawa Senators to get the most bang for its buck.
On being able to spend more if he wanted…
“Yeah, but you could waste more if you wanted. Some of these teams that are no longer with us, do you know how many millions of dollars they got buried in the minors that you’d never see?”
“Do you know how many millions of dollars in Senators contracts the Maple Leafs buried just to get out from underneath Dion Phaneuf’s deal?”
On Toronto having a history of burying money in the minors…
“I can’t say those things, but you can but it’s true. They did. I just did, but seriously… for us, it almost forces the GMs to really think five times before they spend a nickel because they know they only have so much. If you’ve got all the money in the world, you’re going to blow it out and you really, frankly don’t care because you make so much money. In our case, we don’t have that luxury. We blow it on a few contracts and we can’t recover. In some cases you win and some cases you lose, but if you’ve got too many in the loss column, you’re going to hurt in many years until you do a rebuild, which we did.”
I don’t want to dwell on some long-term problems for the Senators considering everyone is swept up in this playoff fever, but those Bobby Ryan and Dion Phaneuf deals are the kinds of contracts that are going to hinder this team’s ability moving forward to augment the current core and keep moving it forward.
On imagining where this franchise would be without Karlsson…
“Ugh, I’ve lost count with him, I honestly have. You can’t… you know, every time you think he’s in the windshield, he turns out to be a fly somewhere else. He’s just so, he is just so good and it kills me. It doesn’t kill me because you’re seeing what you’re getting, but you’re imagining him healthy. Forget about what you’re seeing on the ice today, I saw him after the game. I went down to the dressing room after we won and I always do on the road. You look at the guy and he could hardly walk. He was almost carried into the shower when he took his skates off. How he loses that or controls that pain, I have no idea but he has two fractures on his heel. And he goes in and they somehow block (the pain) off. It’s the same with all the others. I’ve got seven guys that would never play in a regular season (game) right now ever. They’d be on the sidelines. They are pressing us to play and these are serious. I mean, I saw one of the boys. He had a cut into the right side just under his rib and it was as gross as you could ever see and he’s playing! Every shift you almost can’t tell. When you talk about Karlsson, he’s just beyond the best and many times I’ve tried to compare him, but there’s no comparison on him. That’s all I can tell you.”
Karlsson is beyond the best and the fact that it took this playoff round for so many pundits’ opinions of him to change, it’s embarrassing.
On whether there’s anything from the team’s run in 2007 that he learned and can apply to the team now…
“They have all thought it through and they’re changing a few things up in the way they do things: how they travel; when they travel; what they eat; when they eat…”
On needing to do things different because the team didn’t play well in the Cup Final in 2007…
“In (2007)? No, that Anaheim series was a disaster. I was there and it wasn’t fun at all. I did not appreciate how special that time was because I was kind of a newbie. I’m kind of walking around thinking, ‘Well, if we lost this year, we’ll be back in the next few years.’ Like 10 years later, we’re going wild just being into the third round. But the players, that’s one of the reasons why we’re so balanced, we have the veterans. Been there, done that and have the pressure. You’ve got (Daniel Alfredsson) there and he’s very interactive with the players and he’s there for every game. He’s in the dressing room. We’re just trying our best. We’re very humbled. Everybody is very humbled by this, but they are extremely focused on winning. It’s all about the winning.”
Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning. Please keep winning.
On being only four wins away from possibly getting another crack at beating the Anaheim Ducks…
“I’d rather play the Predators.”
I see you there, bulletin board material.
On really wanting to play the Predators…
“Yeah, I think so. It doesn’t matter who we play. It’s not me playing on the ice, but as a team, you’ve got Mike Fisher over there. It’d be interesting to have (P.K.) Subban in the playoffs and that’s kind of a fun team. Plus, we get home (ice) advantage. We do get home (ice) on them. That’s the only team we get home (ice advantage) on. But, it is what it is.”
A world where one of Erik Karlsson or PK Subban lifts the Cup? I could live with that.
I’m not surprised that Melnyk’s preference for more home gates when he is still hurting financially from the team’s attendance issues during the regular season.
Melnyk admitted in that aforementioned Postmedia article that the playoffs aren’t “the financial windfall it should be because of previous mismanagement, but there’s no question the organization benefits in a whole number of ways.”