Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk Under Fire After Trading Star Player
The Senators' trade of 28-year-old D Erik Karlsson -- a "franchise icon" -- is an "indictment of the franchise" and Owner Eugene Melnyk, according to Scott Stinson of the NATIONAL POST. The team on Thursday traded Karlsson to the Sharks for "whatever it could salvage." Melynk has "complained about losing money in Ottawa whenever the subject of contract negotiations with a star player is raised." The Senators have "never been a team that spends close to the salary cap under his ownership, and Melnyk makes no effort to pretend that will change." When he "isn’t running off fan favourites, Melnyk has managed to roil what was once a loyal base in other ways, whether it was cashiering the former team president, jacking up parking rates at the arena in Kanata during the playoffs, or making relocation threats and then acting surprised that anyone takes those threats seriously" (NATIONAL POST, 9/14). In Ottawa, Don Brennan writes under the header, "Senators Had To Trade Karlsson, Will Never Win Cup With Melnyk As Owner." Under Melnyk, the Senators will "continue to be a team that has to operate under a tight budget." Fans just "need to accept the fact that this is the team they get with Melnyk." It can be a "fun team, an exciting team and even a playoff team." But it will "never be a championship team" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/14).
NOT HOLDING BACK: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote it is "time for Eugene Melnyk to go." Melnyk is "proving, again, his deep level of ineptitude." Senators GM Pierre Dorion "made this trade, but make no mistake" -- it had Melnyk’s "fingerprints all over it." Regardless of the "size of a market, the quality of a building, the strength of a fan base, success in the NHL comes ultimately down to one thing -- quality of ownership" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 9/13). In San Jose, Dieter Kurtenbach writes the NHL "needs to step in and either force a change in ownership or take control and move the team to Mississauga or Quebec City -- places that will actually support the team." The Senators are a "blight on the league" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/14). THE RINGER's Michael Baumann wrote, "Melnyk is a closefisted crank, derided in NHL circles much like James Dolan is in the NBA and the Wilpons are in MLB." He "spends to the salary floor purely out of obligation and then refuses to keep his mouth shut" (THERINGER.com, 9/13). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes Melnyk is "hardly the guy those in marketing want pushing any season-ticket drive" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 9/14).
FEEL FOR THE FANS: In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes the decision to deal Karlsson "isn’t going over well in Ottawa." Not only was he the club’s "best player, he was also one of the most popular to ever pull on the jersey," second only to former NHLer and former Senators Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations Daniel Alfredsson (OTTAWA SUN, 9/14). THE ATHLETIC's Chris Stevenson writes the trade was the "darkest day" in club history. It is "hard for Senators fans to accept they have arrived here, another fan favourite, another star, another captain, gone" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/14). Also in Ottawa, Ken Warren writes, "Once upon a time, Montreal Expos fans experienced the type of hollow feeling that hit Senators faithful Thursday." When players "hit their full stride, in position for the big payday that comes with success, they were shipped out for young and promising prospects." The concern is "what happens next "with Senators RW Mark Stone and C Matt Duchene, who are also "due to become unrestricted free agents next summer" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/14).
WHAT A YEAR: The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor writes to describe the Senators' past year as "'dysfunctional' would be a disservice." A better description "might be 'bizarre.'" Last season, the Senators were 30th out of 31 teams in the league standings and it was even "worse off-ice than it was on-ice." To cope with "declining attendance, they put a massive black tarp over 1,500 seats at Canadian Tire Centre, foolishly thinking out of sight would be out of mind." Following the Melnyk’s "less-than-veiled threats to move the franchise if people didn’t start buying tickets, several furious fans used crowdfunding to erect billboards throughout the city with the hashtag '#MelnykOut.'" Summer also began with Assistant GM Randy Lee being charged by Buffalo police for allegedly harassing a "19-year-old hotel shuttle driver." Season-ticket sales also were "widely believed to be in the tank" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/14). TSN.ca's Frank Seravalli wrote the "about-face of the Senators in one year’s time has been nothing short of incredible" (TSN.ca, 9/13).