In his radio tour blitz this afternoon, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk made an appearance on TSN 1200's 'The Drive', to discuss the significance of Bryan Murray's contract extension and other important issues facing this team.
If anything, the interview is entertaining, so to listen to it in its entirety, you can click here or you can stream the full interview via the embedded audio below.
As always, my thoughts in bold.
On his rationale for retaining Bryan Murray to rebuild the team and then thinking that he’s the right guy to take the team over the hump…
“Well, I think the main thing is that he’s so familiar with our organization. He has a huge, huge amount of experience. We’ve got some very significant deals to be signed over the next couple of years and I think he’s the right man to do it. You can’t just go out and say, ‘Okay, today he’s here’ and tomorrow, you have someone new that walks in through the door and tries to pick up on seven or eight years of history. It’s very, very important for us to have continuity and I think Bryan brings that.”
Continuity, knowledge and familiarity are important things, so it was probably the right thing to do to extend Bryan Murray; especially in light of the impending UFA decisions that have to be made on a number of key fronts.
On how much focus there is to win a Stanley Cup during Bryan Murray’s next two years as GM…
“I think huge. (Laughing) He wants to walk out of there, as do I, with a Stanley Cup but we don’t want to wait for years three and four to do that. Look, like I keep saying, anything can happen. Once you get into… you’ve got to get into the playoffs. Once you’re in the playoffs, we’ve seen historically that eighth place teams in the Conference come back and win the Stanley Cup. We came very close against Anaheim and if it wasn’t for one injury… You know, I was just talking to Pierre about that because he was around. If Hasek didn’t get hurt during the Olympic year, then who knows what could have happened? So a lot of things can happen. Things change daily and I don’t think people that start off hot, end up hot and vice versa, so I just think I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to have a very, very competitive team.”
Considering Pierre LeBrun participated in today's media conference call, I'll assume that it was him. Once again, like he did with his PTS appearance on the Fan 590, Melnyk is confusing the year that Hasek had the adductor injury and its effect on the Senators 2007 Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
On it sounding like Bryan Murray is very, very close to pulling the trigger on a deal that would make the Senators close to a Stanley Cup contending team and if there has been a shift in the organization’s thinking or whether this was the plan all along…
“That’s a great question and I’ll tell you what, I think we’re at the point and I remember doing this with Dave Cameron with the St. Mike’s Majors. There was a point in time, where we had to finally roll the dice. We (hosted) the Memorial Cup, we lost in the Finals. We went to the OHL Finals and we lost in that – both to Owen Sound. But, we rolled the dice and we said, ‘You know what? We’re going to take a shot and this may be the time – whether it’s this year, next year or the following year – that we take that big shot, but saying that… I don’t think the UFA market is the place. I think Bryan agrees because it does get crazy at that time of year, but it’s not to say we wouldn’t bring in a piece of the puzzle before the trading deadline because at that time, the only currency that really matters to other teams are picks and prospects. And we have a ton of prospects, and that’s because we had some great picks over the last few years. And there are guys right now that should be playing in the NHL or are a year away from playing in the NHL that just simply won’t make our roster. We’re that good and these young guys are just growing into the positions and it’s for the benefit of these players and our team, to bring in some veterans to get us to the finish line. So it has been a slight change, but I call it more of a natural evolution in the way we want to go about trying to win a Stanley Cup.”
Senators Marketing 101: "The Ottawa Senators – we're that good to keep NHL talent like Mike Hoffman in the minors."
On part of Stanley Cup equation being the need to spend more money…
“Well, well, hold on a second. No, no, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that because (spending money) is a fool’s game and I keep telling people that. Everyone keeps thinking that ‘Hey, go spend money. Go spend money. Don’t be cheap. Go do this, go do that.’ You know what? Any idiot can go spend money. There are so many idiots out there that spend to the cap every year – take a look at where they are. It all comes down to cost per point. That’s the only stat I care about – cost per point. So, I’d rather spend my money on the development staff, on the scouting staff and develop young players into what they are; as opposed to bringing in people and going way, way over your head in spending because I’ve done that already and it just doesn’t work.”
This response to Ian Mendes' question was the best 'D' the Senators organization has played all year.
Sadly, it's a shame that Melnyk is equating spending during the team's 2007-2011 years as justification that you don't have to spend to win. Teams that invest more money efficiently have a better chance to win. It's not complicated. I've heard Melnyk speak a number of times before and pride himself on this team's cap efficiency and ability to churn out wins, but cost per point in the standings rings hollow since this team has never demonstrated that it can be anything more than a playoff bubble team.
Bragging out about cap space as a Stanley Cup pretender in a shitty Eastern Conference and then bragging about how smart your spending is means absolutely nothing when you can't afford to augment your core when it comes time to put the team over the top.
As I joked on Twitter, it'd be the equivalent of being the last man on earth and bragging about how big your junk is when you have no one to share it with.
Perhaps most interestingly, Melnyk touched upon how important it is that he invested into this team's scouting and player development areas, but Randy Lee acknowledged earlier in his own interview on TSN 1200 that the Senators have one of the smallest hockey staffs in the NHL. Moreover, Pierre Dorion also mentioned today, again on TSN 1200, that the Sens overhauled and expanded their scouting departments following the 2007 season – expanding from two full-time scouts to the 12 or 13 that is is today. Maybe I'm wrong, but perhaps Melnyk thinks of this expansion in 2007 as his investment, but interestingly, from NHL standards, it's still relatively small.
On whether he’d be comfortable operating in this next window of a year to two years having a payroll that’s in the range of $60 to $65-million…
“That’s very dependent upon a couple of things: one is value. Are you getting enough value for the buck? And I could name you a half-dozen players today who are making fortunes that just don’t bring the values that others do, that’s number one. Number two, you have to be able to support it and sustain it, especially in a market like Ottawa. People keep forgetting I have to run a business not to make money *interrupted by a ring tone set to the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly*, but I have to make sure that I run a business that gets us to next year, and the following year and the following year. We don’t have the luxuries that other teams do. It’s not a philanthropic thing, it’s you have to try at least to go into a season and say, ‘You know what? We have to support this team.’… Otherwise, you know what happens? Exactly. Everybody keeps forgetting what happened 11 years ago – the team goes bankrupt and it moves. Period. Full stop. And it was going to move until I came in. So unfortunately I take heat for it, I don’t mind taking the bullet, but I have to make sure for the betterment of the city and the fans that we are on solid financial ground and we are, as long as we spend our money wisely.”
Sad that the highlight of the interview, the ringtone that possibly… just maybe… belonged to Eugene Melnyk also occurred in a portion of the interview in which he played the "If it wasn't for me, this hockey club wouldn't exist in Ottawa" card. Assuming there's any equity left from Melnyk's purchase of the team, he appears content to pour gasoline on the remaining remnants and torching whatever is left by saying, "We have to support this team" or it goes bankrupt and moves.
On whether Bryan Murray presented a plan that indicated that the next two years are very important and why it should contend now…
“We’ve had extensive discussions. My discussions with Bryan go all the way back to sitting down early in the season in Montreal and spending the time with him and one of my alternate governors and we talked about where we think we could take this team and what we can do with it and how important it is that we bring forth a winner. That’s in everybody’s mindset. It’s part of our culture. Everybody wants to work hard. They understand that they have to do that. We have to outsmart everybody. It’s as simple as that. We have to be smarter, better and faster as a management group than anybody out there. If we do that, we will succeed and we’ll put a winning product on the ice and that’s what’s critical for us and time is critical now.”
I wish Mendes explored why the time is critical now part of his answer.
On the importance of being smarter, faster and better and there being any hesitancy to allow Tim Murray to leave…
“Well, you know, always remember this: we have to give permission for teams to do that. Tim was signed up with us and if we felt that… and no disrespect to Tim, he’s a first class individual and a first class Assistant GM and now GM… but when you have got the quality of talent of a Pierre Dorion and a Randy Lee, the tasks at hand that Tim was responsible for can easily be applied… not easily… but they can be applied, with a lot more work, to those two individuals. And it’s not only that, it’s a motivation for them. They’re hungry. They’re young. And that’s exactly what you need, people that are hungry and they wake up in the morning and that’s all they think about is, ‘What am I going to do today to make sure my team is better – not just in the next game but going into the future?’ and that’s what these guys are all about.”
Sounds like a man who's not only trying to ice a competitive roster on a budget, but a front office to boot.
On his satisfaction with ticket sales…
“First of all, that building was always overbuilt. I’ve been told that by even people at the league office. When they designed that building, it was at 20,000 people. It should have been at 17,000, 18,000 or 19,000, so let’s park that for a second. The empty seats that you see now, are first of all, they’re not real expensive seats. Number two, is that our revenues are actually up because we stopped all giveaways and this and freebies and comps and all that kind of things. It’s easy to fill the stadium, but what you’re now seeing is the real number. Those are real paid seats, so that what you’re seeing is what the real fan base is. Your ultimate is going to be when those seats are full, fully paid for and that’s when you can really put a smile on your face, because, before that, we could announce all the sellouts we wanted, but you’re doing this promotion, that promotion, this giveaway, that giveaway but here, these are real paid seats and it’s growing. It’s growing all the time as people realize they’ve got to come in and pay for their ticket and they get their entertainment. And frankly, yeah, I’ve been asked many times whether there’s a correlation between performance and (fans) coming out to the games, no question. But more importantly, I watch half my games on television versus half the games at the Canadian Tire Centre and there’s not even a comparison. You’re high-fiving people. You’re seeing it (live). You’re getting the adrenaline rush when you’re at the arena. In your living room, you’re jumping up and down with your friends to tell you the truth. So, it’s the whole fan experience and that’s why we’ve brought in some good in-house promotions people and entertainment people, and we’re just going to continue improving all the in-house entertainment. I’m going to be there this upcoming weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing all the plasma tvs and things and that’s only going to continue and continue…”
Canadian Tire Center formerly Scotiabank Place formerly Corel Centre formerly Palladium was actually orginally designed to be 22,000 seats. Which would have been even more ridiculous.
On the NHL signing a mega-rights deal and the regional rights being up for television and radio and how close that is to being resolved…
“Well, it’s certainly at the top of our agenda of negotiations and it is going to be very important. And it’s a very hot property. There are only so many games available to regionals and it is a very competitive market for that content, so we expect… I don’t want to put a timeframe on it, but it’s not going to be long before we finish off a deal and I think it’s going to be a great deal for us and the fans and the organization in general.”
Wasn't Melnyk just downplaying the experience of watching the game at home versus watching it live and now he's referring to Ottawa's television rights as hot property? That's neat.