Melnyk Speaks: Ottawa Senators “General Manager” Speaks on Fan 590

After conducting his media availabilities with the media in Ottawa, Eugene Melnyk appeared on the Fan 590’s ‘Prime Time Sports’ with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt.

I wanted to publish this post the other day, but because I’ve been in Pittsburgh for the past few days, I ran into some technical issues with the website and simply have not been able to post anything until now. The problem has been resolved now, so I’m hoping that there won’t be any further issues moving forward.

The hosts cued up the interview with this little exchange:

  • BM: “Eugene Melnyk is going to be joining us later on.”
  • SB: “And how’s he feeling these days?”
  • BM: “I don’t know, about what?”
  • SB: “Well, he’s usually got something bugging him: conspiracies; his players being injured intentionally…”
  • BM: “Well, you never know until he comes on.”
  • SB: “And is he coming on (the show) from the Caribbean or is he coming from Ottawa?”
  • BM to his producer: “Where is he today? Is he at the bar? He’s in Ottawa?”
  • SB: “That’s unfortunate. His best interviews, I believe, have been somewhere else.”
  • BM: “Well, he’s at… what’s it called? Bart’s (sic)? Yeah, well he’s at Bart’s bar.”

Even worse, for fans who are incredibly insecure over the owner’s alleged involvement in the Senators’ hockey operations, the Fan 590 web team described Melnyk’s appearance as follows:

melnykgmfan590

To listen to Melnyk’s appearance, you can so by following this link or by streaming the embedded audio at the bottom of this post.

As always, my thoughts are in bold.

On his evaluation and whether there are one or two things that happened this season that derailed the team…

“Well, I think it’s more than one or two. I think you’ve got to look at it like nine, ten, eleven, twelve or thirteen things went wrong and I’d take up an hour of your time and you’d get bored of me very quickly if I started giving you all of our problems. The bottom line was, a lot of things just didn’t click. We had a lot of bad breaks. We had a lot of bad games. We lost games that we should have won. On the other hand, we won games that we should have lost. All in all, it’s almost like the perfect storm for us. The one thing that we, I guess, we could point to – it’s still a young team. These guys are young guys and they’re out there playing against these, especially when you start getting out to the Western Conference, against these giants that are fast and strong. We just weren’t the better team this year. Plus, a lot of things just went wrong with playing the system properly and leadership here. You can go on and on and on and keep dissecting it. At the end of the day, you sit there, throw in the towel and say, ‘You know what, let’s just wipe the boards clean.’ And we start next season, I think you’re going to have a very hungry group. You’re going to have a very motivated group because this is not the team that we have. We’re a much better team than what we showed on the ice this year.”

Even when the Senators were going right, it’s not like they were an exceptional team. Under MacLean’s watch, they have perennially been a playoff bubble team. Maybe I’m just too cynical here, but unless a number of their young players (ie. Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch, Mika Zibanejad) begin to scratch the surface of their talent ceiling, I have a hard time believing that this team is on the cusp of something more significant than a wild card berth.

(Jokingly)On why he hasn’t hired an ex-player to be the President of his team…

“(laughing) Yeah, right. I’ll leave that to…There might be (a few ex-players) left after this season. We’re happy with… Look, everybody, everybody without exception (is to blame). The good news is that there’s no finger pointing. There’s no people saying ‘Well, this guy didn’t do this. This guy didn’t do (that).’ Everybody takes responsibility from top to bottom and I think from coach to GM right down to the players and even all the guys in the training…. Everybody does. Everybody says ‘You know what? We just blew this thing up.’ The one good thing is (the players) are pissed. I hate to use that word on your radio show, but now they’re going to have an attitude. They’re going to have a really bad, bad, bad attitude next year and they’re not going to let this happen again. They do not… this is not a fun time for them.”

Everybody is to blame, but Melnyk won’t acknowledge that he isn’t at least culpable. That’s rich. (His comments, not him.)

On whether two things masked what this team really is last season (goaltending and the short season)…

“Yeah, but you’ve got to further than that. That’s not fair because you’ve got to go to, look at the shots that we had on us. I think next to… weren’t we next to… there are so many stats that people fly at you, but was it the Leafs that had the worst (in shots allowed)? They were the worst? We were second worst and when you get 50 shots, come on. You’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to get 30. I remember the days when we had (Anton) Volchenkov. This guy would lay his body in front of a puck that was going 130 miles per hour. He didn’t care. I don’t know if those days are gone or those players still exist, but the system was not played to… they should never… you know, we weren’t getting the puck out of our end when we should have. And there’s all sorts of hockey reasons I hear and I think they’re correct, but you shouldn’t be getting 40 to 50 shots against you every game. What do you expect? You can only do so much, so I don’t blame the goaltending. Sometimes yeah, they let in some cheap goals or stupid goals, but there’s no chance. You can blame everybody and go all around – giveaways, even goal scoring. That’s what it is.”

Blech. I don’t really want to romanticize Volchenkov’s shot blocking abilities that much. Sure, to his credit, the dude had a greater save percentage than Martin Gerber, but I’d hate to see the organization bring in a shot blocking savant who only blocks a significant volume of shots because he is so frequently trapped in his own end.

On Spezza’s future with the organization…

“Well, it is already (a focus in Ottawa) and here, it’s all anybody talks about. But look, I pay big bucks to a lot of smart people in hockey, like Bryan (Murray), with forty years of experience in this league and I can’t even give you a comment. Let him answer that question when he’s got an answer for it or decides and has discussions with everyone and see where that all pans out. When it comes to player selections and things like that, I’m a great spectator and I like to know things, but I let them make these decisions because at the end of the day, it’s their neck and they’re the ones accountable. If I start meddliiiiiiiah and putting my five cents in, and start telling them what to do, then they say ‘Hey, you’re the guy that told me to keep this guy or get rid of this guy’ or whatever and I’m not going to allow that to happen.”

It’s hardly surprising to see Melnyk distance himself from this kind of question given how much backlash he’s receiving on the interwebs for his alleged involvement in this team’s decision making process. More and more fans are holding the owner responsible for the Senators’ misfortunes. Not surprisingly, fewer people have a tolerance for his comments and actions when he pumps less and less money into the organization.

Considering how often the organization is liberally throwing around buzz words like “leadership” and “accountability”, it’s like the Senators are just priming fans for trade involving Jason Spezza this summer.

As an aside, it was also hilarious to hear Melnyk stop himself short of saying “meddling”.

On how he feels about what Bobby Ryan provided this season…

“Oh, Bobby was great. I think he’s an exciting player and we hope that he’s with us for a long time. We gave up a lot (to acquire him). We gave up a first round pick, a great prospect, not a prospect but a player. I think he brings a lot. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s just a solid individual and a solid human being and he comes to work every day. I think he tries every game and he’s shown a lot of leadership that way and the guy is just very, very skilled. That’s my opinion and I think anyone who watches him play as much as I do, would agree with me.”

Having just abstained from answering a question on Jason Spezza’s future without even being complimentary of the player or his contributions to the organization, it’s off-putting to hear Melnyk immediately turn around and give lavish praise to Bobby Ryan.

On whether he expects that the Senators lineup will be tinkered with or overhauled…

“No, it will not be overhauled. There’s no point in overhauling. We’ve got a great, great group. Are you kidding me? People wished they had our team. Yeah, do we need to add a couple of things here and there? Do we need a power forward? Do we need a defensive defenceman? Yes, but that’s tinkering.”

I can’t believe this organization’s logic in thinking they are some slight tinkering away from relevancy.

On needing more veteran experience…

“Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think… in the back, all you’ve got really Chris Phillips who’s a big veteran. You’ve got a couple of other veterans up front, but I think we need somebody like that because we’ve got a very, very young team that can only get better, can only grow and they’re hungry to learn and they want to learn.”

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