The Ottawa Senators Need to Relocate if Eugene Melnyk Doesn't Sell the Team
The Senators are a bumbling mess and might be the worst organization in pro sports. It all starts with owner Eugene Melnyk.
Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
A National Hockey League team in Ottawa. It was a fun experiment. We had a lot of good times. Well, a few good times. Actually, I'm sure a good time occurred even though I can't pinpoint a specific moment. That time Damian Rhodes bleached his hair, maybe? But maybe it's time to say goodbye. It's the best thing for everyone.
Sometimes when you love something, you have to let it die so everyone can move forward with their lives. The situation commonly manifests itself in the form of a terminally ill grandparent, an extremely old pet or anything since season three of Arrested Development. Fighting to keep the Ottawa Senators alive is selfish. They can't go on living like this, if you can call this living. If you really care about their happiness, you will sign the papers, kiss them on the forehead and stand outside the room as Gary Bettman grants them the sweet release of eternity.
From the start of 2018 to this week, the Senators have operated like an organization that welcomes the merciful end.
Let's [deep breath] take a look:
-Owner Eugene Melnyk threatened to move the team days before the franchise's first outdoor game and has yet to meet with the city about a potential downtown arena.
-Daniel Alfredsson, the most popular player in team history, has publicly stated Melnyk should sell the team.
-Baby clothing adorning the Senators logo was recalled because it was deemed a choking hazard, a joke so on the nose you'd roll your eyes if you saw it in a movie.
-Assistant general manager Randy Lee was charged with harassment for allegedly inappropriately touching a 19-year-old hotel shuttle driver while in Buffalo for the NHL combine and has yet to be disciplined by the team.
-Melinda Karlsson, wife of Erik, filed a restraining order against Monika Caryk, longtime girlfriend of Mike Hoffman, over her alleged threats and harassment that focused on the death of the Karlssons' stillborn child in March.
-On Thursday morning, TSN's James Duthie said during a radio interview that more bombshells could be coming. Maybe it's more details about the Karlsson-Hoffman situation or fresh incredible controversies, like Melnyk stealing Andrew Hammond's free hamburgers and reselling them to poor people in the city or Guy Boucher being charged as an international jewel thief.
And this is all during and after a 67-point season with attendance plummeting to its lowest levels since 1996-97, a sign fans already had enough. If you look inside your heart, Senators fans, you know what needs to be done; you just need the courage to do it.
It's time to scorch the earth.
There's no playbook or blueprint for how to handle the Karlsson/Hoffman situation but trading both players is the only move. General manager Pierre Dorion was derelict in his duties when he didn't take the best offer for Karlsson at this year's trade deadline but the best thing for both the player and organization now is a fresh start, which was likely to happen this summer anyway. Karlsson has earned his freedom from the worst organization in sports.
Hoffman has to go because, well, Hoffman has to go. Several player wives and one ex-player's wife (Kyle Turris) tweeted support of the Karlssons along with a lack of surprise about the alleged actions of Caryk. There's no way Hoffman can co-exist with his current teammates, which leaves the Senators to get whatever they can in a trade, which likely won't be much considering the circumstances.
That leaves likely offer sheet target Mark Stone and pending unrestricted free agent Matt Duchene counting down the days until they are no longer Senators. Yeah, offer sheets are about as rare as sell-out crowds in Ottawa, but you have to believe Stone is telling his agent to whisper into teams' ears that he'd be happy to sign one to escape Ottawa. Duchene is playing only a few hours from his hometown and that's apparently the most important thing ever for any hockey player, but that hardly seems a reason to spend the rest of a career in a hockey hell swamp.
The Philadelphia 76ers had a crisis of their own during the NBA offseason that seems silly in comparison, but the team parted ways with general manager Bryan Colangelo over tweets sent by his wife that included medical information about a player and an adamant defense of shirts with gigantic collars. Ownership felt they had to show their own players and potential free agents that they weren't dysfunctional and the actions of Colangelo's wife (or maybe even Colangelo, who knows) would not be tolerated.
And the 76ers have an energized fan base excited about a team on the upswing, so it's not as though customer confidence had any chance of becoming an issue.
But guess what! Travis Yost posted a story Thursday afternoon that makes the case that the Senators may have their very own renegade Twitter account being run by someone inside the organization. It doesn't seem to reveal any proprietary information like in the Sixers' case but it's hardly the look the Senators franchise needs at this moment.
So how do they send a similar message to fans and players around the league that the organization isn't a rudderless ship poised to ricochet off icebergs for years before eventually sinking?
Really, there is no fix. Firing the GM or coach? That doesn't do the trick. Not trading Karlsson? That would be criminal. There's only one way Senators fans can have their faith restored.
Melnyk has to sell, and he has to sell to someone that will keep the team in Ottawa.
Some of this isn't the organization’s fault but so much of it starts at the top with Melnyk, and if he's there in perpetuity, why should fans expect anything to change? Why should there be any belief that anything involving Lee or a fractured locker room or just a poorly managed team will be remedied? Because of a fluke run to the conference finals two years ago?
And if by some miracle the Senators do everything right in the coming weeks and months with their image issues, they still must trade their best defenseman and arguably their best forward. If Melnyk was hemorrhaging money and strapped with immense debt before this season, how does that get better a year from now? Why would he want to continue sinking money into an unprofitable team? He's never getting another organ from a fan after all this.
A fan will justifiably lack motivation to spend money this year if Karlsson and Hoffman leave but if there's a promise of an ownership change with a commitment to Ottawa, a scorched earth model can instead serve as seeds to a new beginning. When a team is terrible, it has to sell hope, and the only way that takes shape in Ottawa now is through the belief Melnyk won't own the team anymore.
Once Karlsson and Hoffman are gone and if Stone is poached by an offer sheet and Duchene has no intention of re-signing, the only hope to be sold will be a future without Melnyk.
But if Melnyk won't go, death is the best option. You don't owe Melnyk anything. You are not obligated to dedicate your time, money, and sanity to something that so clearly doesn't care about you or icing the best possible team. Find your way to the acceptance stage. Let the Senators go. Houston. Quebec. Kansas City. There are worse things that can happen to a fan than a team relocating.
Like, for instance, a Melnyk-run team not relocating and staying in your life for decades.
That's much worse.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports CA.