Eugene Melnyk (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Big changes could be abound in Ottawa after Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said there will be “no one that’s safe” following a disappointing season. Melnyk pointed out coaching decisions, and said throwing money at the problem won’t be the answer.
The Ottawa Senators are seven points out of a playoff spot with nine games remaining in their season, and that type of performance is unacceptable, according to owner Eugene Melnyk.
Speaking with media Tuesday, Melnyk said there could be sweeping changes made to the organization in the off-season and that no one should get comfortable after the performance the Senators have turned in this season.
“There’s no one that’s safe when you have a year like we just did,” Melnyk said, via Sportsnet. “The status quo will just get us there again next year. This team cannot survive not making the playoffs. We have to do it by guts, we have to do it by hard work, and we can get there. That’s what we need to do.”
Ottawa is one season removed from one of the most unthinkable late season runs to earn a playoff spot in recent memory, but there hasn’t been even the slightest flicker of post-season hope over the past month this time around. The Senators have lost a game for every victory they’ve picked up since the start of February, and their chances of making the post-season are incredibly slim — almost non-existent — with more than two weeks remaining in the campaign.
“It looks pretty bleak right now and, frankly, I am disappointed in where we are,” Melnyk said before adding that, “some days they look like Stanley Cup champs, and then they look like (ECHL) players.”
When it comes to changes, one might be behind the bench, as it seems possible Melnyk has already soured on coach Dave Cameron. The Senators owner pointed out Cameron’s choice of netminder in the home opener — he went with rookie Matt O’Connor — as one of the more baffling decisions of the season.
“I go back to the very first game (at home),” Melnyk said, via The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch. “You put in the second goalie. What was that about? On opening night and the guy gets clobbered. It’s not fair to him, not fair to the fans. Just a lot of little tiny mistakes that all of a sudden escalate and get serious and get in people’s heads.”
Cameron didn’t respond directly to that criticism, but said Melnyk has the right to make changes as the man paying the bills.
With Cameron or not, though, one major area the Senators will need to improve for sustained success will be in puck possession. Ottawa currently sits 24th in the league with a 5-on-5 shot attempts for percentage of 47.6 percent. That’s a decline of 2.6 percent from last season’s mark of 50.2 percent. Whether the Senators improve puck possession by bringing in help on offense or making changes to the coaching staff is to be seen, but Melnyk made it clear that the answer won’t be needlessly spending money.
Melnyk said the answer to what ails the Senators isn’t as easy as putting up the money to make Ottawa competitive, and added teams can’t simply “throw money” at their problems and expect to get anywhere. Melnyk said the Senators have a payroll of $68 million, which is well over budget. According to CapFriendly, Ottawa has a nearly $65 million cap hit, the 22nd highest in the league, and more than $53.25 million committed to their roster next season.
“We all know other teams that have just thrown money at things for decades, and they’ve gotten nowhere,” Melnyk said. “So we need to do it a different way, and I think we are.”
Whatever the fix is, it doesn’t appear it’ll be a quiet off-season in Ottawa, and the Senators could have a much different look come opening night in October 2016.