Billionaire NHL owners usually aren’t renowned for their patience, particularly when facing the prospect of missing the playoffs and those lucrative post-season gates.
So kudos to Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk for displaying some of it at a very crucial time for his organization. Had he listened to many of the fans, he might have been tempted to blow the Senators up, starting from the top. He may very well still do that, and probably will, but now is not the time to take that kind of action.
Melnyk could have ordered GM Bryan Murray to make a flurry of moves – claiming Evgeni Nabokov on waivers would have been one – to take one last, desperate gasp at taking a run for the playoffs. But now it’s clear the Senators will remain status quo for the rest of the season and will be sellers, not buyers, leading up to the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
Perhaps Murray can peddle off the likes of Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Phillips for draft picks and/or prospects, which will trim payroll and perhaps make a modest contribution to the future of the franchise.
But by making it clear this team will basically finish the season as it is currently constructed, Melnyk is making a much more important statement. The Senators will take a draft pick that projects to be in the top five and will then go about building their organization, likely with a new coach and GM. To have Murray do anything more than tinker with the roster at this point would be counterproductive since there’s a good chance he will not be the one ultimately making the crucial decisions that dictate the long-term course of the franchise.
Whether it’s still Murray or Pierre McGuire or an up-and-coming executive such as current assistant GMs Brent Flahr (Minnesota), Jason Botterill (Pittsburgh) or Julien BriseBois (Tampa Bay), that person must be the one who makes the ultimate decisions on who will coach this team going forward and what changes will need to be made to the roster.
Firing coach Cory Clouston now or making any sort of monumental changes would not get the Senators into the playoffs and it might very well handcuff the new GM, who will be handcuffed enough already with challenging long-term deals to the likes of Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Sergei Gonchar.
Melnyk realizes that, to be sure. That’s why he made it clear the Senators season of discontent isn’t about to get much better.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.