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Let’s Just Contract The Ottawa Senators

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It’s the kindest thing for everyone.

2018 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

If you are a fan of hockey and/or debacles, you may have heard that the Ottawa Senators made a trade yesterday. They dealt Erik Karlsson, generational defenceman, to the San Jose Sharks for (checks notes) three balls of yarn and some peanut butter. Many fans considered this the worst of the many humiliations they have suffered. It was the most recent, at least, stretching back to....last week.

For reasons that make more sense if you have recently consumed hallucinogenic drugs, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk elected to star in a video in which he was interviewed by Senators third-pair defenceman Mark Borowiecki.

Whee! I like that Melnyk describes the team as “kind of in the dumpster”, in a moment of rare lucidity. He also vows that he will not sell the team anytime soon, nor relocate it. Despite this, “#MelnykOut” was trending again on Twitter shortly after, the hashtag that embittered Senators fans have produced in their forlorn desire for a new owner. This was before they got hosed on the Karlsson deal. The fact that Melnyk thought this monument to his narcissism would help things is symptomatic of the whole damn clusterfuck he’s overseen in Ottawa.

So why are Senators fans so unhappy with the direction of their franchise, you may ask?

  • A year removed from a miracle (read: fluke) run to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Senators finished 30th in the NHL. Guy Boucher’s strategy of “bore the opposition until they lose the will to live” has worn out, because the league realized the Sens only have like three two good players.
  • The Senators made an “all-in” trade the previous fall, dealing beloved centre Kyle Turris to Nashville and a first-round pick to Colorado to acquire Matt Duchene. Duchene has signalled that he does not want to spend the next several years playing in the Failure Empire ruled by Broke Caligula, so the Sens are primed to finish an awful year, watch the Avalanche pick in the top five (top one?) with their draft choice, and then watch the guy they traded it for leave for free agency.
  • Mark Stone took a one year deal prior to arbitration, which leaves him an unrestricted free agent in summer of next year. He and Duchene can link arms as they skip merrily out of town.
  • They traded Mike Hoffman in grim circumstances following a horrible and bizarre conflict allegedly involving Hoffman’s partner and Erik Karlsson’s. You can say they had to trade him, and that excuses their poor return, except they traded him to San Jose who flipped him to Florida for a better return later the same morning.
  • GM Pierre Dorion, apparently conscious of how embarrassing that was, included a pick condition to try and prevent the Sharks from flipping Karlsson back to the Eastern Conference. This is where the team’s head was at while dealing its best player ever.
  • The Sens’ arena is located not in downtown Ottawa, but somewhere approximately near Moose Factory. Driving to it takes the average Sens fan 47 hours.
  • Eugene Melnyk got an outdoor game last year and farted on the good vibes by suggesting, at rinkside on gameday, that he might move the franchise. Then he got mad at people for discussing the possibility that he might move the franchise.
  • To explain things to Sens fans last spring, Melnyk and GM Pierre Dorion went on a series of absurd town hall meetings where they made everyone upset and blamed the state of the franchise on bloggers. They also told what they have since acknowledged to be outright lies about their plans to keep Karlsson, but who’s keeping track, really?
  • They traded a good prospect for Alex Burrows, who was no longer an NHL player but still a major league asshole, and bought him out a year later.
  • Dorion suggested he was the one who ran the team and Turris’ wife Julie laughed at him on Twitter.
  • Melnyk alienated franchise legend Daniel Alfredsson, just for fun. (Again!)
  • Their season ticket renewals this year hit an estimated total of seven. Attendance this year will be a negative number as players and arena workers try to escape.
  • The front office employs almost no staff. Pierre Dorion is the GM and the AGM and the GM of their AHL team and also the janitor.
  • They may or may not be able to make payroll for the people they still have.

All of these are things that have happened just in the past year and a half. It’s not a surprise no one is buying tickets. But dysfunction is hardly new in Ottawa, from the decision to keep Redden over Chara to the near-relocation of the franchise in the early 2000s to the wildly bizarre Spartan pregame ceremony to the hilarious career of Alexei Yashin. And it’s time for us to be honest.

The Senators don’t work. They never have. A couple of lucky playoff runs, inevitably snuffed out by real teams from Toronto or elsewhere, gave the temporary illusion that they were an NHL franchise, only to be cruelly brought back to reality thereafter. The commissioner of the league forgot they existed. The team’s only identity has been to hate the Maple Leafs and also to rely on Leafs fans to fill its arena. Sometimes Sens fans would also hate the Habs in their spare time. It was very sad.

No franchise founded on Little Brother Syndrome can endure for long. The result is only the decay we’re now seeing. The kindest thing to do, then, is to put the Sens out of their misery. Disperse its players to other teams, wind up operations, and dissolve the franchise.

Think about it. Eugene Melnyk is never going to sell, and no one can make him do so. He’ll keep refinancing his debt through ludicrous rich-beggar mechanics and run the team into the ground until 2045. The Sens will be drafting Brady Tkachuk’s kid too high by the time they have a new owner. And what product is he putting out to entice the three or four Sens fans left? The chance to watch Cody Ceci get crushed in tough minutes? Come on. Hell, we could run a dispersal draft in July 2019 and half the league would decline to take a player off Ottawa’s roster. Don’t tell me teams are lining up around the block for Tom Pyatt.

It could be fun for everyone. Sens fans might show up to give the team a proper sendoff in its final year. Players would have a cause to try as they auditioned for their new teams. Eugene Melnyk would be mad! Everyone wins (except the team on the ice, and again, Eugene Melnyk.)

Where once there was only a hopeless ouroboros of failure, now Sens fans would be free to cheer for a real franchise with hope and potential, like Toronto. They could cheer for a team whose owners are willing to spend to make the team successful, like Toronto. They could cheer for a team that’s actually worth showing up for. Like Toronto.

In a few years, the Senators would be remembered as a strange experiment from the overheated 90s expansion era, and we can all move forward free of their blight. It’s a happier tomorrow for everyone.

Contract the Ottawa Senators.