The Ottawa Senators have had themselves A Season. The dead-last team in the league doesn’t even have their likely first-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft thanks to the Matt Duchene trade, and the team has been continuously rocked with embarrassing moments–from the team turning on the coaching staff in a secretly-recorded Uber ride to this super awkward sit-down between owner Eugene Melnyk and defenseman Mark Borowiecki before the season even began.
Flying in the face of all that drama, Melnyk did two radio appearances on Friday, speaking about everything he believes is wrong with the franchise to SportsNet 590 The Fan and 580 CFRA in Ottawa.
First, he discussed the failed LeBreton Flats arena deal which would have moved the team closer to Ottawa.
Currently, the Sens play at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, 45 minutes outside the city. To get closer to downtown, the team partnered with RendezVous LeBreton, which is trying to develop a section of land within city limits. The deal fell through after Melnyk and RendezVous LeBreton couldn’t come to an agreement, and the two counter-sued each other.
In reference to the failed deal, Melnyk made a thinly-veiled threat to Ottawa mayor Jim Watson over the fallout, telling him to “shut his mouth.”
"He is so lucky I keep my mouth shut, he should keep his… I would be careful if I was him…" @Eugene Melnyk on @JimWatsonOttawa saying he was frustrated dealing with the Senators owner on Lebreton Flats file @billcarrolltalk @CFRAOttawa
— Matt Harris (@mattfharris) March 22, 2019
Watson retorted that he would take care of running the city while Melnyk takes care of running his hockey team.
Mayor Jim Watson says he won't be cowed by the owner of the Ottawa Senators.
— CBC Ottawa (@CBCOttawa) March 22, 2019
Melnyk then called out Sens fans who he alleged haven’t been “loyal” to the team. Ticket sales have been a problem for the Sens, and as recently as their last Eastern Conference semifinals appearance, could not fill the arena.
Melnyk said that the fans being vocally critical of him and the team are probably just 12 year olds from Toronto.
Eugene Melnyk on @FAN590 questions whether the fans that are critical of his team are "real Senators fans," after claiming that one of the more vocal ones was "a 12-year-old from Toronto."
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) March 21, 2019
Melnyk went on to attack Sens writer Ian Mendes on the radio, calling him “bush league.” Many on Twitter backed Mendes’ professionalism, who has covered the Sens for 12 seasons and currently writes about the team for TSN.
Mendes himself did not hit back, instead taking the high road, sharing a photo of the gift basket and note that Melnyk gave him when Mendes’ infant daughter was in the hospital for brain surgery:
I’m going have one final tweet today. When my daughter had brain surgery two years ago, we received this surprise package @CHEOhospital.
I will always continue to try and see the best in people — even when we have a professional disagreement. pic.twitter.com/0GWj8CbZuV
— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) March 22, 2019
This isn’t the first time Melnyk lashed out at the media. After the video of the team in an Uber ride was leaked, Melnyk would not allow Ken Warren, who covered the team for the Ottawa Sun and Ottawa Citizen, onto the team’s charter flight.
Melnyk also addressed the Sens rebuild, but not before taking a shot at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent rebuild, which he says “forgot about defense.” The Leafs currently rank sixth in the league in points, and the Senators rank dead last.
— Matt Harris (@mattfharris) March 22, 2019
Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly laughed off comments that Toronto’s defense was in disrepair.
Asked Morgan Rielly what he thought of Eugene Melnyk’s comment that #Leafs “forgot about defence” in rebuild: “That’s funny. I don’t really have any comment on that except it’s pretty funny.”
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) March 22, 2019
Here’s the TL;DR version of Melnyk’s take on the whole situation.
So to sum up: Eugene Melnyk tells @billcarrolltalk that @JimWatsonOttawa should “shut his mouth” the fans are “pissed” @ian_mendes is “bush league” @MapleLeafs screwed up their rebuild stars like @MStoner61 will be too old at the end of their contracts @CFRAOttawa @ctvottawa
— Graham Richardson (@grahamctv) March 22, 2019
After Melnyk’s radio appearances on Friday, several Twitter accounts which look suspiciously like bots tweeted their support of Melnyk and the Sens while bashing opposition.
The accounts were pointed out by Travis Yost earlier this year after he noticed a familiar formula: Twitter accounts with randomly generated names and fake profile photos seem to be created after embarrassing incidents for the Senators. The accounts seem to tweet similarly-worded messages supporting Melnyk before being summarily deactivated.
Here come the bots! Random generation of names appended to random generation of numbers. Very Real People. https://t.co/96t6Jdyy4w
— Travis Yost (@travisyost) March 22, 2019
On the positive side, at least Sens fans can take comfort in the fact that the team has a good handful of first round picks in the next few years? Just not the likely first-overall pick they gave up.
Eugene Melnyk: "We have 17 picks in the top 3 rounds in the next 3 years"
They have 15, and not their own, which is scheduled to be #1 overall this summer.
— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) March 21, 2019
Headline photo: Senators
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