Wow. Just wow. You know it’s bad when the worst news of the week in Ottawa is not that the Senators traded their best player in franchise history for Six Assets. Nope. That bit of news came a couple of days ago when someone thought it would be a good idea to release an awkward interview featuring Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki and team owner Eugene Melnyk. Borowiecki forgot to put his false teeth in and Melnyk left his common sense somewhere in the Bahamas.
Alas, it was in that five-minute, 42-second cringe fest that Melnyk said the following words: “I’m going to stick around here for a long, long time. I’m not going anywhere.”
So now we have the Erik Karlsson trade and try to unpack all that comes with it. This much we know. This trade is Example Number Infinity that anytime you’re backed into a corner and are forced to trade a player, it never, ever ends with you getting the better of the deal. It was impossible for the Senators to have bungled this situation more spectacularly than they did and for that they will pay a high price. GM Pierre Dorion will try to impress people with the quantity he got back in exchange for Karlsson – two roster players in Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo, prospects in Josh Norris and Rudolf Balcers and a first- and second-round pick – but there is not one sure thing in that deal that we know will make the Senators better. Not one.
The other thing we know is that Melnyk is proving, again, his deep level of ineptitude. Dorion made this trade, but make no mistake. It had Melnyk’s fingerprints all over it. So when you combine it with the treatment of Daniel Alfredsson, that makes Melnyk 2-for-2 in driving franchise icons out of town.
There was a time when Erik Karlsson thought he would be a lifetime Senator. The fact he married a local girl and plans to put his roots down there after his career indicates his love for the place. He didn’t ask for all this dysfunction, all of this cryptic talk from the owner about moving the franchise on a day when the game was being celebrated. All he wanted to do was be paid what he is worth and Scrooge McPuck took that as a green light to make his star player the centerpiece of some sort of rebuild. Dorion said after the Karlsson trade that he and Melnyk identified some time ago that Karlsson would yield the highest return in the rebuild, then went out and traded him for pennies on the dollar.
So now the Senators get a third-line center, a third pairing defenseman, two fairly decent prospects and a couple of picks that may or may not amount to anything in return for a player who, until his ankle was obliterated, was the best defenseman on the planet. If this was a deal the Senators felt they needed to make to get it off their plates before training camp to rid themselves of the distraction it would cause, well, that was the path of least resistance. Fans in Ottawa wanted a deal to get done. But they didn’t want it to be a team that showed up to the trade table wearing a mask and carrying a gun.
The Senators are now left to carry on, depleted by the fact that they won’t have Karlsson in their lineup. And that puts them one step closer to finishing low enough in the standings to win the draft lottery and the right to draft wunderkind Jack Hughes. What’s that? The Senators don’t have their first-round pick in 2019 because they dealt it for Matt Duchene? Oh never mind. There goes the rebuild.
Regardless of the size of a market, the quality of a building, the strength of a fan base, success in the NHL comes ultimately down to one thing – quality of ownership. And the Senators are being failed on that front. The cruel irony is that they can keep moving players and managers and coaches in and out of the city at dizzying speeds, but the owner can stay and continue to drive the franchise into the ground for as long as he likes.
It’s time for Eugene Melnyk to go. Sell the team to the guy who owns Cirque de Soliel. For that matter, sell it to the kid who runs the House of Cheese in the Byward Market. Neither of them can possibly do any worse or give their fans less hope than Melnyk has over the past 15 months.