OTTAWA – Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is looking for consistency.
Like many, the Senators owner had high hopes for the team this season, and he admits to being disappointed at the team’s current state. After overcoming key injuries and making a playoff run last season, the Senators look like they have taken a step back. They currently sit sixth in the Atlantic Division with a 13-15-6 record.
“I think we could always improve,” Melnyk said. “There’s no question. I just spoke to (general manager Bryan Murray) and the coach and we’re looking for improvement from certain players. They have to step up and show us what they can actually do.”
Melnyk said he has faith in the current players on his team, but added there’s a sense of urgency for the team to show signs of improvement. A lack of consistency has been an issue for the Senators and Melnyk said the team is in need of a lengthy winning streak.
Ottawa has not won more than three straight games this season.
“I mean we are 32, 33 games into the season. It’s about time that we start getting into some streaks,” he said. “Nothing beats a nice six, seven or eight game winning streak. Give me six out of eight and I’ll be happy.”
Melnyk also discussed Murray’s future. The general manager is in the final year of his contract and it’s widely expected that he will get an extension.
“We’ve had some preliminary talks, me and Bryan,” Melnyk said. “I would love to see Bryan here next year and he would like to finish off with a Stanley Cup and I would like to see him leave with a Stanley Cup. Those are still preliminary so we’ll just continue talking and let things work out where they work out.”
Melnyk said re-signing Murray is not a priority at this time. He also said that he gave his full support in allowing assistant general manager Tim Murray to speak with the Buffalo Sabres regarding their general manager opening.
Melnyk said he sees no reason to hold individuals back if the right situation arises.
As well as struggling on the ice, the Senators have also been a bit of a disappointment at the box office. Ottawa had struggled to fill the Canadian Tire Centre this year with just four sellouts after 18 home games.
Despite the empty seats, Melnyk says the team is actually generating better revenue than when they offered reduced ticket incentives.
“These are the real numbers,” Melnyk said. “There’s no more gimmicks. This is what it is. This is the only way we can accomplish really getting a solid number out there for everyone to understand where we are.”
Melnyk believes much of the Senators attendance issues have had to do with a “wonky” schedule that has seen Ottawa play a number of matinee games as well as numerous Monday night games.
“We’ve had a very strange schedule this year that made it difficult to sell the walk-up tickets, but our season tickets are up 2,000 seats and our revenue is up,” Melnyk said.
Melnyk also knows he’s likely to make money on the Senators upcoming contract for regional television rights. The Senators’ current agreement with Sportsnet expires at the end of the season and Melnyk said the team already has competing bids for next season’s broadcasts.
“Here in the Ottawa market we are a good market for television and I think people will pay accordingly,” he said.
Melnyk was on hand at the Canadian Tire Centre to present Senators jerseys, helmets and skates to over 100 local children as part of the 10th annual Eugene Melnyk Skate for Kids. Over the past decade Melnyk has purchased equipment for over 1,000 kids.