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The Ottawa Senators may never recover from this nightmare

Attendance woes and threats of relocating were just the beginning. Harassment allegations against the Senators’ assistant GM and the fiancee of Mike Hoffman threaten to destroy this franchise.

It’s difficult to imagine a franchise enduring a swifter, more nightmarish fall from grace than the Ottawa Senators have in the past 13 months. They were hockey’s favorite underdog story as of May 2017, having pushed the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.

Since then:

– The Senators announced before the 2017-18 season they were covering 1,500 seats of Canadian Tire Centre’s upper bowl with a tarp

– On the eve of his team hosting an outdoor game, owner Eugene Melynk issued a veiled threat to relocate his franchise if attendance didn’t improve: “I’m not going to blow a lifetime of working hard to support a hockey team. It’s not gonna happen. The bigger question is whether I’m prepared to blow all that money I made over many years in a different industry in a different country. How long can you underwrite a team?” 

– The Senators tumbled out of the playoff race, finishing with a .409 points percentage, their lowest since the end of their early dark ages 22 years ago

– The Senators finished with an average home attendance capacity of 85.3 percent, ranking 27th in the NHL. They drew their fewest fans per game in more than 20 years

– Captain Erik Karlsson, arguably the franchise’s greatest talent of all-time, became a trade candidate at mid-season, with rumors swirling about his frayed relationship with the franchise. He was reportedly almost dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline

The season was depressing enough before some truly awful news stories broke within the past few weeks. First came the allegations against Senators assistant GM Randy Lee. He’s accused of harassing a bus driver at the NHL scouting combine in Buffalo, making lewd comments and rubbing his shoulders. Lee was charged with second-degree harassment and faces a fine and up to 15 days in prison if convicted. He has entered a plea of not guilty.

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Now, a second strange and disturbing allegation: Karlsson’s wife, Melinda Karlsson, has filed for an application of protection against Monika Caryk, fiancée of Senators left winger Mike Hoffman, for an alleged campaign of harassment that has targeted the Karlsson family since November 2017, when they announced Melinda Karlsson’s pregnancy, and continuing through the death of their stillborn child in March. Among the claims Melinda Karlsson makes in her sworn court statement are accusations that “Monika Caryk has uttered numerous statements wishing my unborn child dead” and that “She also uttered that she wished I was dead and that someone should ‘take out’ my husband’s legs to ‘end his career,’ ” and the Karlssons also allege Caryk, under the Instagram account @sandydandy45, accused Melinda of popping pain killer pills during her pregnancy.

Hoffman has vehemently denied the accusations against his fiancee and insists they’ll co-operate fully with the investigation.

We obviously can’t pass judgment on the Lee story or the Caryk story yet. Nothing is proven. But whatever happens, this franchise has an unprecedented amount of damage control to do. We could see jobs lost and players traded as a result. And, given the team’s attendance woes and Melynk’s words earlier this season, it will be difficult for the franchise to recover no matter what happens. Whether the Karlsson camp or the Caryk camp is telling the truth, there’s no happy ending to the story.