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Sens owner Melnyk backs GM, coach, and tells everyone to relax

"You can't have these knee-jerk reactions or these panic reactions, I think the key thing is to take a deep breath, everybody stay calm, the team itself will sort itself out," the Senators owner said on a conference call with reporters.

It's not every day that an NHL owner puts himself on a media conference call, but Melnyk felt the need to step in given the swirling speculation on the futures of GM John Muckler and head coach Bryan Murray.

"The main thing that I want to get across to everyone today, because of the rumours and speculation ... is that I have absolute, 150 per cent confidence in our current management team, our coaching staff and our GM John Muckler," Melnyk said.

Fans have jammed call-in shows in Ottawa demanding change after the perennial contenders stumbled out of the gates. But Melnyk says patience is the name of the game.

"We've got a lot of games to play, we've got six months of hockey," Melnyk said. "You become impatient at some point in time but right now is just not the time."

Melnyk wouldn't bite when asked what would be the right time.

"I hope we don't ever get there and I have confidence we won't ever get to that point," he said. "We have a great group. Is there tweaking that John might engage in with a team at some point? Maybe. But I personally believe that we're never going to be at the stage where we have to start making any kind of changes."

The Senators are 7-10-1, only six points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 64 games left on their season and clearly not out of it. But in a market that has seen Cup contender after Cup contender underachieve over the past decade, three games under .500 is enough to cause alarm among those fickle fans.

"I'll fight with anybody over this one - we have the best fans in this league, period. Passionate," said Melnyk. "What you're seeing now is passion. If it was the opposite, I would get very concerned. If nobody cared, if nobody was screaming, if nobody was calling into radio shows, then I'd be worried. The fact is our fans watch the games, come out to games, we have sellouts, you can't trade that. As far as I'm concerned, this is a good thing that they're into it, they're actually engaged.

Melnyk acknowledged it was unusual for him to have a call with the media.

"But you know what, it's a very unique set of fans who want to hear what we're doing about things," he said. "It's almost speaks to their feeling of ownership. . . .

"At this point we need to take a deep breath, let things sort themselves out, and at the end of the day I think we're going to have some very happy people in Ottawa."

Melnyk said this wasn't the dreaded vote of confidence often followed up in pro sports with firings.

"I don't think it's the kiss of death," he said. "I think it's the exact opposite. When a team is down, you don't kick it to the curb, you do the exact opposite. You sit there and you give them confidence. And I think it'll be reflected on the ice."

Wednesday night's 4-2 win at powerhouse Buffalo was huge to say the least.

"It felt very good," Muckler told The Canadian Press from his hotel room in New Jersey on Thursday. "It's been a struggle. I thought last night our team really competed and looked like what we were last year. Having said that, we have to learn to be consistent."

There's pressure on Muckler to make a move but the veteran GM is resisting a trade he'll regret. So there's nothing on the front-burner right now.

"No, every time I think about looking into deals, or look at ones that have been proposed to me, I look at my lineup and that's the best lineup," said Muckler. "So I think I'm just going to wait. It's early in the season, so let's see where it takes us. But I have a hard time trading the players off our team because I know what they can do, I know what kind of guys they are, I think they'll get the job done."

Said Melnyk: "I wouldn't trade this roster for any roster."

Ottawa's biggest issues this season have been mediocre goaltending and a struggling power play (ranked 26th in the NHL).

In the win over Buffalo, Ray Emery was outstanding in goal and the Sens clicked on the power play. It was just what the doctor ordered.

"Last night we got two power-play goals and it was the difference in the game," said Muckler. "That had not been happening for us. That's a bit of a concern but you know, because of the personnel on the power play, that's it's something that's going to be solved."


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