After making a long awaited appearance on the Fan 590 last week, Eugene Melnyk gave an exclusive interview with the Ottawa Sun and rehashed on many of the same points that he made during his first interview. The only real difference being that he praised the job that Bryan Murray has done and mentioned that, "He’s got a three-year contract and I think he’s got his eyes on a big silver cup before his contract expires.”
As awesome is it would be for this organization to win the Stanley Cup within a three year period, forgive for shuddering at the possibility of Murray trying to accelerate 'the plan' because he wants to win before his contractual obligations as GM end. In general, I hate it when arbitrary timelines are publicized. At the very least, all it does is serve to raise the expectations of a fan base and starts the clock on a GMs tenure.
This afternoon on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown and Damien Cox, the Euge made another media appearance and talked about a few things of importance. Here’s a summary of what was said. As always, my thoughts are in bold.
Q: Thoughts on Alex Ovechkin skipping out on the event?
A: No, it’s his way of silent protest or whatever. Whatever he’s going to do, he’s going to do. You can’t control the guy but I think it’s wrong. I think the people that he’s going to hurt are the people who are going to pay his bills and it’s not necessarily the organization, it’s the fans.
Fortunately, Ottawa hockey fans have plenty of experience to draw upon when Russian stars disappear on a big stage.
Q: blahblahblah Ovechkin blahblahblah marquee blahblahblah embarrassed to be there because he’s suspended.
A: Yeah, I heard that one. That was quite the spinmeister that came up with that one. That was later on this afternoon; the early part was that his heart was broken. And I said, ‘well pass me the violin’. Please, give me a break. Do you think that anyone is distracted by a three game suspension? A season, I could understand but those three game suspensions are handed out like yellow cards in a soccer game. It happens, so big deal.
Agreed. I wish Melnyk brought up Tim Thomas' Presidential snub. With that political nonsense going on, it would be hard to imagine Ovechkin becoming a distraction. Although in fairness to Alex, in his verse from Sasha Belyi's rap song Champion, he does touch upon all of the attention that he receives at the NHL All-Star Games:
Here's the translation of his verse from USA Today:
Alumni of Dynamo
8 on the back.
In the All-Star game all attention is on me.
On the NatTeam since 17
Scored 100 points in a season
Gold medal in Canada in '08
Among the ten best players of the decade,
Stick in my hands, Rap in my headphones,
Saying hello from Washington,
Together with Sanya Belyi,
For every champion
Q: Hosts won’t let Ovechkin topic go and ask whether he could pressure Leonsis to get Ovechkin to play…
A: You can’t do that. They’re going to do what they’re going to do.
Finally, Melnyk says, “Honestly, who cares? There are thirty guys that are killing for spots to be there. There are going to be millions of people watching. It’s going to probably be one of the most watched games in years. It’s going to be broadcast… I didn’t even realize that there are 150 countries in the world. I think there are only in 130 in the United Nations or something but it’s going to be broadcast in 150 countries around the world. This is huge stuff. This is huge for Canada and it’s going to be massive for Ottawa.
Q: Does the All-Star Game make for a much bigger celebration because the Senators are doing well this season?
A: I think it is important because now the introduction is one of the major storylines for guys like yourselves and everybody else and everybody around the world is going to talk about what has transpired in Ottawa which is nothing short of miraculous. We’re very fortunate and it’s something that’s going to go into textbooks: how to build competitive teams during a rebuild. It just doesn’t happen. It was very tough when we went one and five during the first six games and I thought, ‘Aww, I just can’t get used to this.’ Neither could… as much as they tried to put on a good face on it and they did, the fans at the end of the day felt it and it’s nice to all of a sudden… just making the playoffs for us is huge. We had no expectations whatsoever. The expectation was somewhere in 10th to 13th or 14th because that’s what everyone was telling us. Now maybe Murray was just smiling and saying, ‘you’ll see, you have no idea what we have sitting in the bag here’ but the most exciting part about the whole thing is that this is what you’re seeing today and the rebuild is in its first year. And the guys that we have coming, it’s almost scary and we’re not going to give any of these guys up. You’ve got Lehner sitting there, chomping. He’s going to be a superstar goalie. You’ve got Mika over in Sweden. You’ve got this kid Stone, where did he come from? He was a fifth or sixth rounder and he led Canada. He’s still playing junior and you’ve got a list of guys that are just sitting there waiting to come in. We may not have room for everyone but we’re not going to start trading them off for nothing. We did one trade this year with Rundblad, by the way, we know he’s going to be a star. We know he’s going to do well but we had to give him up. We wanted to be competitive this year, we wanted to be in the mix and we are… and hats off to everybody involved.
If that textbook ever became available, Doug MacLean would be the first in line to pick it up. In all seriousness though, if we're truly being honest with ourselves, we can acknowledge that this organization have been very fortunate. The Karlsson and Cowen draft selections have fortuitous. The same can be said of Zack Smith's production and the contributions of a few of John Muckler's draft selections like Nick Foligno, Colin Greening, Erik Condra and to a much lesser extent, Kaspars Daugavins. Eugene's comment that the rebuild has only taken one year is factually inaccurate. It's been a fluid process that has transpired over the past few seasons.
On another note, it's hilarious to note Melnyk's conflicting statements concerning the possibility that the organization would consider trading its prospects to give itself a better chance to win now. You can even hear the hosts laughing in the background as Melnyk assures everyone that Rundblad will be a future star. I feel it's important to mention that Turris is only one year older than Rundblad and is infinitely more polished as a professional at this point in time (note: I was a fan of the trade at the time and still am), as a team that is in rebuild-mode, it is odd to hear Melnyk talk about being in the mix this season.
Q: You’re not surprised that this team has the ability to recover but you are by the timing and how quickly it has?
A: We knew it right after the draft. You couldn’t have said it better. You said it exactly the way it happened: let these kids grow. In fact, Mika we had to send back and it was a big, big, big debate – whether to send him back or keep him here. And we decided to put him back in the Elite league and he’s just not getting the time that he should, but that’s another matter. At the end of the day, this is another kid who could come in here and be a superstar. So there are like four or five of them, and they come in a little cocky, a little disorganized and it’s all the big-city kind of stuff… even though Ottawa’s not… wait until they get to Toronto and then they see something… at the end of the day, you get these kids who grow up and become future Spezzas zipping around and look, I just hope that at the end of the day, I just hope it works out.
I am shocked to learn that Melnyk knows that Zibanejad's ice-time in Djurgarden isn't that high. Shocked.
Q: Did you ever stop and think about deciding to go the Edmonton route and tear it apart, finish last for a few seasons and rebuild that way?
A: We did! We did Damien! We did! That’s exactly what we did! We tore it apart! And when we put it back together again, all of a sudden it started working again. We ripped it to pieces, the only thing that we left behind were four veterans. We had to keep the veterans.
Q: You could have got rid of them too!
A: Yeah, but the guys that we kept… look, you need a goalie. Let me walk you through the guys that we kept:
Alfredsson – team leader. Captain. Senator for life. You’re not going to move him.
Phillips – defence. (Very compelling. Kidding aside, if I had to make a baseless guess as to why Phillips wasn't moved last season, it's because he refused to waive his NTC. Figuring that they'd need to replace him in free agency anyways, the organization not only would have to find a veteran who could fit in, it'd probably cost them upwards of three million trying to replace him.)
Anderson – in goal. Experience. You’ve got Lehner coming in and (Anderson’s) going to bring him up.
And then you bring on guys like Michalek who was just hurt last year but all of a sudden, he’s sprouted. And then you’ve got Spezz who has gone the whole route from OHL right up and now he’s a team leader. He’s younger than the rest of the veterans but we’ve kept all the key pieces in the key positions to be able to mentor. These guys are like quasi-coaches, they’re like mentors. They’re teaching these kids the ropes and hats off to them because it’s truly a real team. They want to see these kids succeed.
Q: I don’t want to pour water in your fireplace but your team has many games in hand over the other teams in the Conference. So you’re four points out of first but you’re also seven points ahead of the Leafs so you will not concede that you’re home and in the clear?
A: No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no! We’ve got tons of work to do. It used to be a lot of fun trying to handicap who’s going to be where. It doesn’t matter anymore. All of that stuff is out the window. Just keep winning because what happens behind you does not matter. You’ve got these three point games that are just killers and if you lose outright, hopefully if you do lose, it’s to a Western Conference team but if you lose to an Eastern Conference (team), that will kill you.
Q: I bet you’d sure love to see the Leafs in the playoffs again.
A: You know what, that rivalry is starting to get back together. It took a hiatus for a couple of years but now it’s becoming exciting. I’m happy for Toronto. Believe me, I want them to have a strong team so that they can come to Ottawa and learn how to play hockey. (laughter) I’m going to get shot on the Rideau Canal, you watch. Seriously, it’s a great rivalry. We enjoy it. We love it. We love playing the Canadiens as well. Any of the teams… it’s great fun …I'm pretty sure that Eugene doesn't have to worry about getting shot on the Rideau Canal. The only things that get shot down in that area are City proposals that may affect that Glebe Community Association.