Yesterday afternoon I transcribed the part of Eugene Melnyk's conversation with Roger Lajoie on the Fan 590 that pertained to the Ottawa Senators and their quest to return to prominency. In case you missed it, here's what was said:
Q: What kind of an offseason do you expect in Ottawa Eugene? How long of a process do you see this rebuild taking?
A: "Well it's interesting. When I made up my mind, I was looking at a three or four year process. And all of a sudden you see these young kids stepping up. I gotta stop calling them kids... these young adults start stepping up the way they have. Starting to beat up on teams that are supposed to be unbeatable. Winning streaks... You know, where is this all coming from? And Bryan (Murray) was very confident when we first made the decision. He says, "Eugene, don't think is a three or four year process. This could be a year or two. We could be competitive next year but the year after that, if some of the guys step up and we get the goaltending we need, we could be there in two years... maybe three tops. It's not bad! If I knew that in the beginning, I would have made the decision a long time ago. (laughter)"
Over on Twitter, I poked a little fun at the owner's expense and it provoked some comments from fellow members of the Sens blogosphere:
He's the owner. Not sure what you expect him to say. ~ SensChirp
Because his goal is to make money, not be completely transparent and imply to fans they need not show up for the next 2 seasons. ~ Travis Yost
Ideally I'd prefer for him to say nothing and avoid the limelight (for the wrong reasons) and be more like the the Robert Krafts, Mike Illitchs and John Henrys of the world. He should give his hockey ops people to more autonomy or looking into re-investing money that has typically been designated for a maxed out payroll and instead using it to invest in scouting, player development and non-traditional resources/consulting that can complement the organization's decision making and help give the Senators a competitive advantage during a time when the parity and landscape in the NHL is balanced.
If Melnyk's goal to make a pile of money off of the Ottawa Senators, he's in the wrong business. He doesn't have to be transparent because there's no benefit to publicly disclose any kind of time frame for when the Senators might be contenders again. Instead, he opted to use words and a tone that conveyed the message that the timeline to contend for a Stanley Cup has been accelerated based off a small sample size of games featuring inflated goaltending numbers.
Had he simply said something along the lines of...
"Despite the recent success that we've had, the long-term plan to build a winner that can enjoy sustained success on an annual basis. Obviously we'd prefer to get to that point as quickly as possible but we want to do it responsibly. We don't want to make shortsighted signings or trades that deviate from our plan of winning over the long term. We're asking our fans to be patient through this process but as you can clearly see from the recent number of games, it's an exciting time for fans. We have a bunch of exuberant young talent that is fun to watch but right now, we don't have enough of it yet at the NHL level. We're going to keep building on this base and the results will eventually speak for themselves. When that's going to be, I'm not going to say but our fans should rest assured that our mandate has not changed."
It would have been better. So much better.
I've always found the Coyotes situation to be intriguing because head coach Dave Tippett is currently enjoying his second successful season behind the bench and as such, he's receiving some praise as a potential Jack Adams candidate. However, following the Sens game last night I partook in some NHL boxscore gazing and couldn't help but notice that in Phoenix's 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames, Kyle Turris played a paltry 8 minutes and 45 seconds while Michael Boedker had 6 minutes and 36 seconds of ice-time. I admit that I don't watch many Coyotes games but I was wondering how much flack a coach or organization should receive for balancing the development of these young prospects with winning. A quick look at Phoenix's statistics indicate that these two players are producing despite their lack of ice-time and when I looked at their production per 60 minutes of ice-time, Boedker and Turris rank first and second on the team.
Perhaps these are the kind of young offensive players that Ottawa should be targetting in a trade.
It's an interesting topic of conversation though... how much homage do you pay to the past? Once you're past Spezza and Alfredsson, the team is barren of players from the era of success. On the other hand, they never won the prize, so how much emphasis should be placed on this kind of thing?
I guess from the standpoint that I'm coming from, if an organization is comfortable parlaying controllable (and arguably better) talent in Fisher and Kelly, why would they feel so compelled to retain an impending veteran UFA when the team has so many young defencemen coming up through the ranks over the next season or two?
You are right the players I mentioned are way out of the class of Phillips, however Detroit has kept Draper, Maltby and now Cleary to keep the new guys in touch with the history of the team.
You are right about the jays although they kept Bautista, although the Jays dont have a winning culture they are trying to maintain, like the teams of the early 90s would have. There is no guarantee Phillips will be effective by the end of his contract and the team took a gamble, I would have thought two years. Its too bad they couldnt have the third year be a smaller salary and have it be a smaller cap hit, although I dont think it possible. I guess my point was geared towards teams that had a successful stretch over years and attempt to bring in the youth while staying true to the past when the team was most successful. Its just another way of looking at his value. He has seen all the good years of this team and has been a top D man in the finals, that could help if we go on a run in the time of his contract(not saying its likely). I dont disagree with your assessment of him I just recently thought about it in this way and simply wrote it as a topic of conversation. We fans loved the teams from 3-10 years ago and Phillips could show the young guys what it took to get there and how to act once there. I just hope by the third year he can be an effective second pairing defencemen, personally I dont know that this contract will be worth it, I just think this is another way of looking at it. Thanks for the polite discourse, respectful debate is something that is really missing in this country.
One thing that I dont see brought up at all is Phillips effect on the culture of being a Senator. Now dont laugh at me and give me time to make a point here. The good teams in this league have a solid identity, one that all players buy into and make said team successful. It works based on the fact that there is sort of a fraternity and to join said fraternity you have to do something great or stick up for someone, like going out of your way and putting your body on the line to allow the players to see you as one of them. I think this is one of the main things that separates teams like Detroit from Atlanta. Dont get me wrong I understand that management, drafting, money and all the other factors that play in on success in the league. Im reminded of reading Theo Fleurys book about how hard it was to join that Flames team that he won the cup with. Players like Lanny McDonald not giving him the time of day and making it hard on him, until finally I cant remember what he did, he either fought a guy for a hit on his players, or hit a guy for the same reason. That was what endeared him to the teammates and he became part of the team and he always worked to show his appreciation, respect and admiration for that. They took that to the cup. Detroit is the epitome of what I am talking about they form an identity and then they draft players that can play in the system. They let them develop, dont rush prospects and let them join the fraternity, I am not saying I know the inner workings of the locker room but they keep a couple guys and then build around them so they stay true to the identity for a long time. Detroits was incredibly similar from the time when it was Yzerman and Fedorov dominating to now with Zetterburg and Datsyuk. They are committed to unselfish hockey, playing within the system and not being a problem. I believe that identity is so important for the young guys to watch and follow. It gives them something to really work to be a part of and the best teams usually keep themselves accountable in the room and the best way to do that is mutual respect(think Band of Brothers). Brind'Amour is similar, he wasnt all that effective of a hockey player at the end of his career but he was smart and he led. Guys like that are what scare the young guys the most. This is the reason I think Phillips should stay, he has seen all the good times here and can teach the young guys how to be a Senator, we are all proud as hell about our teams past. I even did the math in the year 2007 where we rode the great second half to the finals and kept the torrid pace through the first half of next year we had 119 pts. Dreaming we can get back there. But you need the vets even if they arent as good as they were. They teach the kids about the past, plus it gives them someone they want to work for and impress. It shows them how we the fans like them to play and how to endear themselves to us. I think its important. It was when my team in Junior won our championship, I was a young guy thankful for the chance to play and didnt want to let the older guys down. First playoff goal was a game winner in Ot and they accepted me. Obviously this is a bit of a high rant but whatever
@Haanz Great comment and thanks for taking the time to pen something with such length. Obviously you're pretty impassioned and it's worthy of some interesting discussion.
I think in most of the examples that you list, most of those guys are not only great leaders, they're world class and effective players. Even in Rod Brind'Amour's case, he was notching 31 and 26 goals at 36 and 37 years of age.
When I look at the Phillips' signing, I question whether or not he'll be able to be an effective player by the time his contract ends. Without ever having stepped in their room, I'm not going to say that his leadership is invaluable but ultimately, it lies in the dynamic of the guys in the dressing room.
Using the Blue Jays for example, they've lost Halladay and Vernon Wells in consecutive offseasons and instead of talking about their absence, Jays fans were inundated with stories about how the young players were relishing in the camaraderie of being a group of young guys trying to excel in a tough AL East division.