Read­ers were both per­cep­tive, can­did on what steps Se­na­tors must take next

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - DON BREN­NAN dbren­nan@post­

Se­na­tors owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk called it a “stupid sur­vey.”

That’s prob­a­bly be­cause he knew what it would re­veal.

The ninth and fi­nal seg­ment in our Se­na­tors post-mortem, our You Be The Boss poll asked fans for their help in pin­point­ing prob­lems from the most dis­ap­point­ing sea­son in team his­tory, as well as ad­vice on moves to be made go­ing for­ward. It was re­ceived with ap­prox­i­mately 5,800 read­ers fill­ing out the 27-part ques­tion­naire that was on­line for less than four days.

The poll also ap­peared in the morn­ing pa­per on April 9, the day be­fore Mel­nyk and gen­eral man­ager Pierre Do­rion met with sea­son ticket-hold­ers for a se­ries of three town-hall gath­er­ings. Dur­ing the sec­ond ses­sion, which was off-lim­its to the me­dia, Mel­nyk went on about our “stupid sur­vey ... it’s all, ‘Who do we blame for this? Coach, owner, gen­eral man­ager, play­ers?’

“We don’t blame any­body,” he added. “We look for­ward. Losers look to blame. They don’t know what to do. In our case, we know what to do.”

On Fri­day, Mel­nyk’s Twit­ter ac­count thanked ev­ery­body for their feed­back in the town halls, which he sud­denly de­cided to give a name: “Losers Blame Oth­ers and Win­ners Plan To Suc­ceed.”

This is price­less, for at least three rea­sons.

Real fans of sports teams that have failed mis­er­ably don’t sit around a bar or at home or at the of­fice talk­ing about a “plan to suc­ceed.” They are not part of that process. They are an­gry, and they point fin­gers. Then they pas­sion­ately ar­gue about how to rec­tify the is­sues.

First, Mel­nyk blamed Cyril Leeder for not sell­ing enough tickets, which is why the well­re­spected fran­chise co-founder and for­mer pres­i­dent and CEO is no longer with the team. Then he blamed the fans for at­ten­dance prob­lems. Then he blamed the me­dia for the “mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tion” of his rant on Par­lia­ment Hill. And raise your hand if you’re a Se­na­tors em­ployee who hasn’t been blamed for one thing or an­other. Didn’t think so.

Again, what had Mel­nyk up in arms was the poll’s first ques­tion — about who is to blame for his mess — and lead­ing the way with 32 per cent of votes was (sur­prise, sur­prise) the owner. Clearly, he saw this com­ing. Hence, the at­tempt to dis­credit the poll. The 5,766 “losers” who an­swered the ques­tion ei­ther didn’t like that he gave no mind to what it would do to fu­ture game re­sults when he rub­ber­stamped a sched­ule that was un­rea­son­ably jam-packed so the team could go to Swe­den, or didn’t like the trad­ing of Kyle Tur­ris (who blamed the owner for no longer want­ing him), or the threats to cut player salaries and re­lo­cate, or ap­point­ing him­self CEO/pres­i­dent, or ... ahh, we’re run­ning out of space. Let’s move on to the rest of the poll.

Ques­tions 2, 3, 4, 5 all deal with what you’ve deemed the most press­ing pri­or­ity en­ter­ing the off-sea­son: find­ing a way to keep Erik Karls­son. Judg­ing by the re­sults, the ma­jor­ity want the cap­tain re-signed to an eight-year con­tract worth at least $80 mil­lion. Again, no sur­prise. But don’t hold your breath. Whereas an­other team might se­cure the fu­ture hall of famer and build around him, the cur­rent own­er­ship is ask­ing your pa­tience to stretch “three to five years” af­ter Karls­son is moved, which might in fact wind up be­ing a good hockey trade but will def­i­nitely cre­ate a cus­tomer up­roar.

The ma­jor­ity want Matt Duch­ene of­fered a four- or five-year ex­ten­sion and Ryan Dzin­gel asked to ac­cept a two-year bridge deal, which may or may not be enough to pre­vent the highly skilled for­wards from en­ter­ing the fi­nal sea­sons of their con­tact. My hunch is both would be more open to those of­fers if Karls­son was stay­ing.

More of you (42 per cent) want coach Guy Boucher fired, but I’m in agree­ment with the 39 per cent who be­lieve he should get a chance to start next sea­son, if only be­cause of what he ac­com­plished in Year 1 and there’s no more qual­i­fied op­tion avail­able.

If Boucher is dis­missed, the fans would like to see Alain Vigneault be­hind the Ot­tawa bench. Great choice. Vigneault has taken two dif­fer­ent teams to the Cup fi­nal in the past eight years. But the ex­ten­sion he signed with the Rangers re­port­edly will pay him US$4 mil­lion in each of the next two sea­sons. Un­less it’s Mo­nop­oly money, the Se­na­tors won’t pay any­where close to that. Next.

Ot­tawa could use a for­mer player as an as­sis­tant. Adding Chris Kelly is an idea sup­ported by 52 per cent, even though he has yet to re­tire or make it known he wants to coach. I agree with the 24 per cent think­ing it should be Shaun Van Allen, who was in­ter­viewed by Boucher two sum­mers ago and has been coach­ing Car­leton Ravens for eight years.

Tough to ar­gue with the 78 per cent who say Mark Stone should be the next cap­tain if Karls­son is gone, or the 46 per cent who would buy out Mar­ian Ga­borik’s con­tract (in a heart­beat). But the 38 per cent who think the Se­na­tors should fix their goal­tend­ing prob­lems by trad­ing Craig Anderson are be­ing un­re­al­is­tic think­ing an­other team would take the soon-to-be 37-year old who is due $4.75 mil­lion in each of the next two sea­sons and no, none of the goal­tenders who will be UFAs in the sum­mer ap­peal to me, ei­ther. Therein lies the pickle.

Fans would most like to see the team pur­sue John Tavares and John Carl­son when they hit the mar­ket on July 1, but the bid­ding war on both will be too much for the Se­na­tors, I think.

I con­cur with the ma­jor­ity who think Chris Wide­man should be brought back, Collin White will be a third- or fourth-liner in Ot­tawa next sea­son, Mag­nus Paa­jarvi has shown enough to be re-signed as long as it’s with only a small raise, Thomas Chabot can fill the role of a No. 1 power-play quar­ter­back and Chris­tian Wolanin looks like he’s ready to move ahead of Ben Harpur and Freddy Claes­son on the depth chart.

But I think when it comes to adding depth, the Se­na­tors’ pri­or­ity is to find some wingers who can score.

And yes, the ad­di­tion of Daniel Al­freds­son would most help man­age­ment of the team, in what­ever ca­pac­ity, but I don’t think he’s com­ing back under the cur­rent own­er­ship.

Fi­nally, in a straight yes-or-no ques­tion, 61 per cent say they would buy more tickets if Mel­nyk sold the team.

Stupid sur­vey, right Eu­gene?

We don’t blame any­body. We look for­ward. Losers look to blame. They don’t know what to do. In our case, we know what to do.


The de­ci­sion rests with Se­na­tors owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk, front right, but Post­media’s sur­vey re­sults in­di­cate the most press­ing pri­or­ity is re-sign­ing cap­tain Erik Karls­son.


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