Organization has lost its way
The Ottawa Senators will never find their way out of their haze, lost as they are without a moral compass.
They are a team worthy of relegation to a lower league. And while their on-ice performance alone warrants this — much like it would if they were an English soccer club — their off-ice antics have left fans bitter and angry.
Surely the thought crossed the mind of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman — can we just demote Ottawa to the ECHL?
Stumbles of an individual sporting club often resonate through a region — the territory that cares deeply about each little nuance. Tragically, the Senators are getting noticed around the continent for their infamy.
Ray Ferraro, a highly-respected TSN hockey analyst and former player, went on radio Tuesday to say of the Senators: “You have got an organization, top to bottom, that is in absolute shambles. They’re the laughing stock of the league. There’s nobody more comical, in a sad way, than Ottawa is now.”
Ferraro was speaking after this newspaper broke the story on the latest team scandal: captain Erik Karlsson and his wife, Melinda, seeking a peace bond against teammate Mike Hoffman’s partner, Monika Caryk, regarding allegations of relentless online harassment. Police are investigating. Hoffman and Caryk deny the allegations.
The organization can find the source of its myriad issues with one simple act: look into a mirror.
Throughout the lost season of 2017-18, and more pointedly into the off-season, the Senators have chosen to react to crises, many of them self-inflicted, rather than get out in front of them.
Instead of living right and being proactive, we get a culture of cover up.
After owner Eugene Melnyk mused about moving the franchise, then later hedging about shifting downtown to a proposed new arena at LeBreton Flats, he faced the wrath of Mayor Jim Watson. The Melnyk camp said it would meet with Watson. This was in April. The meeting never happened.
Franchise icon Daniel Alfredsson told a reporter the club needs a new owner.
When assistant general manager Randy Lee was charged with harassment for an alleged altercation with a 19-year-old in Buffalo earlier this month, the Senators were out of the gate quickly with a statement. That was the right move.
But when the nature of the charges became public — especially after our story on the police report further detailed Lee’s alleged behaviour — the Senators fumbled the ball. As a sign of the seriousness of the allegation, the AGM should have been suspended until the matter was resolved. Melnyk’s hiring of a high-profile American lawyer to defend Lee pointed to an emphasis on getting him cleared rather than respect for the optics.
The stunning Karlsson-Hoffman revelations were another clear example of the tail wagging the dog.
The Senators post-story statement that “we are investigating this matter in co-operation with the NHL ...” was laughable.
The police have been investigating for weeks while the Senators failed to act, in any visible way. Though the trolling of Melinda Karlsson on social media appeared to reach a zenith following the loss of the Karlssons’ unborn son, the Karlssons allege online abuse dating back to November. Again, these are allegations yet to be proved against Hoffman’s partner, but it is the kind of divisive stuff to ruin a dressing room.
And it was left to fester throughout the off-season.
One can’t help but think that if the late general manager Bryan Murray had been on the scene, he would have sniffed out this sordid mess and nipped it in the bud, likely without anyone finding out there was even a conflict.
He would have either brought the parties together to resolve it or made a trade with one of them (not hard to guess which one).
Instead — behind the 8-ball once again — the Senators have Hoffman on the trade block too late, his trade value severely diminished, despite a proven ability to score.
Already, there was little hope of Karlsson re-signing in Ottawa, despite the Senators’ vow to offer him a new contract by July 1. The superstar captain could be traded as early as next week’s entry draft.
Following the release of Tuesday’s story by Shaamini Yogaretnam, Ottawa’s TSN 1200 opened its phone lines to fans devastated by this latest twist of the knife in their hearts. A man from New Brunswick said he flies in a couple of times per season to see his team. He said he couldn’t see himself doing that anymore.
Another was wearing a Sens sweater at a recent fan forum in Las Vegas. This was long before the shocking revelations of this week. And he said he had never faced more verbal abuse as an Ottawa fan.
This is how far we have sunk as a hockey town, Ottawa. We’re getting burned by Las Vegas, oneyear wonders.
And while it’s not the club’s fault that a Sens baby garment was recalled due to a potential “choking hazard,” my God what a fitting symbol for this cruel summer.
When there is wood rot in your home, you can scrape and claw and dry and paint, but it’s often too deep-rooted for a cosmetic fix. It requires a full replacement.
This is the current situation with the Senators organization — rotten at its core.
“You have got an organization, top to bottom, that is in absolute shambles,” TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro said of the Senators. “They’re the laughing stock of the league.”