Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk broke his silence and laid out his vision for the franchise’s future on Monday night in a video posted to the club’s Twitter account.
The rebuild is officially on.
In a team-produced video, where Melnyk sat in a Senators sweater taking questions from Ottawa defenceman Mark Borowiecki about the upcoming season, the owner used the word “rebuild” and highlighted the amount of prospects and draft picks the organization currently holds and the importance they have moving forward.
“It is a cliche kind of term but we take it seriously,” Melnyk said when asked about the team’s direction heading into 2018-19. “I think we’re gonna have 10 players that our new, meaning rookies or played maybe under 10 games last year. The following year it’ll go up to 15, maybe 16. That’s a total turnover, which is exactly what should be in a rebuild.
“At this point I think we have the base, that’s critical.”
The Senators finished second-last in the NHL last season after reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in 2017. During the lousy season, they also had several off-ice issues pop up.
There has been constant speculation about captain Erik Karlsson’s future with the squad, which only picked up when his wife filed an order of protection against former teammate Mike Hoffman’s fiancee for alleged cyberbullying.
Melnyk didn’t mention his captain once in the video, only citing leadership as something that will be vital for the youngsters coming through the system.
Meanwhile, assistant general manager Randy Lee resigned this summer after being accused of harassment in Buffalo.
Monday’s video was the first public statement from Melnyk in months.
Melnyk himself drew heated criticism back in December for saying the team could move if attendance didn’t pick up, but stomped out his own idea in the video.
“Some people were talking in town: 'Oh, he may move them team.' Let me tell ya first thing’s first, I’m gonna stick around a long, long time. I’m not going anywhere. And no the franchise isn’t going anywhere. Get rid of the noise.”
Melnyk says he understands that fans are skeptical if the team can be turned back into a contender any time soon.
“Right now we’re kind of in the dumpster and people say we won’t do anything but I don’t believe that. We can accomplish more than a lot of people believe.”
Melnyk also published a letter in Ottawa area newspapers on Tuesday.
“We must be willing to rise after we fall,” he wrote. “More than ever, we must strive to capture the hearts of our fans, our citizens and our nation. We know that this rebuild makes us the underdog. And we love it.”
Ottawa drafted forward Brady Tkachuk fourth overall at June’s NHL draft with the belief he can be a key piece of the transformation. The Senators are also hoping to see defenceman Thomas Chabot take the next step, while prospect forwards Alex Formenton and Logan Brown are on the radar.
Melnyk says that his club has stocked draft picks as part of the rebuild, but didn’t mention his team is without their first-round pick in 2019. The Senators gave that pick to the Colorado Avalanche in the Matt Duchene trade in Nov. 2017.
The video was tweeted with the caption: “The Ottawa Senators are proud to share the vision for the future of our team and this organization. We are about to launch an exciting plan to rebuild our team and we are inviting you to be a part of our rise to new heights. #OttawaRising.”