Senators owner Eugene Melnyk sticking by coach and GM the rest of the year

The misery that has been the Ottawa Senators season has many fans in Ottawa and eastern Ontario angry and calling for some kind of shakeup. They want trades to be made, they want people to be fired, they want the Senators to be winners again.

After working a lot of magic last year to end up with the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference last season, the magic is gone now and Sens owner Eugene Melnyk can hear the shouts from his office. Melnyk has never been shy of speaking with the media and today he showed that side of himself once again.

Melnyk stepped up publicly to say that if there are going to be any changes in the front office in Canada’s capital city, they’re not going to happen this season. It’s not quite the dreaded vote of confidence for coach Cory Clouston and GM Bryan Murray, but it’s not exactly a promise they’ll be around forever either.

“At this time, it makes no sense to make managerial or coaching changes,” said Melnyk. “We’ll let the season play itself out and look forward to building for the future.”

Melnyk also stated that that there is a plan being worked out that will see the club get back to contending. While he didn’t reveal what the plan was, it seems clear that changes of some kind will be coming.

While fans want heads to roll, the business reality of the situation is that both Clouston and Murray have contracts that run out at the end of the season. After all, why fire and pay guys to not work for your team when you can just have them ride it out the rest of the way and let them walk away when it’s over with.

As for how the team will respond to hearing that front office turmoil won’t interrupt things, Daniel Alfredsson says that he’s happy there won’t be any distractions.

“I think it’s good for us in terms of not having to deal with those questions everyday, and maybe the uncertainty, and just focus on trying to right the ship,” he said. “So I think it will make a difference.

“We’ve had a long stretch here where we haven’t got enough points. And even though we’ve played some good games, it wears on your confidence and the morale of the team, and then on everybody. And then the speculation comes in. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and I’m sure it has an effect on us as a group.

“But we’re just going to come to work everyday. We’ve got to get better in certain areas and right the ship and go in the right direction.”

It’s good PR there from the Senators captain, but with the lack of solid goaltending or defensive play as well as severe poor performance from virtually everyone on offense, it’s tough to keep a positive outlook at all. If the season continues to slip away for the Sens, the one thing that might save the fans hopes is a full house cleaning and getting someone at the top of the draft that inspires the fans into believing. Otherwise, the 2011-2012 season will look ugly heading into it with just an All-Star Game to look forward to.

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”

Panthers didn’t want to trade Crouse, but Bolland contract was ‘strangling’ them

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Interesting note here from Florida head coach Tom Rowe who, last night, watched former Panther prospect Lawson Crouse play in Florida for the first time since being traded to Arizona.

Crouse was the price the Panthers had to pay to unload Dave Bolland‘s contract on the Coyotes last summer. Rowe wasn’t involved with the Bolland signing, but was involved in dumping the contract — he was Florida’s assistant GM at the time the deal went down.

His take, from the Miami Herald:

Florida traded Crouse to the Coyotes last summer as part of a salary cap dump; Arizona took on the final three years and $16.5-million of Dave Bolland’s contract in exchange for a top prospect — in this case, Crouse.

“We got criticized for giving up on a great young prospect but we had to,” Rowe said. “That contract was strangling us, cap-wise. …

“When we traded him, our scouts were furious. I’m not going to lie. But we had to do something and that was trade Lawson. I’m sure, to this day, he’s still sour about it.”

Crouse, who Florida took 11th overall at the 2015 draft, has five goals and 11 points through 64 games this year, averaging 11:50 TOI per night. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they do need to be taken in context — Crouse is only 19 years old, and the 10th-youngest player to play in the NHL this season.

Bolland, meanwhile, hasn’t played since December of 2015, due to a variety of back and ankle injuries. His time in Florida was largely forgettable — after scoring the $27.5 million pact, he played just 78 games in a Panthers uniform, scoring 28 points.  It’s widely regarded as the worst deal GM Dale Tallon has made during his time with the organization.

Shortly after taking on his contract, Coyotes GM John Chayka said Bolland wouldn’t be healthy for the “foreseeable future.” The 30-year-old has two years remaining on his deal, at $5.5 million annually.

 

Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

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Arizona Senate President Steve Yarbrough does not expect a piece of legislation to pass that would give the Coyotes millions of dollars in public financing to build a new arena.

That being said, Yarbrough thinks the Coyotes may be able to gain some “traction” if they offer to put in more of their own money.

Under the current plan, the team has pledged $170 million of the arena’s total cost, which is estimated at almost $400 million. The difference would be made up by new sales taxes, plus $55 million from the still-to-be-determined host city.

“If you are getting no traction the way the bill is designed, you could see if the hockey team paid a greater portion,” Yarbrough told the Arizona Republic yesterday. “I have been around this business long enough to know that if it’s not working in this format, you change the format to make it more attractive.”

For their part, the Coyotes have not said whether they’d be willing to pay a greater portion of the project, only that they’ll continue to “work hard to find a viable arena solution in the greater Phoenix area, a market that both the club and the NHL believe is a strong hockey market capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise.”

Related: Bettman says Coyotes “cannot and will not remain in Glendale”

Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

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A little scene setting for you.

New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.