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Highlights from Eugene Melnyk’s bizarre Senators video

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The Ottawa Senators want you to know they are going to be going through some changes. A lot of changes. Many, many, many changes. Coming off of a tumultuous 2017-18 season — both on and off the ice — the team is looking to head in a new and exciting direction starting this year. In an effort to help give their fans some sense of what that direction might be, the team released a six-minute video late Monday night featuring team owner Eugene Melnyk involved in what is supposed to look like a casual discussion with defenseman Mark Borowiecki about the state of the team.

It is … something. It is really, really something, and it seems to have done nothing but further enrage the loyal fans that are already disenfranchised with the team under Melnyk’s leadership (the old #Melnykout hashtag has already returned).

Let’s get to the highlights.

1. The owner isn’t wearing one of his team’s current jerseys 

Let’s start with nitpicking something and point out that Melnyk is very clearly wearing an older Reebok jersey instead of one of the current ones.

This is only noteworthy because the NHL’s jersey sponsorship is with Adidas (all of the jerseys hanging in the background are Adidas) and, well, given how big sponsorships and brands are in the business world of professional sports (and Melnynk references “sponsors” at least three different times in this video) it is at least a little odd to see the team owner not wearing one of the new, current jerseys.

Maybe this is his lucky jersey and he likes it?

2. “Right now we’re kind of in the dumpster.”

As for the message itself, the whole thing starts off with Borowiecki asking a simple question: “What’s the plan here?”

That is a totally reasonable question that everyone in Ottawa — including the players currently on the roster — should be asking.

In response, Melnyk gives a pretty honest assessment of where the franchise is before trying to paint a rosy picture of where it can go.

“I think what are fans are looking forward to, and what I’m looking forward to, is a season that is fresh and brand new. Something we can look forward to with young players coming in. I think we can gel them into a very very serious team. Much bigger than a lot of people I think believe,” said Melnyk.

“Right now we’re kind of in the dumpster. You know, everyone says ‘ah they are not going to do anything.’ I do not believe that. I think with character in the dressing room, and people working very, very hard we can accomplish more than a lot of people believe. When I signed up for an owner I really didn’t expect going through something like we did last year. It was a tough, tough year for us .. in the offices, on the ice, now we are starting off fresh. A lot of things have changed I think this year is going to become one of those watershed years for us.”

3. He is not going anywhere

One of the many controversies that surrounded the Senators’ organization in 2017-18 was Melnyk, on the day before the team’s outdoor game against the Montreal Canadiens, throwing around a relocation threat if things ever become desperate for him and the team financially in Ottawa. Now he wants you to know that neither he nor the team is going anywhere anytime soon.

“We’re going to give everything we’ve got. Some people are talking in town, ‘ah he may move the team.’ First thing’s first, is I am going to stick around here for a long, long time. I’m not going anywhere. Number two the franchise is not going anywhere. That’s like, totally solid. So everybody can focus, get rid of the noise. What you try to do is try to ensure you’ve got some veterans in the room. That’s what everybody kind of counts on to take these young players under their wing.”

Just a reminder, again, that Eugene Melnyk was the person that talked about the team potentially moving.

4. The Senators are not currently loaded with draft picks … at least not yet

At one point during the interview Melnyk refers to the core already in place and how they plan to supplement it with younger players.

“We’re going to build that with young prospects that are now coming through, and the picks,” says Melnyk. “We’re loaded up now with draft picks for the next four, five, six years.”

Are they?

Maybe this will change in the coming months (and Melnyk seems to unintentionally hint to this later, which we will get to shortly) but the Senators are not really loaded with picks. At least not more than any other team in the NHL.

  • Over the next three years the Senators have 22 draft picks, which would be a net gain of one draft pick over what every other team in the league starts off with (seven rounds per draft, one pick per round, seven picks per team).
  • The Senators’ first-and third-round picks in 2019 currently belong to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the Matt Duchene trade from early last season. That first-round pick may be the most valuable pick out of all of the Senators’ near future picks given 1) where the Senators may finish in the standings this season, and 2) the possibility of that pick turning into Jack Hughes.
  • The Senators do still have a third-round pick this year (originally belonging to the Pittsburgh Penguins) but it will most likely be significantly lower than what their own pick would have been.

To be fair, perhaps Melnyk knows what is going to happen in the coming weeks and months. This roster currently has a ton of upcoming free agents — Duchene, Mark Stone, and the best of the bunch, defenseman Erik Karlsson — and other veterans that could be sold off. It is possible, if not likely, that all of them will be playing for new teams before the end of this season. If they are, draft picks will almost certainly be a part of those returns.

But those trades still need to get made.

It also remains highly doubtful that they get a better pick in return than the pick they sent to Colorado.

So … yeah.

5. Expect a lot of new faces over the next two years

How many new faces? Let’s let the owner tell you what he sees happening.

“Well that’s what our rebuild is going to be. It is kind of a cliche term, but we take it seriously. I think this coming year we are going to have 10 out of the 22 players are going to be new, meaning they are either rookies, or they played maybe under 10 games last year. Then the following year it is going to go up to about 15 of the 22 … maybe 16. So that is a total turnover, so that is exactly what should be in a rebuild.”

Assuming that actually happens, that is a lot of change, and it also almost certainly spells the end of Stone, Duchene, and Karlsson in Ottawa, and probably a few other players under contract beyond this season (there are nine players on the roster under contract through at least 2019-20). It is also worth pointing out that a team with that many new, young players on the roster is almost certain to get steamrolled over the course of an 82-game regular season.

Finally, some words about being excited because of the energy the young players will bring to the organization.

“You get excited because they’re excited, it gets me excited, it gets all of our fans excited and our sponsors,” Melnyk says. “So it’s going to work out! I think we’re looking forward to a great, great coming year. I really think the fans are going to be supportive. We’ve got some great fans. These are great, great hockey fans, great sponsors. We just have to give them the hope that they know, that we know what we’re doing and that translates the team knowing what they’re doing and bring some wins together.”

Hey, full credit to the Senators for trying to get the message out that the team actually is rebuilding and trying to offer some insight into the plan, even if it isn’t necessarily great. There is something to be said for transparency, and some acknowledgement that a rebuild is on the way is a better approach than, say, whatever it is Montreal is doing by trading all of its best players and refusing to say the world “rebuild.”

On the other hand, you also could have just penned a letter like the Rangers did.

Related: 10 NHL people that need to have a better season in 2018-19

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Hurricanes plan to to ‘make whole’ furloughed full-time employees

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The Carolina Hurricanes are putting more than half of full-time staff on furlough through June 7 while taking steps they said would ensure affected employees don’t lose income amid the coronavirus pandemic that has led to the suspension of the NHL season.

The team announced the plan Friday with the team and PNC Arena having shut down operations last month to ensure social-distancing practices.

The team says the furlough applies to about 55% of full-time employees, who would be directed to access unemployment benefits through the government’s $2.2 trillion economic rescue package.

Furloughed employees ineligible to collect full base salaries through unemployment would receive a bonus from the organization when the furlough ends “to be made whole.”

Additionally, furloughed employees will keep healthcare benefits, with the team covering premium payments during that time.

In a statement, team president and general manager Don Waddell says the organization “remains committed to taking care of our staff as well as possible given these unprecedented circumstances.” Waddell said the plan “protects our employees from financial hardship while also mitigating the losses suffered by the company during this shutdown.”

Edmonton Oilers: This season’s biggest surprises and disappointments

Leon Draisaitl Art Ross Oilers surprises disappointments
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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Edmonton Oilers.

We didn’t see Draisaitl’s peak in 2018-19

Last season, Leon Draisaitl adjusted what we believed to be his ceiling. It was already clear that he was a gem for Edmonton before, but a 50-goal, 105-point season? That was more than many projected.

And it wasn’t even the most he’s capable of. Draisaitl put himself in the Maurice Richard Trophy race with 43 goals in 2019-20, while he remarkably reached 110 points despite the season hitting that mid-March pause.

If you translate 110 points in 71 games to an 82-game season, Draisaitl would’ve reached 127-128.

The larger Hart Trophy debate can be a little thorny.

And it’s true that Draisaitl’s been living large on puck luck for two seasons now. He generated a 21.6 shooting percentage in 2018-19 and a 19.7 percent rate this season, while enjoying high on-ice shooting percentages too (12.4 in 2018-19, 14.4 in 2019-20, vs. 10.6 for his career). But it seems clear that he’s going to be a nightmare for defenses to deal with, whether he lines up with Connor McDavid or drives his own trio.

(Interestingly, evidence points to Edmonton being better off keeping their two mega-powers together.)

The Oilers dominating on special teams definitely ranks among surprises

With McDavid and Draisaitl on the roster, it’s not that surprising to see a dominant Oilers power play.

Granted, leading the league in PPG (59) with far and away the most efficient unit (29.5 percent, Boston second at 25.2) was a surprise. (After all, the Oilers managed a 21.17 rate in 2018-19, and was putrid at 14.76 at 2017-18.)

But the Oilers being so stingy on the penalty kill ended up being one of their biggest surprises. Edmonton tied with Columbus for the least power-play goals allowed (31) this season, while the Oilers’ 84.4 percent kill rate was second-best in the NHL. (For all that went wrong for the Sharks, theirs was the best at 85.7.)

Combining special teams percentages only tells you so much, but it’s a quick way to illustrate just how exemplary Edmonton’s units were. If you add that PP% (29.5) to that PK% (84.4), you get 113.9. The Bruins (109.4) and to a lesser extent Hurricanes (106.3) were the only other teams really in the Oilers’ ballpark.

McDavid + Draisaitl with semi-competent supporting cast members figures to be a formula for a strong power play most seasons. Maybe not “flirting with 30 percent” strong, but strong nonetheless.

Repeating such penalty kill success seems unlikely, however. Maybe Dave Tippett can manufacture at least a decent unit most seasons, though?

Oilers struggle enough at even strength to nearly negate positive surprises

One knock on Draisaitl’s Hart argument is that the Oilers give up almost as much as they create with him on the ice. The high-event back-and-forth is illustrated graphically by Draisaitl’s RAPM chart at Evolving Hockey:

Oilers surprises Draisaitl give and take

Even that vaunted power play drives home the risk-reward point. The Oilers allowed 10 shorthanded goals this season, tied for third-most in the NHL.

Despite Draisaitl enjoying an incredible season, McDavid being McDavid aside from an injury absence, and possibly unsustainable special teams dominance, the Oilers only managed a modest +8 goal differential in 2019-20.

What happens if Draisaitl cools off a bit, and they stop getting so many saves on the PK?

It’s foolish to fully dismiss any team with McDavid and Draisaitl on hand, particularly since the Oilers boast a few other helpful factors (including intriguing defensive prospects Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg). Still, those two carry such a burden, and the Oilers have enjoyed enough luck in certain areas, that one can’t help but wonder if disappointments will be more abundant than positive surprises in the near future.

MORE ON THE OILERS

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Roundtable: Best NHL teams to not win Stanley Cup

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Which NHL franchise (team or one from a specific season) over the last 25 years are you most disappointed did not win a Stanley Cup and why?

JOEY: I know they made it to a Stanley Cup Final in 2016, but the fact that the Sharks have never hoisted the Stanley Cup is pretty disappointing. The other California teams (Anaheim and Los Angeles) have each won at least one, but the Sharks just couldn’t get over the hump.

How can you not feel sorry for Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and company? Those guys played at a high level for so long and it’s unfortunate that they could never win it all.

Since the start of the 2000-01 season, this is where the Sharks have finished in the Pacific Division standings: first, fifth, first, second, second, first, first, first, first, second, third, second, fifth, third, third, third and second. That’s a lot of good seasons. To have only one Stanley Cup Final appearance to show for it is just brutal.

Even the Vegas Golden Knights, who have turned into a bitter rival for the Sharks, have made it to one Stanley Cup Final and that was in their first year of existence.

What’s even more frustrating for San Jose, is that based on what we’ve seen from them in 2019-20, it looks like their window to win is pretty much closed. Can general manager Doug Wilson turn things around quickly? Maybe. But they don’t even have their own first-round pick this year.

There’s been some great Sharks teams over the last 25 years, but they’d trade all that regular-season success for a single Stanley Cup.

SEAN: I agree with Joey. You can count on two hands how many in the last 15 years that the Sharks have been my preseason Cup winner pick. But I’m going to go in a different direction. The 2010-11 Canucks were a team that conquered demons along the way to reaching Game 7 of the Cup Final.

That Canucks roster was a total package. There were some likable characters (Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Roberto Luongo) and others who played the heel role very well (Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Max Lapierre, Raffi Torres). There was also Kevin Bieksa, who could probably find a place in both groups.

Years of playoff disappointment were carried like baggage heading into the 2010-11 season. After back-to-back Round 2 playoff exits at the hands of the Blackhawks, the Canucks were again Cup contenders, and needed to finally finish the job. They did their part initially, becoming the first team that season to clinch a playoff spot and picking up the first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history.

Every Stanley Cup championship DVD has those flashpoint moments on the road to a title. The Canucks had that. From their regular season success to Burrows “slaying the dragon” with his overtime series clincher against Chicago in Round 1 to Bieksa ending the Western Conference Final against the Sharks in double OT to Vancouver winning the first two games of the Cup Final against the Bruins. It appeared as if the stars had finally aligned.

We know the rest of the story, but that team was both incredibly fun to watch with the talent on it and so easy to root against given the villains employed on the roster. All they needed was just one win in Boston to change history.

JAMES: Joey beat me to the Sharks, but honestly, I’m glad. In having to dig deeper, it conjured some great/tragic hockey memories and interesting thoughts.

For one: the last two Stanley Cup-winners emptied out metaphorical tonnage of angst. The Blues have been tormented by “almost” basically from day one, when they were pulverized in three straight Stanley Cup Final series (1967-68 through 1969-70) without winning a single game against the Canadiens or Bruins. There’d be ample angst if they didn’t win in 2019, and the same can be said for the Capitals. It’s difficult to cringe too hard at the Boudreau-era Capitals falling just short when Alex Ovechkin won it all, anyway.

My thoughts drift, then, to quite a few Canadian teams that rode high.

It’s tempting to go with the Peak Sedin Canucks, in and around that near-win in 2011; after all, while I didn’t grow up a Canucks fan, many were fooled into believing so because of my handle.

But, honestly, the team that might bum me out the most in recent years is the really, really good Senators teams that fell short of a Stanley Cup. (No, I’m not talking about the group that was within an overtime Game 7 OT goal of being willed to a SCF by Erik Karlsson and a few others.)

The 2005-06 Senators rank among the more galling “What if?” teams for me.

During the regular season, that Senators team scored more goals than anyone else (314) and allowed the third-fewest (211). Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson both enjoyed 103-point seasons, and Jason Spezza (90) probably would have hit 100+ if he played more than 68 games. This was a team that also featured Zdeno Chara, a Wade Redden effective enough to convince the Senators to choose Redden over Chara, and other talented players like Martin Havlat, Antoine Vermette, and Mike Fisher.

The biggest “What if?” there revolves around Dominik Hasek getting injured during the 2006 Winter Olympics, a groin issue that kept him out of the ensuing postseason. Even at 41, Hasek was dominant, posting a .925 save percentage. Ray Emery couldn’t get it done, and the Senators were bounced in the second round.

While the 2006-07 Senators were the rendition that actually made it to the SCF, they no longer had Chara or Hasek on their roster.

Instead of a possible Stanley Cup victory, the memorable images of those peak Alfredsson-era Senators teams were ugly ones. Marian Hossa lying, dejected on the ice after Jeff Friesen beat Patrick Lalime and the Devils won a Game 7 in 2003. Alfredsson snapping at shooting a puck at Scott Niedermayer. And then plenty of unceremonious exits.

For more casual hockey fans, that Senators’ surge will probably be all but forgotten, but it’s really stunning just how talented that team was.

(Side note on almost-Canadian champs: I’ll likely go to my grave believing that Martin Gelinas scored that goal for the Flames.)

ADAM: I want to see great players get their championship, especially when it is the one thing that their otherwise great resume is lacking. The Sedins are obviously in that discussion, as are those great Sharks teams with Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski.

I will add another name to that list: Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. Especially that 2013-14 team that actually made it to the Stanley Cup Final only to lose to the Kings. I know they lost that series in five games but I still feel like it was a lot closer than that because they literally lost three games in overtime. Lundqvist was outstanding in that entire postseason — and that series — and it would have been the capper on his career.

On one hand, I feel like Lundqvist is absolutely respected for the goalie that he has been. But it still seems like there is a “yeah, but…” that always follows him around because he doesn’t have that championship that will keep him from being remembered as one of the all-time greats at the position. He has been a great goalie, a sensational playoff goal, and was always taking the Rangers to levels that they probably shouldn’t have been at.

So which team am I disappointed didn’t win? At least one team with Henrik Lundqvist on it.

SCOTT: The 2018-19 Lightning were an elite team that not only didn’t reach the Cup Final, they didn’t even win a game in the postseason.

The Blue Jackets won their first playoff series as a franchise in stunning fashion as they won four straight against a big Cup favorite.

The Lightning were a victim of their own regular-season success. With 14 games remaining in the regular season, Tampa Bay secured a playoff spot and had little to play for the rest of the way.

“In the end, it’s just we just couldn’t find our game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters after the disappointing finish. “That was it. It had been with us all year, and for six days in April we couldn’t find it. It’s unfortunate because it puts a blemish on what was a [heck] of a regular season.”

The Lightning won 62 games that season and finished the regular season with 128 points. The Bruins, who ended up representing the Eastern Conference in the 2019 Cup Final, finished with 107 points.

“You have a historic regular season doing what we did and have basically a historic playoff in defeat,” Jon Cooper said.

Tampa will always be one of the most successful teams to not win the ultimate prize.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sharks GM gives Boughner ‘upper hand’ to take over as coach

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San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson isn’t ready to remove the interim head coach tag from Bob Boughner’s title yet.

Noting the Sharks’ season is not officially over with the NHL on hiatus due to the coronavirus, Wilson voiced his support by saying Boughner has the edge in taking over the job on a permanent basis.

“Does Bob know our group and have the upper hand in this process? Absolutely,” Wilson said during a conference call Thursday.

“But I think you have to be thorough in this process because we have the time and the opportunity,” he added. “And when you have time like this you need to utilize it.”

Wilson was pleased with the improved style of play and structure he saw in the Sharks in 37 games under Boughner, who took over after on Dec. 11.

Wilson, however, stressed there is plenty he wants to evaluate regarding a team that will likely miss the playoffs for only the second time in 16 seasons, and was last in the Western Conference when play stopped on March 12.

It’s unclear when play will resume, and whether the NHL will complete the final month of the regular season or go directly into the playoffs. The Sharks (29-36-5) went 14-20-3 under Boughner. The record was mostly a reflection of a rash of injuries sidelining San Jose’s top stars.

Wilson was more definitive in providing injury updates, saying and defenseman Erik Karlsson are on track to return next season.

Wilson said Hertl is ahead of schedule and can fully extend his left knee some two months after having surgery to repair two torn ligaments. He said Karlsson is nearly fully recovered after in February.

Wilson added forward Logan Couture is feeling no after affects after missing San Jose’s final game with a concussion caused when he was struck in the head by a puck.

Boughner spent his portion of the 40-minute session looking ahead to next season.

“Who knows what’s happening with the rest of the season here, but if we’re talking about training camp, that’s what excites me the most,” Boughner said.

“We’re going to treat training camp as crucial,” he added.

This is Boughner’s second stint with the Sharks. He spent two seasons as an assistant in San Jose before being hired to coach the Florida Panthers.

Fired last April after two seasons in Florida, Boughner was hired as an assistant to DeBoer’s staff.

“I think Boughy and his staff did a lot of good things and they were certainly hamstrung with a lot of our players out,” Wilson said.

Wilson also addressed the status of Joe Thornton, who is playing on a one-year contract and completing his 22nd NHL season, and 15th in San Jose.

“Everybody knows how we feel about Joe,” Wilson said, adding he has regular discussions with 40-year-old forward.

Wilson was non-committal when asked if there’s a place in next year’s lineup for Thornton, saying only: “He’s a special man.”