Reviewing Melnyk’s latest round of Ottawa Senators optimism

Reviewing Melnyk's latest round of Ottawa Senators optimism
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When Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk speaks, there are solid odds that he’ll say something ridiculous. Speaking generously, you could say that the Crime Scene Investigation-loving Senators owner has a penchant for hyperbole.

So, when Melnyk makes prognostications about his Senators’ chances, your eyes perk up. Even if it’s closer to the sensation you get when you’re about to rubberneck at a traffic accident.

When it comes to Melnyk’s recent appearance on The Bob McCown Podcast, the worst logical collisions feel more like fender benders. Sometimes Melnyk might have even made sense!

Let’s get to some of Melnyk’s comments about the Senators’ future (short, and also long-term), and ponder how much optimism is actually appropriate.

(H/T to’s Mike Zeisberger for transcribing Melnyk’s comments about the Senators.)

How strong are the Senators’ chances, with or without an All-Canadian division?

For the most part, Eugene Melnyk preached patience about the Senators’ chances in 2020-21 specifically.

That said, while Melnyk didn’t repeat claims about a five-year run of “unparalleled success,” he did pump up the next three years.

“Everybody’s on the same page to try to be competitive,” Melnyk said. “I think our fans would really, really enjoy to see us in the playoffs this year. And then once you get to the playoffs, we all say, you know, then anything can happen … I think our big years are coming in the next three years.”

On one hand, an All-Canadian division could moderately boost the Senators’ chances. While the Atlantic Division features powerhouse teams like the Bruins and Lightning to go along with the Maple Leafs, an all-Canadian grouping would be less imposing at the top. Dom Luszczyszyn of the Athletic notes as much here (sub required).

Unfortunately for the Senators, such a structure is likely a much bigger boon to teams like the Maple Leafs, Flames, and Canucks, though. To some extent, Melnyk realizes that such an alignment doesn’t cure all of the Senators’ ills.

In the short term, even talking yourself into everything going well still leaves the impression that the Senators’ gains may be modest.

Consider, for instance, the likely top center duo of Colin White and Chris Tierney. Beyond that, Ottawa doesn’t figure to ice much defensive support beyond Thomas Chabot. Even if Matt Murray looks more like the Murray who won two Stanley Cups than the recent, struggling model, it may only help the team save some face.

At least in the short term …

Pondering Ottawa’s long-term chances

So, what are the Senators’ chances of enjoying that “unparalleled success?”

Well, that may come down to development. Ultimately, getting the most out of prospects boils down to mix of luck (how much will that prospect improve on their own merits?) and skill (can Ottawa put them in positions to succeed?).

Looking through various rankings and observations about the Senators’ farm system drills down on my conflicting feelings:

A) On one hand, GM Pierre Dorion‘s done a nice job collecting a bunch of solid-to-very-good prospects.

You can see that reflected, for instance, in Corey Pronman ranking the Senators’ systems third following the 2020 NHL Draft (sub required).

B) On the flipside, will the quality meet that quantity?

In ranking players under 23 years old, Pronman placed Brady Tkachuk highest among Senators at No. 12. That’s excellent for Tkachuk; he’s exceeded already significant expectations so far in his young, agitating career.

But will it be enough to propel the Senators to compete with elite teams down the line? That part’s unclear.

Inexact science

Perhaps the Chris Drury/Buffaslug era Sabres could serve as something of a template if Ottawa is heavier on stars, rather than true superstars? The 2005-06 Sabres finished fifth in scoring, even though they only featured one player above 70 points (Maxim Afinogenov at 73).*

Of course, prospects frequently exceed or fall short of expectations. Ask different scouts or draft gurus about Tim Stuetzle’s potential — and whether he should have actually gone third in the 2020 NHL Draft — and you’ll likely hear many different answers. (Jake Sanderson, fifth overall, also proves fairly divisive.)

So you can see how that can get pretty sprawling, being that the Senators are loading up on prospects like a contestant collecting turkeys in “Supermarket Sweep.”

* – The actual Buffaslug Sabres of 2006-07 featured higher scorers [Daniel Briere with 95 points; Thomas Vanek at 84], so maybe that’s the sexier template. But you can get the idea, hopefully.

OK, here’s some throwback Melnyk Senators hyperbole

Overall, Melnyk isn’t really stepping too far out of bounds with his Ottawa Senators optimism.

That said, if you needed to meet a weird comment quota, the way Melnyk sells the rebuild is still pretty funny.

” … I think history will show that this was a plan that was put together that has never been done before,” Melnyk said. “Nobody’s ever trashed a team like we have. (We) cut our top six guys. Do that to any team and see what happens to them.”

Ah yes, no team’s ever done a dramatic rebuild. True innovators, those Senators.

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

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    Mitch Marner extends Maple Leafs-record points streak to 21 games

    Mitch Marner
    USA Today

    TORONTO — Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record points streak to 21 games with a second-period goal and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 on Thursday night.

    Marner gave Toronto a 4-0 lead with his 11th goal of the season, scoring on a slap shot after a Los Angeles turnover inside its blue line.

    Marner became the 10th player in the past 35 years to string together a streak of 21 or more games. He has 10 goals and 16 assists during the run.

    Auston Matthews, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander also scored for Toronto. Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout with the Maple Leafs and the seventh of his career.

    Toronto has won seven of eight to improve to 17-5-6.

    Los Angeles dropped to 14-11-4 with its seventh loss in 10 games. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 36 saves.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang returns to practice 10 days after stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice with his teammates just 10 days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The 35-year-old Letang remains out indefinitely, with the club describing him as “day to day.”

    Letang said he felt “pretty good” after being greeted by stick taps from his teammates when he skated onto the ice at the team’s practice facility. Still, the married father of two called the experience “scary,” particularly for his family.

    “My kids, they don’t care if I’m a hockey player or not,” he said. “They care about having a dad. Same with my wife. She could care less about hockey. She knows there’s so much more. After hockey, there’s a long time and you want to be able to enjoy those moments with your family, with your kids.”

    Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke, which was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. The condition also led to the second stroke, which Letang suffered on Nov. 28 after dealing with a series of debilitating headaches.

    This time, the symptoms have resolved themselves much more quickly, according to team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, who described this stroke as “smaller” than the one Letang endured in 2014.

    Letang began skating on his own just two days after the diagnosis and was cleared to return to practice on Thursday though both Letang and Vyas stressed they are in no rush for him to play in games.

    “We don’t think this is accelerated in any way,” Vyas said. “We are taking all the right precautions to make sure that it is safe to go out and play and when that time comes we’ll let him go back to playing his sport.”

    Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said it was a “relief” to see Letang back at work.

    “It’s a great visual that he’s making progress,” Sullivan said. “Our medical team that has monitored him extremely closely feels comfortable with some of the progress that he’s making and the steps he’s taken. Everyone was excited for him to join the group.”

    Letang signed a six-year contract extension over the summer that will carry him into his 40s if he decides to play that long. Vyas said the data around strokes is “evolving” though it is unclear if Letang is now more susceptible to having additional strokes now that he’s had a second one.

    The six-time All-Star is cautious but optimistic.

    “We’ve been through this,” Letang said. “Me and Dharmesh have a clear understanding that we’re going to take all the time we need and make sure the research is possible and it’s no danger for me to keep going.”

    The Penguins are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and have won three straight heading into a home-and-home series with the Sabres. They’re also eager to have Letang’s familiar No. 58 back in the lineup, but only when he’s ready.

    “He’s been here for a long time and his experience and everything that he brings on and off the ice, the way he competes (is important),” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But I think in the (locker) room, (he has) poise and (he’s) somebody who’s been around a long time and whose experience you feel when he’s around.”

    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports
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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.


    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.


    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.


    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.