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Senators handle Uber video nightmare in very Senators way

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The Ottawa Senators latest PR disaster (it’s already getting the “-gate” treatment) surfaced on Monday, as the Ottawa Citizen reported that an Uber video leaked of players trashing assistant coach Marty Raymond.

In true current-day Senators fashion, it seems like it’s only getting stranger from there.

One very “Senators” factor is that the players involved didn’t answer questions from the media after their morning skate on Tuesday. Instead, Mark Stone, Zack Smith, Mark Borowiecki, and head coach Guy Boucher were among those speaking for Thomas Chabot, Dylan DeMelo, Matt Duchene, Alex Formenton Chris Tierney, Chris Wideman and Colin White.

It’s crucial to note that, while the video leaked recently, it appears to have happened on Oct. 29, in the middle of a four-game losing streak where Ottawa lost to Vegas on Oct. 28 and the Coyotes on Oct. 30. That context helps explain why Stone and Boucher were among those explaining that the matter was already addressed, and that the team knew about it “long before” the footage surfaced.

“It was dealt with internally, the way it should be, we’re going to move forward and grow from it,” Stone said. ” … This is only going to make our team stronger moving forward.”

Such comments make you wonder if the video was leaked intentionally, or at least by an unhappy front office member. Considering how things are going – poorly – for the Senators from a PR perspective, management hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt.

Update: TSN’s Ian Mendes went in-depth to explain how the Senators knew about the video in advance, and more.

To paraphrase Heath Ledger’s Joker from “The Dark Knight,” what doesn’t kill the Senators might not make them stronger; it might just them stranger.

It’s tough to believe that any of this will really make the Senators kill penalties more effectively, score more frequently on the power play, or listen more closely in team meetings. Instead, this is just a reminder that the bloom is off the rose as they’ve fallen to 5-6-3 after a promising 4-2-1 start.

After all, it’s not exactly as if the Senators have rallied since … whenever this mystery team meeting took place. They’ve lost six of their last seven games, with their only win (4-2 against Buffalo on Thursday) immediately being followed by the Sabres getting revenge to the tune of a 9-2 shellacking on Saturday.

Now, to be fair, it’s not that unreasonable to imagine players on all 31 teams having conversations like the one Duchene & Co. enjoyed while unknowingly on candid camera. Zack Smith pointed out as much, saying that if a camera followed him around during his career, he doesn’t think he’d still “be in the league.” Some of this boils down to the fact that technology opens the valve for leaks like these to happen more and more often.

So, perhaps the distinguishing factor is that this surfaced, rather than being contained.

Whether it comes down to self-inflicted wounds or mishandling crises that would challenge even the most stable management, it’s been a dizzying stretch of terrible developments for the Senators.

  • If management had any sense of the trouble brewing between Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson, then it makes the drama that much tougher to stomach, particularly since embattled GM Pierre Dorion settled for pennies on the dollar in the eventual trades.
  • Now-former-assistant GM Randy Lee resigned over charges of harassing a hotel shuttle driver.
  • There are all sorts of questions about the Senators front office. A litany of moves look questionable, from the worse-by-the-day Duchene trade (and the draft pick implications), as well as Alex Burrows’ failed experiment ending with a buyout. Perhaps just as pressing: does Dorion really have any faith in Boucher, considering how he undermined him heading into what would be a turbulent summer?
  • Fair or not, a lot of the turmoil can be traced to owner Eugene Melnyk, whose bizarre video with Mark Borowiecki seems more and more like comic relief amidst all these nightmares.

Would the Senators even employ the same coaching staff that players criticized if their owner wasn’t so, um, budget-conscious? Could a crisis been averted or at least minimized if Karlsson was moved at the trade deadline? How unhappy are people behind the scenes? It’s easy to see why Senators fans aren’t pleased with many things, with the team’s owner ranking as possibly the biggest area of discontent.

The Senators ultimately face some crucial decisions after this latest headache emerged.

It would be rash to trade every player involved in that video, yet one cannot help but wonder if this is yet another sign that Duchene could find himself traded once again (the speedy, occasionally attention-lapsing forward is in a contract year). Chris Wideman is also slated to be a UFA. Conversely, Stone was not in that video and was instead tasked with facing the media, and he’s also in a contract year. What will Dorion do with players like these? How many of these players are part of the solution, particularly when all of these leaks feel like telltale signs of a sinking ship?

The Senators’ problems run deep, and putting them off might be why they’re in such a mess. Management has to start digging out of this hole, or the nightmares will just continue.

As poorly as the Sens have been playing, it’s probably a relief that they’re getting back on the ice, as Ottawa hosts the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Of course, if we’ve learned anything from the Senators, it’s that things can go sour fast … so expect fans to boo their own team, probably very soon.

Update: Matt Duchene spoke to the media following Ottawa’s 7-3 win against the New Jersey Devils.

Duchene made a brief statement before answering questions from reporters.

“I want to take this opportunity to extend my absolutely sincerest apologies to Marty Raymond,” Duchene said. “He’s a heck of a person and coach, and he did not deserve what we said. That’s all I can say on it right now, unfortunately. I sincerely, sincerely mean that, on behalf of myself and my teammates.”

Duchene said the win was big for the Senators, especially given the events over the past couple of days.

“We’ve dealt with things and everything in here is good,” he said. “Just how I feel, it’s hard for me to even talk about it because it makes me emotional. That’s not the person I am or any of us.”

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Senators players apologize after being filmed ripping assistant coach

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Six players from the Ottawa Senators have apologized to assistant coach Marty Raymond after their private comments were caught on tape and leaked to the public on Monday.

The video, which was first reported by the Ottawa Sun/Citizen, shows Thomas Chabot, Dylan DeMelo, Matt Duchene, Alex Formenton Chris Tierney, Chris Wideman and Colin White in an Uber in Phoenix on Oct. 29 trashing Raymond’s coaching style.

The video ranges from Duchene poking fun on the Senators woeful special teams play, which Raymond heads up, and at one point even saying he hasn’t paid attention in video meetings in weeks.

Wideman can be heard saying that Raymond doesn’t teach the players anything.

“Marty Raymond, the only coach in NHL history to have the worst power play and the worst PK within a calendar year,” Duchene says.

“Do you notice that when (Raymond) runs the video, if you actually do pay attention, he doesn’t ever teach you anything? He just commentates what’s happening,” Wideman adds.

“Here’s the other thing, too. We don’t change anything, ever. So why do we even have a meeting? I haven’t paid attention in three weeks,” Duchene responds.

The Senators released statements on behalf of the players and head coach Guy Boucher on Monday night:

Boucher:

“Nothing is more important to us during this rebuild than making sure our players and coaches are fully committed to our plan, our values and our system of play. We have every confidence in Marty Raymond’s coaching; in the effort and determination of our team; and in the sincerity of our players’ apology. We are now treating this as a team matter, and will be making no further comment to the media.”

The players:

“We want to apologize publicly to Marty Raymond, our teammates and coaches for our comments in Phoenix, Arizona on October 29. Our private conversation was recorded without our knowledge or consent. We’re passionate about our team, and focusing on growing together. We are grateful for the support of our fans and organization. This is an important learning experience, and we will do better.”

Uber Canada general manager Rob Khazzam took to Twitter on Monday night to condemn the recording.

“A video was released by the media today of several Uber passengers being filmed without their consent while having a private discussion during a trip in Phoenix. This is a clear violation of our terms of service and we worked vigorously to investigate this issue. Filming or recording passengers without their consent is totally unacceptable and if reported/detected we will investigate + take action to preserve our communities privacy and integrity. In this specific case, we made efforts to have the video taken down.”

The Senators host the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night. The media availability after their morning skate should be interesting.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

It’s Ottawa Senators day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Ottawa Senators. 

2017-18:
28-43-11, 67 pts. (8th Atlantic Division; 15th Eastern Conference)
missed playoffs

IN:
Mikkel Boedker

OUT:
Mike Hoffman
Alexandre Burrows
Mike Blunden
Fredrik Claesson

RE-SIGNED:
Mark Stone
Cody Ceci
Chris Wideman
Magnus Paajarvi
Nick Paul

– – –

Disaster: a person, act, or thing that is a failure. See also: the 2017-18 Ottawa Senators.

It’s hard to imagine another team and another set of fans who had a worse year than the Senators.

Sure, the Buffalo Sabres were the worst team, but they got compensated with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and, thus, Rasmus Dahlin. They’ve also had a pretty good summer and are looking improved.

The Senators took Brady Tkachuk with the fourth overall pick, and he’s stated that he’s making the jump to the pro game this season, but he’s hardly an immediate fix for a team that appears only headed in the wrong direction still. And the Senators have done little to make their team better and stand to lose dearly in the future if this season ends in shambles.

So how did a team that was a goal away from the Stanley Cup Final a year earlier turn into an unmitigated disaster? Well, let’s delve into the calamity of misfortunes.

[Under Pressure: Pierre Dorion | Breakthrough: Thomas Chabot | Three Questions]

Last season’s Senators were a team that could hardly score, a defense that could hardly stop other teams from scoring and goaltending that could hardly stop pucks from hitting the back of the net — though it’s hard to blame Craig Anderson for the last one given the hell he and his wife, Nicholle, have been through over the past 18 months.

By comparison, the 2016-17 Senators didn’t score all that much, but there were in the top 10 for fewest goals against and Ottawa had a .915 team save percentage and not the .895 they endured last season. Their power play and penalty kill also went in the wrong direction.

They also didn’t get hit hard by a European road trip. The Sens won both games across the pond in early November but came home and proceeded to drop the next seven straight.

Away from the rink, things were just as shaky.

In November, Dorion pulled the trigger on a three-team trade that brought Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche — finally. Duchene proceeded to flatline for the next seven games, where he was held pointless. Duchene would end up finding his groove, ending the season with 23 goals and 26 assists in a Senators sweater, but the lack of production didn’t help during their November slide.

Owner Eugene Melnyk made headlines a month later. In an apparent attempt to sabotage the spectacle of an outdoor game in his own backyard, the unpopular owner threatened to move the Senators if “disaster strikes” on the even of Ottawa’s game against the Montreal Canadiens at Lansdowne Park last December.

He later recanted on his comments, but it was another slap in the face for a devout fanbase that has endured some trying times recently.

There was also this. And this meant that the Senators also lost Mike Hoffman, forced to deal their 52-point man for Mikkel Boedker.

And then there’s the Erik Karlsson saga.

When will he be traded? What will be the return? Will the Senators be able to shed Bobby Ryan‘s contract as a part of the deal?

Losing Karlsson — and there’s no way around this — will be a massive blow to the team if it happens. And while there will be a nice haul coming back for him, replacing a two-time Norris winner is nigh impossible.

And on a team already starved for production, it’s Karlsson’s offensive output is where they’d miss him the most. He was tied for the team lead in points with 62. The Sens could enter the season without their highest and third highest point producers as Hoffman was already shipped out.

Even more frightening for Ottawa is that Karlsson, Duchene and Mark Stone are all set to become unrestricted free agents at years’ end. If the Dorion can steady the ship before then, the Senators could be without the core of their team by this time next season.

It would appear that Stone is waiting to see, too. He only signed for one-year, as opposed to committing his future to the team. He’s getting $7.35 million and can get the hell out of Dodge if things get worse in the coming season. Duchene, for what it’s worth, is open to an extension.

Dorion has a massive task on his hands. He’s losing leverage on Karlsson’s return with each passing day, assuming they deal him. He also has the other two aforementioned key names to be signed, a goaltending situation to figure out if Anderson doesn’t return to 2016-17 form, and pivotal decision on Tkachuk forthcoming.

That’s a near-impossible laundry list of things to do (and do right) in one season with so much riding on it.

Times are tough in Ottawa, and things need to work out soon to avoid further disappointment.

Prospect Pool

Brady Tkachuk, LW, 18, Boston University (NCAA) – 2018 first-round pick

The Senators made Tkachuk the fourth-overall pick this past year and could have him in a team sweater this fall. Tkachuk posted eight goals and 31 points in 40 games at BU last season and impressed with three goals and nine points with Team USA at the world juniors. He’s a big boy, likes to use his physicality and plays at both ends of the ice. He will certainly make the Senators better, but the Senators need to send him to the Ontario Hockey League, where London Knights own his rights, or at the very least to the American Hockey League so he can get some seasoning. Rushing him is a mistake.

Logan Brown, C, 20, Windsor Spitfires/Kitchener Rangers (OHL) – 2016 first-round pick

The man is big, real big — six-foot-six big. Got four games in with the Senators last season, notching an assist, and had 48 points in 32 games split between two teams in the Ontario Hockey League after a mid-season trade. Played for Team USA at the world juniors where he had an assist in three games. Interesting tidbit: Tkachuk and Brown played with each other as kids. You’d like to see Brown get in some time in the AHL, but given the situation in Ottawa, there’s a chance you see Brown in Senators red this season.

Christian Wolanin, D, 23, University of North Dakota (NCAA) – 2015 fourth-round pick

Wolanin might not be as high as a couple other forward prospects on the team, but on a team needing defensemen, Wolanin stands out after a breakout season in North Dakota. There, he doubled his previous goal mark with 12 and added 23 assists for 35 points in 40 games to lead the Fighting Hawks in points. Wolanin also got 10 games with the Sens, scoring his first NHL goal and adding two assists. He’s headed to Ottawa this year after signing an entry-level deal in March. Expect to see him this season in the NHL.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Bettman, Ducks, others share Bryan Murray memories

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The hockey world continues to mourn the passing of Bryan Murray at age 74, with condolences coming from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, legendary figure Scotty Bowman, the Anaheim Ducks, and many others.

For one thing, it’s heartwarming – though still very sad – to see the sheer volume of heartfelt messages following the news of Murray’s passing.

The personal touches really stand out, including Bettman noting Murray’s “dry sense of humor” in the league’s statement:

“Bryan Murray’s strength and character were reflected in the teams he coached and the teams he built over decades of front office excellence,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “While his warmth and dry sense of humor were always evident, they were accompanied by the fiery competitiveness and determination that were his trademarks. As we mourn Bryan’s passing, we celebrate his many contributions to the game — as well as his courage. The National Hockey League family sends our deepest condolences, comfort and support to Bryan’s family, his many friends and all whose lives he influenced.”

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk spoke for many when he described himself as “heartbroken” by news of Murray’s death.

Murray made quite an impact on the Anaheim Ducks, something they noted in their own release.

The Anaheim Ducks family mourns the loss of Bryan Murray, who passed away this morning. As both head coach and general manager of the team (2001-2004), Bryan led our organization with class, dignity and charisma.

Scotty Bowman also praised someone who’s been involved with the NHL for a resounding 35 years.

Plenty of NHL teams weighed in, even those he wasn’t quite as directly involved with. Players who once suited up for his teams shared their thoughts, too, including Chris Wideman and Mike Hoffman. Plenty of journalists provided genuine accounts of his kindness and sense of humor.

It says a lot when such a wide variety of people share their thoughts on a person’s life, and it’s apparent that Murray made many great impressions during his decades of work in the sport.

The Senators’ video shows that he still had time for his family, too.

Sens ink veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya to one-year deal

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The Ottawa Senators have added some depth to their blue line, as they’ve signed Johnny Oduya to a one-year deal that comes with a base salary of $1 million.

Interestingly enough, Oduya can earn another $1.25 million in performance bonuses (games played, time -on-ice, playoff bonuses), per the Sens’ Twitter account.

The 35-year-old started last season with the Dallas Stars, but he was traded back to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 28.

Oduya finished the 2016-17 season with two goals, seven assists and a minus-4 rating in 52 games. He also played in all four the Blackhawks’ playoff games (he had no points and a minus-3 rating in the postseason).

The Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, and they didn’t replace him with a free-agent signing until now.

As of right now, Ottawa has Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki, Chris Wideman, Fredrik Claesson and Oduya on the back end (only Phaneuf and Karlsson are under contract beyond 2017-18). Top prospect Thomas Chabot could also make the team with a solid training camp.