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#MelnykOut billboards go up in Ottawa as Senators fans urge change

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The billboards in Brooklyn want the general manager out. The billboards in Ottawa, which went up Monday morning, are calling for the owner to sell.

As the dissatisfaction with the state of the franchise continues to intensify, Ottawa Senators fans have come together to purchase four billboards calling for Eugene Melnyk to get “out.”

The campaign was started by Spencer Callaghan, who raised $5,000 in the first 24 hours after the GoFundMe page was opened.

“What I want to accomplish mainly is for people to just start asking questions, like why is this organization in such turmoil,” Callaghan told CTV News in February. “It’s at the point where if we need a change of ownership to get this organization back on track then that’s what we need to push for.”

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the four billboards will be up for two weeks and a fifth will go up for one week on April 2.

It’s been a strange year in Senators land. They went from being within a goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final to having their owner threaten to move the team to then having him walk that back a few months later to now looking at the NHL draft lottery and coming to the realization that captain Erik Karlsson may be dealt in the off-season.

So you can see why they might be ready for some change.

Meanwhile, it will be a very interesting off-season for the New York Islanders. They are going to miss the playoffs for a second straight season and have to worry about whether John Tavares will decide to re-sign with the organization. Fans upset with GM Garth Snow’s lack of progress with the franchise put up their own billboards in February calling for his removal. Head coach Doug Weight doesn’t seem to have any answers, so will ownership decide to clean house and start fresh as the franchise begins to split games between Barclays Center and a renovated Nassau Coliseum next season as they wait for their new home to be built near Belmont Park?

If the campaigns in Ottawa and New York succeed by reaching their ultimate goals, how much of an inspiration will they be for other fanbases who are sick and tired of the lack of direction with their teams?

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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.

Eugene Melnyk writes to fans, commits to keeping Senators in Ottawa

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If you’re still listening, Ottawa Senators fans, your owner has a message for you.

Eugene Melnyk wants you to know that things are going to change, that the future looks better than the grim picture Melnyk is responsible for painting.

Senators fans will remember that just a few months ago, it was the same Melnyk writing fans on Thursday that threatened to move the team if disaster struck.

This season for Ottawa has been nothing short of a disaster, but Melnyk was singing a different tune in a letter sent out to season ticket holders and fans on Thursday.

“When I came on board, the Ottawa Senators were in deep financial trouble,” Melnyk wrote. “Together, with your support, we brought this team back to life and we have had Canada’s most successful NHL on-ice performance over the past 15 years. Backed by Ottawa fans and the entire community, I have demonstrated my commitment to giving you the best possible team over and over again. Today, I am just as committed to the Ottawa Senators and to keeping them in the City of Ottawa, as I was in 2003.”

The letter is a lot of what you’d expect from an owner of a struggling team trying to make sure season ticket renewals go as smoothly as possible for a team stuck in 29th place in the NHL, just months removed from being a goal away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

Melnyk reminded fans that the team wasn’t far away from competing for hockey’s holy grail. He went into roster changes at the trade deadline, plans to improve the fan experience and getting the Senators back to winning ways.

“This has been a disappointing season for our team,” Melnyk said in the letter. “Our place in the standings speaks for itself. Trust me, no one is more aware of this — and more frustrated by it — than I am.”

Maybe.

Let’s remember, however, that Senators fans are willing to not only shell out their hard-earned money to watch the atrocity play out on the ice, they’re also willing to spend thousands to erect a billboard showing their immense frustration for Melnyk.

The letter’s biggest omission, however, is the lack of Erik Karlsson‘s name.

The team’s best player, one of the league’s top defenseman, and a player that’s been so horribly mismanaged by the club, to the horror of its fans, is nowhere to be found in Melnyk’s thoughts to his fans.

That’s rough.

The little hope that Senators fans have left remaining is planted in Karlsson’s future. Melnyk failing to commit to repairing that relationship and trying to re-sign a player that is nothing short of a generational talent makes everything else seem superficial.

Time will tell if Melnyk can restore the Senators from being the league’s laughingstock.

But it’s hard not to imagine that fans wouldn’t have rather read a letter from Melnyk that apologized for the shambles it’s currently in; a letter that told the truth to fans, that he has failed the organization, its players, and its dedicated fanbase.

Ottawa deserves that, at the very least.

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

The Buzzer: Eichel hat trick, Schneider robbery, Gaborik’s 1,000th game

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Players of the Night: 

Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres: Eichel ended a four-game goal-less drought with some authority on Friday. After scoring in the first period, Eichel watched as his Sabres blew a 2-1 lead to trail 4-2 with 10 minutes to go. Eichel then turned on overdrive, scoring twice in 10 seconds to tie the game and force overtime. Sadly, his efforts were in vain as the Carolina Hurricanes got the winner 2:15 into the extra frame. It’s Eichel’s first career NHL hat trick.

Brian Boyle, New Jersey Devils: What an inspirational story Boyle has been this year. On Friday, Boyle scored twice, including the game winner, to bring his goal total to eight on the season. His second of the night was also his 100th of his career.

Highlights of the Night:

Eichel showed a good bit of patience on his hat trick goal:

Cory Schneider committed robbery on this save:

Sam Gagner scored on a pretty backhand deke to give the Vancouver Canucks the win in overtime, ending a four-game losing streak:

Factoid of the Night: 

MISC: 

Scores: 

Hurricanes 5, Sabres 4 (OT)

Devils 5, Stars 2

Rangers 4, Kings 2

Red Wings 3, Maple Leafs 1

Canucks 4, Sharks 3 (OT)


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

Melnyk threatens to move Senators if ‘disaster strikes’

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If you’re looking for someone to spoil an upcoming function, you may want to give Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk a call.

On the eve of the Senators’ outdoor game against the Montreal Canadiens at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, and on the night when Ottawa’s greats from yesteryear took the ice with Parliament Hill as a backdrop, Melnyk did his best to steal the spotlight from the NHL 100 Classic on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters, Melnyk threatened to pull the plug in Ottawa and relocate the team if disaster struck.

“If it becomes a disaster, yes,” Melnyk said. “If you start not seeing crowds showing up, yes. But, for now, we are on the cusp of doing OK.”

The doom and gloom continued, with Melnyk suggesting he isn’t going to waste a “lifetime of working hard” to support the Senators.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “The bigger question is whether I’m prepared to blow all that money I made over many years in a different industry in a different country. How long can you underwrite a team?”

Melnyk reiterated that he’s not looking to sell the team, a statement he made earlier this week in the Ottawa Sun, and used McDonald’s as an example on Friday. 

“It won’t. It just won’t happen,” he said. “It’s a franchise. Imagine if you own a McDonald’s franchise, but you can move it. But why would you sell it? It’s something that’s very difficult to buy.

We’re doing OK here. Not great, but we’re doing OK. It’s just too much fun. What else do you do? I’m a Canadian. I’m a hockey fan, fanatically a hockey fan, and I couldn’t think of anything better to do.”

Melnyk said the Senators have “cut everything to the bone,” saying the Senators have one of the thinnest management groups in the league.

“We want to keep and maintain great players,” he said. “You can’t keep spending at the top end and getting the lowest revenues. It doesn’t work.”

According to CapFriendly, the Senators are at just over $73 million in projected cap space.

Melnyk called the Senators disaster on the ice this season a “crappy streak” that every team goes through.

“We have way too much talent with this team not to perform,” he said.

When asked if his comments on Friday could take away from the luster of the event taking place in Canada’s capital this weekend, Melnyk said no.

“It keeps the newspapers selling and the radio people listening,” he said.


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

Report: Sens’ Murray to retire after next season

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According to the CBC, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray plans to retire after next season.

Murray, who is battling Stage 4 colon cancer, is currently in the middle of preparing for next month’s NHL Draft.

“I’m not as energized as I once was, but age has a little to do with that as well as the sickness,” said Murray.

The 72-year-old has one more year remaining on his contract. He expects to shift to an advisor role following the 2015-16 season.

“[I like the idea] of sharing some knowledge to the young people that will eventually take over here and help as much as I can rebuild this hockey team to a contending hockey team,” Murray said.

Murray will be responsible for finding his replacement.

“All Eugene (Melnyk) said to me was, ‘you’re going to pick the next guy, Bryan. Work with me on it, but you come up with when you’re going to transfer it over’,” said Murray said in January.

Murray has been the club’s general manager since June 2007.

Related: Sens’ Murray hopes to bring cancer awareness