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Changes may be coming for Senators

Ottawa owner Melnyk says 'nobody is safe' with likelihood of missing playoffs

by Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Correspondent

Mar 22: Eugene Melnyk

Mar 22: Eugene Melnyk

Sens Owner Eugene Melnyk speaks to media and shares his thoughts on the team's performance this season

  • 08:11 •

OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk blamed inconsistency among other reasons for his team likely missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

He vowed changes will be coming on and off the ice during the offseason.

The Senators entered their game Tuesday against the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET; CSN-DC, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV) seven points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

"No idea. Bryan (Murray, general manager) and I sit there and just nod our head," Melnyk said. "We can't get it. We get it now. I remember back in December some of those games, three in a row that we lost by a goal we were leading. It was inconsistency and some stupidity.

"I go back to the very first game. You put in the second goalie; what was that about? On opening night and the guy gets clobbered. It's not fair to him, not fair to the fans. It's just a lot of little tiny mistakes that all of a sudden escalate and get serious and get in people's heads and the next thing you know … some days they look like Stanley Cup champs and then they look like [American Hockey League] players. We've got to make some changes, I know that."

The Senators started rookie goaltender Matt O'Connor in his first NHL game in their home opener against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 11 and lost 3-1. O'Connor made 31 saves.

Melnyk made the comments during a media conference where fans were asked to donate hockey memorabilia for an exhibition marking the Senators' 25th season in 2017.

When asked to describe the 2015-16 season, he said: "Just a total roller coaster of hope and despair is the best way to put it. Inconsistency is the best way to describe it. We just never got into that groove. We'd win two in a row and all of a sudden everyone lights up and then we'd dump a stupid one. I don't think we ever had a streak of any significance."

Melnyk, who had a liver transplant in May 2015, said he remains hopeful the Senators could make another late-season rush to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season the Senators went 23-4-4 to finish the regular season and clinch a playoff spot.

"Yeah, it's going to be tough," Melnyk said. "I, if anybody, should believe in miracles. I missed last year's miracle. Until it's over, it's not over. It's looking pretty bleak right now. Frankly I am disappointed in where we are. We shouldn't be here. We had a lot bigger aspirations, but we are where we are and we're going to have to make changes for next year."

Melnyk was asked specifically about the future of coach Dave Cameron.

"I'm looking at all of it, right across the board," he said. "Nobody is safe when you have a year like we just did. The status quo would just get us there again next year and this team cannot survive not making the playoffs.

"We have to do it by guts, we have to do it by hard work, and we can get there. That's what we need to do. Nothing more. You can't just throw money at these things. We all know other teams that would just throw money at things for decades and they've gotten nowhere. We need to do it a different way and I think we are."

Melnyk scoffed at the idea of raising payroll to better insure a winning team.

"That's baloney. Absolute baloney," he said. "We throw $68 million U.S. at this. That's our payroll. Let's get that straight. Which puts us way up there, way over budget. We tried to do anything. If there was a single player we could have added, two or three, we would have added them and Bryan knows that. But he just couldn't find anything that was worthwhile, never mind paying for them."

Murray's future as general manager is uncertain as he continues his battle against Stage 4 colon cancer. He could return next season as the full-time GM or take an advisory role.

"It's the same answer I had for you back in December," Melnyk said. "It's day-to-day. We're grooming people. We're looking.

"I think after this season is done, then you sit back and say OK. You'll see fallouts everywhere. There are going to be a lot of changes in the NHL, coaching and general managers. Right now I leave it to Bryan, if he wants to. We're about to go through in the next 14 months some really tough decisions in hockey that could change the whole complexion of a lot of teams."

Cameron, asked about Melnyk's comments, said he was disappointed with how the season has turned out for the Senators too.

"I think everybody associated with this team is disappointed when you're outside the playoffs," Cameron said. "That's the owner's prerogative. He pays the bills. He's the man that's put the money on the line. He has a right to make changes. That's solely up to him. If he's going to make changes, he's going to make them."

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