by Todd Anderson
* Listen here to the full conference call.
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk held a conference call today to address rumours and speculation that change would be coming to the hockey department after a slow start this season. Melnyk stressed that he has the outmost confidence in his crew, one of the more experienced in the NHL.
"The main thing I wanted to get across to everyone today is that I have absolute 150 per cent confidence in our current management team, our coaching staff and our GM John Muckler," said Melnyk during an opening statement before answering questions from the media. "We're 18 games into the season, and nobody is more disappointed than I am that the start was slow, but we've got to remember we're 18 games into this season.
"I have regular contact with John (Muckler) and Roy (Mlakar, Senators president and CEO) to discuss and assess what's going on and what we need to win. These guys are my team - the players, the coaches and the management group - and we're all in it together."
Melnyk, who is also a successful racehorse owner, likened the NHL's 82-game schedule to that sport.
"I look at this as a horse race," he said. "Nobody remembers who was first coming around the first corner at the Kentucky Derby, but everybody remembers who crossed the finish line first.
"For us, what we're looking at is a winning hockey club that's getting itself together, and I believe six months from now we'll be standing there, and there will be 29 other clubs that aren't. We're building a team not only for this year, (for) which we have the same objective every year and that is to win the Stanley Cup, but I think the management group and the hockey operations group, and all of our scouting staff are building for long-term success as well.
"It's pointless to say okay this is the one year that we are going to win. What do you do for the next five? That's why you can't have these knee-jerk reactions and panic reactions. I think the key thing is to take a deep breath, everybody stay calm, and the team will sort itself out."
Melnyk added that it means a lot to him to see how much hockey fans care for their team in Ottawa.
"We have the best fans in this league period, full-stop. What you're seeing now is passion. The opposite, I would get very scared. If nobody cared, if nobody was screaming, if people weren't calling into radio shows, if they weren't sending e-mails, then I'd be worried.
"As far as I'm concerned, this is a good thing. They're into it. They're engaged. It's a very unique set of fans that want to hear what we're doing about things. We're very community-oriented. The fact that they're speaking up is just fine, we want to hear from them."