Your Ottawa Senators are off for a couple days while the All-Star Game goes on in Carolina. With Erik Karlsson being the only member of the Senators going to the show, the rest of the team will get a chance to reflect on the season so far, and look ahead to the final 32 games of the season.
With fingers being pointed at players. coaches and management, owner Eugene Melnyk finally came forward to speak out about the season so far and the plans going forward. He spoke about four areas of the team and where they are headed in the future.
1. Coaching: Melnyk gave Coach Cory Clouston a vote of confidence and assured everybody that he will finish out the year as coach of the Ottawa Senators. This vote of confidence does not mean that Clouston’s contract has been, or will be re-newed. It just means that Melnyk does not want to pay another coach not to work for him. Still considered a rookie coach in the league and still trying to learn how to manage big egos stars, Clouston will coach the last 32 games of the season and hope he can showcase his talents so he can find another gig in the summer. Don’t be surprised to see Clouston land an assistant coaching position with another NHL team as his task-master approach is well suited for that position.
2. GM: Melnyk also gave General Manager Byran Murray a vote of confidence and assured everybody that he will finish out the year as GM of the Ottawa Senators. This vote of confidence does not mean that Muray’s contract has been, or will be re-newed, but it also does not mean Murray will be gone in the summer. Melnyk and Murray have a strong relationship and Murray will be shown the up-most respect to any decisions made about his future with the organization. Will he be given one more chance this summer, or will he be moved into an advisory position is still unknown at this point.
Going into the franchise’s most important off-season, where big money is coming off the books, and there is the potential to land an impact player through the draft, should Melnyk trust Murray to handle this big job?
3. Rebuild: From the press conference with Melnyk, it was confirmed that the organization is headed toward a rebuild. Believing that the organization has a number of prospects not that far away from becoming every day NHL’ers, the team believes there could be a quick rebuild to get this team back to being competitive. Looking at current rebuilding teams (ie: Toronto and Edmonton), rebuilds don’t go as planned and will take a few years. Maybe management is trying to lessen the blow to an already fragile fan base by selling them about up- and coming prospects.
No direct plans were revealed about the rebuild path, but management stated that they have a plan and are now moving forward with it. First stage in every rebuild is to evaluate the team’s current roster and deem who should stay and who can help in the rebuild.
4. Players: All players have now been told they are playing for jobs next year. Management stated all but two players (Alfredsson and Karlsson) are safe. The rest can be had for a price, and in some cases, a bag of pucks (Kovalev and Kuba). All potential UFA’s can be considered gone with Chris Phillips being the only one that may stick around. Who will stay and be part of the rebuild, and who will be moved to help with the rebuild are the decisions that will be made between now and the February 28th trade deadline.
Now that we know Ottawa is now in a rebuild mode, what can fans look forward to? The trade deadline will be the first time in a long time that the Senators will be considered sellers. Who gets traded and for what will be fun to watch. And this summer will be huge as this team will look for a new coach, possibly a new GM, and most importantly, a new identity. Get ready Sens fans, the next few months will be an exciting time in Ottawa.