The 2018 winter Olympics are less than a year out and the NHL still hasn’t announced whether or not they’ll attend. Here’s an insight from an Ottawa Senators perspective.
This isn’t new as it took until the summer before Sochi for the league to come to a decision on attendance. However, this topic is always surrounded in controversy. Some owners have made comments such as the Ted Leonsis of the Washington Capitals. He has made it clear that he would not stand in Alex Ovechkin’s way of going to the Olympics, even if the league chooses not to attend. In Contrast, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk recently came out saying if the league attends he will not condone Erik Karlsson leaving the team so that he can compete.
This is well within his rights as Karlsson is under contract with the Senators. As an explanation, Melnyk cited his fear that Karlsson could be injured in Korea. Specifically he referenced the Olympics in Turin in 2006. At the time the Sens were one of the heavy favorites for the Stanley Cup, but goaltender Dominik Hasek went down in Turin. This resulted in the Sens using Ray Emery for the remainder of the season and playoffs. They lost in the second round. The 2006 team was better than the 2007 team that made the finals and was probably the best chance this team has ever had at a cup. Melnyk doesn’t want to be robbed of another shot at the cup.
All of this is within his rights and he makes some good points. An injury to Karlsson would be devastating to the Senators. The loss of Hasek very well could have lost this team the cup in 2006. It’s not as if this is an uncommon think either. The New York Islanders may have missed the playoffs because of a season injury to John Tavares in 2014.
Reason to be Concerned
The worry with these comments is how they are perceived by Karlsson himself. If Melnyk has already discussed this with Karlsson then it shouldn’t have any impact. However, that’s a huge area of concern with Melnyk. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d be making unprofessional comments that could make members of his team uncomfortable. Last year he publically called out former coach Dave Cameron for decisions he made months earlier. When Cameron was fired he came out saying he felt attacked by Melnyk and that he made things unnecessarily personal.
If Melnyk and Karlsson haven’t discussed this issue already then this could cause problems with their relationship. Karlsson only has two years left on his contract following this season and will need to be re-signed. If Melnyk has alienated Karlsson he may choose to sign elsewhere. With his history of being of being outspoken Sens fans are right to be concerned about the impact of these comments.
Additionally, Melnyk made a comment that he may have let Karlsson go if he was Canadian. While this makes sense from a marketing perspective as the team is based in Canada. It further alienates Karlsson and makes it seem more likely that Melnyk hasn’t talked to his captain about this issue.
The comments made by Melnyk are no issue if there has been communication between him and Karlsson. However, if there haven’t been this could cause complications when it comes to future contract negotiations. Ottawa Senators fans are right to be concerned given his history with being outspoken in the media. A word of caution, we should all refrain from panicking until there is more information.