Ottawa, Ont.- Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk’s comments about the depth of the Ottawa Senators was nothing more than a marketing ploy to get fans to come back to Scotiabank. What brought the ire of media outlets across Canada, especially in Toronto and Montreal, was Melnyk’s comments that the other 29 teams in the NHL “Are jealous of the depth that the Senators have”.
Melynk’s comments were an attempt to excite the fan base and get people back into the seats at Scotiabank. In a small market like Ottawa this is no small task. Unlike Montreal and Toronto who are both four to five times bigger than Ottawa, the loss of even half of their season ticket holders can easily be replaced by a long line of hockey fans waiting for their turn to buy season’s tickets. For small markets like Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton a loss of even 1/5th of their fan base would be devastating. Small market teams simply have to work harder to appease their fan base.
Survey’s taken recently suggested that over 2/3rds of Canadians didn’t care if the NHL came back this year. This could spell doom for a small market team. Melynk’s comments were simply meant to excite his fan base. In fact, if you take a look at his comments, there is a lot of truth to what he said. Although I’m sure that most teams aren’t jealous of another team’s prospects, the Senators do have a wealth of depth and future prospects in their organization.
Rated as having some of the best prospects in their organization by the hockey news a couple of years ago, some of the these prospects have already made an impact with the Senators. Picked by almost all pundits to finish dead last in the NHL last year, the Senators started a number of rookies and managed to not only make the playoffs but they came within a whisker of defeating the Eastern leading New York Rangers, losing in seven games. Those Rangers then went on to lose in the Conference finals falling one game short of making the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Senators youth is led by Norris winning defenseman Erik Karlsson. Rookies Colin Greening, Erik Condra and Kaspars Daugavins made positive impacts last season, playing solid two-way games. Zack Smith emerged as a solid force in the middle last year, along with Jim O’Brien who added solid minutes. Through in the likes of forwards Mark Stone, Canada’s best player at the world juniors a year ago and first round picks Mika Zibanejad and Jacob Silverberg, who most experts agree is ready to play in the NHL now and the Senators have a wealth of talent up front.
On the back-end, the Senators have three young defenseman who are ready to crack the big club, including Patrick Wiercioch and Mark Borowiecki. Both players will get a chance to crack the lineup because of the loss of Jared Cowen to a season ending injury. Cowen, was one of the brightest young defensive talents in the NHL last season.
On the goaltending front a battle will take place between prospects Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner, who both played great for the Senators last year seeing limited action. So Melynk’s comments are really not as far-fetched as they seem. The future could be bright in Ottawa.
The NHL season resumes Saturday, after a lockout which lasted 113 days, when the Senators visit Winnipeg to play the Jets.