Eugene Melnyk pledges rebuild in letter to Senators fans

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is promising sweeping changes to rebuild the team, and reaffirming his commitment to keep it in Ottawa — specifically, at a new arena on LeBreton Flats.

Sens owner promises return to form as disastrous season draws to close

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told fans no one is more with the team's disappointing season than he is. (CBC)

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is promising sweeping changes to rebuild the team, and reaffirming his commitment to keep it in Ottawa — specifically, at a new arena on LeBreton Flats.

In a letter emailed Thursday to season ticket holders, Melnyk acknowledges the current season has been a disaster, at least on the ice.

"Trust me, no one is more aware of this — and more frustrated by it — than I am," he wrote.

The Senators currently sit second-last in the Eastern Conference, and have won only three of their last 10 games.

"Enduring a tough year has given us a chance for clear-eyed evaluation," Melnyk wrote. "This is an ongoing process but I can tell you one thing: we are not looking to just tweak our lineup nor mortgage our future for stop-gap solutions."

Melynk reminded fans that the team was a single goal away from making the Stanley Cup finals last season, and said the organization is determined to reclaim its rightful position.

"I have every intention of rebuilding the Senators to become the finest team in the NHL," he wrote.

Younger, faster players 

Melnyk promised the team is on the hunt for "younger, faster and more skilled" players, but made no specific mention of captain Erik Karlsson's future with the team.

Karlsson was widely rumoured to be on the trading block ahead of this week's NHL trade deadline, but ended up remaining with the team.

Frustrated Sens fans have been taking their anger out on Melnyk in recent months. The situation came to a boil in the buildup to the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game when the owner complained of having to "beg" fans to buy tickets, and hinted at the possibility of relocating the team.

In February a GoFundMe page looking to raise money to buy a "#MelnykOut" billboard reached its goal in under 24 hours.

"The passion of our fans in the Ottawa community is unlike any other in the NHL. As an owner, that is the most important thing of all," Melnyk wrote Thursday.

"That's why we are looking to improve every aspect of the Ottawa fan experience. And, of course, we continue to work towards realizing our vision for LeBreton Flats."

Rebuild trust, PR expert advises

Liam Mooney, CEO of Jackpine Dynamic Branding in Ottawa, said Melnyk needs to re-establish the trust of fans.

"Fans don't want a letter, they want action. They want a plan. Placating passionate fans with buzzwords and PR speak is not going to work," said Mooney.

Fans don't want a letter, they want action. They want a plan.- Liam Mooney, CEO Jackpine Dynamic Branding

"He needs to invest in players, the experience, and the city ... Melnyk needs to take action, be positive, and build excitement with a concrete, fan-first plan. Do that and the Senators will be a positive, exciting brand again. It's that simple."

Mooney has even come up with a sample plan for Melnyk:

  • Apologize immediately and directly to Senators fans for the comments he made at the outdoor game.
  • Immediately sign Erik Karlsson to a long-term contract.
  • Expand hockey operations with a vision to developing the best scouting team in the NHL.
  • Lower parking prices at Canadian Tire Centre.
  • Boost payroll. 
  • Promote the charitable and philanthropic activities of the Sens Foundation.
  • Plumb hot water into the non-luxury suite bathrooms.

One final bit of advice for Melnyk: In the world of branding and image, perception is reality and words are empty, Mooney said.