Ottawa Senators owner expects more from team – and so do the fans

Better Luck Next Year: Ottawa Senators on outside looking in
WATCH ABOVE: Looking back at a lost season for the Ottawa Senators who failed to qualify for the NHL's playoffs. Mike LeCouteur reports.

OTTAWA – At this time of year hope springs eternal, unless you’re an Ottawa Senators fan.

As the so-called Sens Army flocked to Canadian Tire Place for fan appreciation the night before the team’s tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins, there was a feeling of disappointment and resignation.

“They bit the dust, they died what else can I say?” said one fan draped in red.

Well, there’s a lot to say for this season and the man who controls the purse strings of the team made it clear two weeks ago, that he expects more.

“It was inconsistency and some stupidity”, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told a throng of reporters March 22. “I go back to the very first game and you put in the second goalie? Like what was that about on opening night?”

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Melnyk feels rookie goalie Matthew O’Connor was tossed to the wolves in the home opener against division rival Montreal Canadiens. The Senators lost that game 3-1.

The team’s owner never pulls any punches and made it clear, a shake-up is coming in the off-season. “No one is safe when you have a year like we did,” he said.

Ottawa Sun reporter Bruce Garrioch has been on the Senators beat since “day one.” He doesn’t blame Melnyck, but he summed up the season simply: “I think it’s abysmal failure.”

The veteran writer points out the team only put together two four-game winning streaks this season and none of the magic from the end of last season spilled over into this one.

“Andrew Hammond couldn’t get his magic back. Craig Anderson tried to save them, he couldn’t do it. Erik Karlsson is one of the best player’s in the league, the players around him couldn’t do it.”

Karlsson will likely finish the year as one of the NHL’s Top 10 scoring leaders, but it’s another defenseman that fans were talking about this year.

Senators fans worst nightmare came true Feb. 9, as they were forced to cheer for a sworn enemy – Dion Phaneuf. The 30-year old came to the nation’s capital in a nine-player deal to solidify the blue line.

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While some fans are taking their time to warm up to the NHL veteran, his number 2 Senators T-shirt has been a hot commodity.

“We go his jersey that morning [of the trade] and about a week later we got the T-shirts,” said Sens Store retail manager Christopher Thompson. “It’s hard to keep them in stock so far.”

Phaneuf didn’t bring the spark Sens fans had been hoping for, but there is a small silver lining in this season of disappointment. While the Ottawa Senators won’t make the playoffs, they finished the season ahead of every other Canadian team, prompting one fan to say:

“That makes me feel pretty good cause it’s like, we don’t suck as much as you guys do!”

“Better Luck Next Year” is a week-long series airing on Global National looking at the impact of Canada’s Stanley Cup playoff drought on the teams, the fans and the seven cities home to NHL teams. Watch Global National at 6:30 p.m. ET/AT and 5:30 p.m. MT/PT.

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WATCH: More stories from Global National’s “Better Luck Next Year” series