The Ottawa Senators are hoping to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season with an even brighter future the next three seasons, owner Eugene Melnyk said Sunday.
“Everybody’s on the same page to try to be competitive,” he said during an appearance on The Bob McCown Podcast. “I think our fans would really, really enjoy to see us in the playoffs this year. And then once you get to the playoffs, we all say, you know, then anything can happen.
“I think our big years are coming in the next three years.”
Melnyk said he understands progress won’t come overnight. The Senators had a .437 points percentage last season (25-34-12), finishing 15th in the Eastern Conference. They have not made the playoffs since reaching Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final. Since then, they are 82-124-29, second worst in the NHL behind the Detroit Red Wings (79-128-28).
“I think this coming year, we will be competitive,” he said. “We’re still trying to grow. We’ve got a lot of young players, and there’s no sense in rushing them. You can tell me examples of teams that have rushed players, and the next thing you know is they’ve never fully developed, right?
“What are you going to do? Are you going to take a guy, a kid, that’s 20 years old, 21, he could be a star, are you going to put him up against [Sidney] Crosby? Really, is that what you want to do? That’s how you’re going to develop them? Or are you going to put them on the third line, playing eight minutes? What I’m saying is that we’re in that mode of still developing. Yet the mandate is we want to be a competitive playoff team. And that’s not easy to do.”
Ottawa’s core includes Brady Tkachuk, a 21-year-old forward selected No. 4 in the 2018 NHL Draft, and Thomas Chabot, a 23-year-old defenseman entering his fourth full NHL season. The Senators had three first-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft and selected forward Tim Stuetzle (No. 3), defenseman Jake Sanderson (No. 5) and forward Ridly Greig (No. 28).
They acquired those picks by trading several of their top players over the past three seasons, including two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson, as well as forwards Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Ryan Dzingel, Matt Duchene, Derick Brassard and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Melnyk said he’s excited to see some of the veterans brought in this offseason, including two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Matt Murray, defenseman Erik Gudbranson, and forwards Evgenii Dadonov and Alex Galchenyuk.
“We’re building for something,” he said. “We’re focused on a plan that we’ll win a Stanley Cup. That’s the long game. And that’s the long game I’m playing. I committed to playing that play three years ago.
“I think history will show that this was a plan that was put together that has never been done before. Nobody’s ever trashed a team like we have. (We) cut our top six guys. Do that to any team and see what happens to them.”
Melnyk said he is encouraged with the progress being made by Stuetzle, who had arm surgery Oct. 15 after training with Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga and was expected to be out 6-8 weeks.
“He’s already skating around,” Melnyk said. “If you’re going to get an injury, it was a good time to do it. It was one of these injuries that’s very predictable, so Tim’s going to be fine.”