Written by Tom McCabe (@tmccabe11)
It’s been a rough year for Senators fans and players alike. After nearly advancing to the Stanley Cup final in 2016-2017, the Sens finished the 2017-2018 season with the second worst record in the league. It was a season that saw the team president walk away with virtually no explanation in February, a severe lack of attendance at home games and a public campaign urging owner Eugene Melnyk to sell the team. #MelnykOut billboards appeared throughout the nation’s capital and the idea of a new owner was supported by both the most beloved player in franchise history as well as the mayor of Ottawa. When the mayor of the city that you play in wants you out, it becomes fairly clear things are not going well.
It seemed the offseason would bring a sigh of relief for the hockey club. While there is plenty of work to be done, at least executives don’t need to look over a half-empty arena anymore. The offseason was supposed to provide an opportunity to reflect internally and to hopefully improve. With the 4th overall selection in the upcoming draft and a chance to firm up a new contract with their best player, Erik Karlsson, there was potential to patch a few holes. However, after what has unfolded in the past few weeks, the Senators are nearing rock bottom. Forget patching holes, the Senators snowball of problems has gained so much momentum it rolled right off a cliff-a complete renovation is in order.
I’m not even sure where to start. How about with assistant GM Randy Lee? Earlier this month, it was reported that Lee had been arrested in Buffalo after harassing a 19-year-old shuttle driver. Lee was in town for the NHL pre-draft combine and reportedly requested to sit shotgun on the way back to his hotel. During the ride, Lee then began making lecherous comments to the driver while touching his shoulders. Upon arrival at the hotel, Lee made a final comment about his family jewels to the driver in addition to a few other vulgar statements before wandering back to his room. The driver has since obtained a order of protection against Lee as Katie Strang of the Athletic reported a few days ago.
The timing for this isn’t exactly fantastic. As GM of the Belleville Senators and assistant GM for the big club, Lee would be needed at the draft on June 22. It just so happens June 22 is the first date that Lee is scheduled to appear in court. There are some reports that the date may be changed, which would allow Lee to be present for the draft. Regardless, I don’t think it would be a great look to have a man who appears to inappropriately enjoy 19-year-old boys to be at an event where he would help select 19-year-old boys for his hockey team. Or a great look to have said man remain connected with the team throughout the court proceedings. But hey, the Sens need some young talent and someones going to have be at the draft table. My vote is to bring Spartacat.
Then, there’s the separate and perhaps much more serious issue between the longtime girlfriend of Mike Hoffman, Monika Caryk and Melinda Karlsson, Erik’s wife. Earlier this week, Melinda filed an application for a peace bond against Caryk. Why? Because according to the Karlssons, Caryk had been responsible for over 1,000 hateful, derogatory and negative comments directed at Melinda and Erik dating back several months from fake social media accounts. Melinda Karlsson stated Caryk had been “wishing my unborn child dead” and also that Caryk wished for someone to take out Erik Karlsson’s legs and end his career. While Hoffman and Caryk have passionately denied these allegations, it’s hard to believe the Karlssons would take this step without some strong and credible belief it was in fact Caryk behind these comments.
It will take a proper investigation to determine whether or not Caryk was responsible for the remarks. Regardless, it’s going to be pretty difficult to convince Karlsson to re-enter the Senators locker room if Hoffman is still present. There were already plenty of trade rumours surrounding Karlsson at the trade deadline this past season. Factor in the multitude of other problems surrounding the team, it would not be a surprise to hear that the Karlssons are seeking a change of scenery.
So lets recap: Two of your three best players now can’t be in the same room together. Your assistant GM will likely miss part of the draft to appear in court for sexually harassing a 19-year-old boy. The mayor, fans and Alfie are pleading for a new owner and your arena is empty because it’s still unaccessible to many fans who actually live in Ottawa and it will take years before a new arena may even be ready.
I hate to sound overly dramatic, but I truly hope this is rock bottom for the Sens, and not only because of my Leafs loyalty. I hope this is rock bottom because if this isn’t as bad as it gets, I would really hate to see what rock bottom looks like.
Which leaves me with only one thing left to say.