Al Davis Redux

Sens fans have every reason to thank and worship Eugene Melnyk, after all he saved the franchise from bankrupcy.

Now of course you shouldn’t feel too bad for Mean Gene, he will make a princely sum if he ever sells the team after getting the franchise and the arena at a bargain bin prince in 2003 — debt free.

All that said — and with the Sens coaching decision apparently near a conclusion — the question must be asked. Do we have another Al Davis on our hands?

Davis, for those who don’t follow football, is the colourful yet clinically insane owner of the Oakland Los Angeles Oakland Raiders, who is as well known for his battles with the NFL as he is for battles within his own franchise. He’s a control freak.

Sens fans have to wonder if Davis has a kindred spirit here in the Nation’s Capital.

The comparison comes to mind because of the situation surrounding the Sens coaching vacancy.

It is generally accepted that a man can spend his money however he chooses (I like fried, battered treats), however there is also a well-known axiom in NHL circles that says hockey people should make hockey decisions.

Although I am not a fan of the re-signing of Brain Murray, I will grant that he is a hockey man with impeccable pedigree. He knows the league, the sport and the game well.

While it could be argued that anyone with a Canadian passport is a “hockey person”, the general consensus is that Melnyk is at best a rabid fan with a lot of money — a highly interested and invested observer.

So why is he making hockey decisions?

Kovalev, Gonchar, the ‘300’ spartan guy — all rumoured to have been Melnyk-influenced decisions.

And now we have Dave Cameron, a coach with no NHL experience being foisted upon Murray as “Eugene’s guy”.

Never mind that Cameron has lost not one but three big games in the last six months (OHL Championship, Memorial Cup and World Junior Hockey Championships), it is simply incomprehensible that an owner would put such public pressure on his newly re-upped GM to hire his buddy.

After three straight failures involving coaches with either no NHL experience or no recent NHL experience, why would the Sens hire another inexperienced coach?

And of course you have to feel bad for Murray in this situation. How do you not hire the guy your boss is publicly trumpeting?

That three-year contract extension may come in handy after all.

There are a few examples of meddling owners with success — George Steinbrenner and Jerry Jones come to mind — but generally speaking, having an owner making on-ice or on-field decisions is a recipe for disaster. Melnyk has already proven as much with his rumoured input to date.

Melnyk made his money in pharmaceuticals, not hockey. While Murray may not know the best way to market the newest erectile dysfunction drug (hint: old people looking creepy and satisfied), neither does Melnyk know how to run a hockey team. Mean Gene needs set the budget, communicate the vision and then let his people do their jobs.

If Melnyk wants to directly influence something he should stick to playing the ponies — a much safer way to spend $5 million on a washed up old (Russian) stallion.



Rumours are pretty rampant that Melnyk is very hands-on, and I wonder if that had something to do with the departure of RAM who was known in the office as an incredible control freak - to the point that he would bark at admin staff if their desks had too much on them. While Murray gets the blame for bringing in Hartsburg; I have a feeling that it had more to do with Melnyk's love affair with the Team Canada WJs than anything else. I am sure that Paddock was Murray's man - rewarding him for good service as an assistant. Let's hope that they get this one right. We have swung from the team talking about needing an authoritarian and now the big buzz word is that they need a better communicator.


I'm not even sure how serious Murray ever was about Cameron. He let Melnyk run his mouth but I've never heard one thing uttered by Murray about him. I really think that the Cameron storm was perpetuated by the media because for a long time, there were no other names being mentioned because the Sens hadn't started the interview process yet.


While I appreciate the importance of successful marketing, nothing sells like on-ice success. Obviously, in the Sens' current situation, good marketing is important to keep the team flush with enough cash to allow them to pull the trigger on bringing in expensive talent down the line that will help push them over the edge. But ultimately, people will show up for games if these young prospects pan out and start winning games regardless of how crappy the music or intro videos are. Ottawa is not North Jersey. More to the point, though, Melnyk does have some success in selling a product to certain constituencies. Even if that is only selling his company to investors, he can at least claim to have some knowledge of how to sell stuff to strangers. He can make no similar claims when it comes to evaluating athletes. I'm also encouraged that Cameron's name has apparently dropped off of Ottawa sports pages and that Murray is showing that he can ignore Melnyk's campaigning. We shall see, though..


Ya but Al Davis is a funnier comparison :) I'll get into the marketing aspect in future posts but I actually disagree that it isn't as important. Marketing directly affects revenue which directly affects the on-ice product as well as management's level of comfort with making certain types of hockey decisions. The good news is that the Cameron talk seems to have died down and Murray looks to be ready to make a proper decision not based on his bosses preferences.


"Do we have another Al Davis on our hands?" No. Al Davis was a professional football coach before he moved up to the front office. He's a senile fool who has yet to realize that the game passed him by while he was moving his team up and down Interstate 5. The correct comparison is Daniel Snyder. Or Jerry Jones. Or Mark Cuban. If Murray is so feckless that he re-upped knowing he will have to cede some hockey decisions to a guy who can barely skate, then we are in bigger trouble than we know. Melnyk wants to win. I think he wants that more than he wants to show off his brilliant hockey mind. At some point, those two ideas will collide and he will realize he needs to stfu and let people who actually know the pro game make the decisions. If Murray isn't the guy to tell him no, then we need to be prepared to endure a lot of pain before The Euge is forced to hire someone who will. Just as an aside: I realize that game day production is a sore spot around here, but that complaint isn't nearly at the same level as hockey ops personnel decisions. Melnyk could demand that Tom Green become the franchise's permanent emcee and fan ambassador for all I care so long as the team itself actually wins. If you really needed a 3rd example that badly, then you could have referenced the rumor that he fired a GM who built a Cup Finalist because he didn't go after Gary Roberts.