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.