The Bad Takes Will Continue Until Morale Improves

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Graphic design is my passion.

Remember February? Remember the organizational turmoil and Erik Karlsson trade rumours? “Could this get any worse?” we asked ourselves. “Yes”, apparently is the answer. Not only have we not hit rock bottom, but rock bottom isn’t even in sight as the news out of Kanata keeps plumbing new depths of awful like one of those Youtube videos that just keeps zooming in on a piece of a fractal.

The common factor of across the stories is a complete lack of leadership at the top of the organization. A decisive org would have nipped any Karlsson trade rumours in the bud before they had a chance to turn into a circus. A decisive org would have also put Randy Lee on leave after his arrest. Maybe this is just my delicate sensibilities talking, but I don’t feel like ALLEGEDLY grabbing a person while making comments about your genitals while on a work trip is the sort of thing that should be ignored by the organization you were representing at the time. Not only is Randy Lee not on leave, the Senators haven’t even had the good sense to act embarrassed by the whole thing, instead hiring The Official Lawyer of Scumbag Celebrities. Being embarrassed, apparently, is left to the fans. (Ed. Note: three minutes after publishing this, Pierre Dorion announced Randy Lee had been suspended pending the outcome of his trial.)

I have little to say about the campaign of cyber-bullying ALLEGEDLY carried out by Mike Hoffman’s finance, Monika Caryk, against Erik and Melinda Karlsson other than to say that it’s horrifying. To be honest, I’m not completely sure what the Senators should have done after finding out about the harassment, but I don’t think letting Hoffman and Karlsson handle it themselves was the correct answer.

So yeah, things are extremely messed up and the reasons why are pretty obvious to anyone who is paying attention even slightly. However, the mess that is the Ottawa Senators has now drawn a crowd, and the crowd is not always paying attention even slightly.

With this sudden infamy come The Takes.

Oh how I loathe The Takes.

How I loathe the drive-by opinioning by media scrubs who would rather fart out any half-baked take than try to be thoughtful, because fuck it, it’s just the internet.

How I loathe the presumption that whatever said media scrubs have to say will be edifying to, not only the public, but to Sens fans in general as if we’re not all intimately acquainted with what the real problem is in Ottawa.

To wit, here’s some garbage from Dave Lozo, who submitted a bold “Might as well just move the team” take yesterday afternoon.

Some choice cuts:

A National Hockey League team in Ottawa. It was a fun experiment. We had a lot of good times. Well, a few good times. Actually, I’m sure a good time occurred even though I can’t pinpoint a specific moment. That time Damian Rhodes bleached his hair, maybe? But maybe it’s time to say goodbye. It’s the best thing for everyone.

Strong move coming out of the gate with as dickish a dismissal as possible of both the franchise’s existence and (modest) success. Let’s see you write the same paragraph about the Florida Panthers, coward.

Sometimes when you love something, you have to let it die so everyone can move forward with their lives. The situation commonly manifests itself in the form of a terminally ill grandparent, an extremely old pet or anything since season three of Arrested Development.

Incredibly topical reference, dude.

Fighting to keep the Ottawa Senators alive is selfish. They can’t go on living like this, if you can call this living. If you really care about their happiness, you will sign the papers, kiss them on the forehead and stand outside the room as Gary Bettman grants them the sweet release of eternity.

Don’t you think that seems a little drastic? If only there were some second option that would allow the team to remove the parts of the management structure that are plaguing it without having Gary Bettman handle a lethal injection. Some sort of legal transfer of ownership, perhaps? 🤔🤔🤔🤔

And this is all during and after a 67-point season with attendance plummeting to its lowest levels since 1996-97, a sign fans already had enough. If you look inside your heart, Senators fans, you know what needs to be done; you just need the courage to do it.

Why does this guy want me to Old Yeller my own hockey team? (see, THAT’S how you do a topical reference)

That leaves likely offer sheet target Mark Stone and pending unrestricted free agent Matt Duchene counting down the days until they are no longer Senators. Yeah, offer sheets are about as rare as sell-out crowds in Ottawa, but you have to believe Stone is telling his agent to whisper into teams’ ears that he’d be happy to sign one to escape Ottawa.

How is this idea still a thing? What offer sheet is Mark Stone going to sign that Ottawa won’t match? As if the only thing Ottawa can offer at this time is three sticks of gum and it’s only going to take $7MM and some draft picks to pry Stone out of Ottawa. Eugene Melnyk may be hurting financially, but Ottawa has a long and established history of paying players what they’re worth at this point. They can’t pay them all, but they pay the ones they keep.

But guess what! Travis Yost posted a story Thursday afternoon that makes the case that the Senators may have their very own renegade Twitter account being run by someone inside the organization.

Oh you mean the account that’s run by a random crank from the Dobber Hockey boards? Great research skills ya got there, you hack.

Some of this isn’t the organization’s fault but so much of it starts at the top with Melnyk, and if he’s there in perpetuity, why should fans expect anything to change?

Finally something sensible.

And if by some miracle the Senators do everything right in the coming weeks and months with their image issues, they still must trade their best defenseman and arguably their best forward. If Melnyk was hemorrhaging money and strapped with immense debt before this season, how does that get better a year from now? Why would he want to continue sinking money into an unprofitable team?

Lozo comes so agonizingly close to cogent analysis here. Indeed, it seems increasingly more unlikely that Melnyk will be willing or able to float a team whose operational losses continue to mount as fans check out. One of the reasons I have not been a particularly vocal supporter of the #MelnykOut movement was due to my private belief that if one wants Eugene Melnyk to sell the Senators, all you have to do is wait.

Back to the nonsense at hand. Having established that

1. Melnyk selling is the only way forward.
2. Melnyk cannot sustain operational losses indefinitely

Lozo then goes on to ignore these facts entirely to get back to his original thesis: it’s good if the Ottawa Senators relocate.

But if Melnyk won’t go, death is the best option. You don’t owe Melnyk anything. You are not obligated to dedicate your time, money, and sanity to something that so clearly doesn’t care about you or icing the best possible team. Find your way to the acceptance stage. Let the Senators go. Houston. Quebec. Kansas City. There are worse things that can happen to a fan than a team relocating.

This guy has such an obsession with killing the Senators that he ignores the logic of his previous 3 paragraphs and just invents a universe where it’s good and logical that Sens fans are forced to go without hockey. Never mind the fact that relocation is a drastic step that Bettman would almost certainly never allow. Never mind that the Carolinas and Arizonas of the world appear set to enjoy hockey in perpetuity regardless of transient market pressures. The Senators will have to move because, well, the owner is a huge wad. You know, that’s why the Los Angeles Clippers moved. And why the existence of Harold Ballard forced the relocation of the Toronto Maple Leafs. And why the only way to save New York basketball from James Dolan is by moving the Knicks. This is analysis by and for clowns. It should be ignored with extreme prejudice, except for when it should be mercilessly skewered and mocked.

In conclusion, the Ottawa has an NHL franchise essentially by accident. We should cling to it tightly, even as we temporarily wave goodbye to our emotional and monetary investment during these troubled times. I’ll be damned if I’m going to lose a battle of wills to Eugene Melnyk. My will is endless, and his bank account is extremely not.

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Guest Post: The 2017-18 Ottawa Senators as WWE Wrestlers

Ed. Note: Every so often, we at Welcome to your Scarfo Years like to adopt a guest post so that we can care for it like our very own. A few weeks ago Friend of the Blog, Bragg AKA @Braggzilla, asked “What if the Ottawa Senators were WWE Wrestlers?” and I said “You should write a blog about it” and now that blog is here just in time for Wrestlemania and we are all richer for it. You can try checking Bragg out on twitter, but he has a locked account so he might not let you.

Bake it away, Tragg!

The 2017-18 Ottawa Senators as WWE Wrestlers

If you’re a normal person reading this, your awareness of WrestleMania likely starts and ends with “that’s a thing that exists, and I think Hulk Hogan used to be on it.” If you’re like me, and not a normal person, you know that today is WrestleMania Eve, and you are HYPED for that A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura rematch from their 4.75 star classic in the Tokyo Dome in 2016! Either way; you, an Ottawa Senators fan, could use a little levity as this garbage dump season reaches its miserable, stupid conclusion. In the spirit of distracting ourselves from this Hockey Hell, and the spirit of my Christmas (WrestleMania); here are your 2017-18 Ottawa Senators as WWE wrestlers!

Mark Stone – AJ Styles

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Remember the Mark Stone/Auston Matthews tweet that turned Ontario Hockey Twitter upside down for a few hours? AJ Styles is the pro wrestling equivalent of that. While beloved by the good and righteous people (WWE: dorks on the internet/NHL: Ottawa Senators fans) who appreciate their talents; neither Styles or Stone have gotten the full recognition their abilities warrant because they appear on television shows that cater to an audience without fully developed motor skills (WWE: 5 year olds/NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs fans). Like Mark Stone, it’s not that no one thinks AJ Styles is good; but he had to become one of the best pro wrestlers in the world, and sustain that for years before a mainstream audience truly took notice.

Bobby Ryan – Randy Orton

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Early in his career, Orton was a blue chip prospect. He had some great years early on, but settled into a pattern of mediocrity by his late 20’s that, when combined with his high salary, caused many to question his commitment to his craft. While Ryan’s career has become beset by hand and finger injuries to near tragicomic levels; Orton’s shoulders have plagued him in much the same way, peaking in 2015 when he missed months of action after dislocating his shoulder taking out his garbage. Another thing Randy Orton has in common with Bobby Ryan is their political uhhh… leanings. Yeesh.

Frederik Claesson – Cesaro

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Claesson and Cesaro are Northern European imports who have shown flashes of brilliance in small samples, but have not yet been given an opportunity to do so in a long-term, consistent role. They have risen to the occasion when given the chance – Claesson in the 2017 playoffs, and Cesaro in great matches with John Cena and Sami Zayn – but nothing more seemed to come of it. Fred Claesson for Intercontinental Champion in 2018!

Ben Harpur – The Big Show

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Both Harpur and Big Show signed contract extensions recently, despite looking like they probably will and should be healthy scratches most of the time. Critique their ability all you want, but you cannot refute that both Harpur and The Big Show are very, very tall men.

Mark Borowiecki – Kane

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The best way to describe Kane’s strengths as a performer in 2018 is to say “he’s very popular in the locker room.” Despite this, the TV commentators talk about him as if he’s going to literally open a portal to hell and throw his opponent in it every time he’s on the screen. Take a listen to what the colour commentator says next time Borowiecki bodychecks a guy or tries to instigate a fight – it’s basically the same imagery.

Cody Ceci – Roman Reigns

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Roman Reigns is the perfect golden son of WWE management. Tomorrow night, he will probably win the WrestleMania main event match for the third straight year. A role on the show you’d expect to be occupied by a Hulk Hogan/Stone Cold Steve Austin type beloved star. As WWE attempts to shoehorn Reigns into the role of their top star, and tell the audience that he is very important and tough and handsome and cool; more often than not, he tends to get this type of reaction from the crowd. Given that his entire job is basically make people cheer for him, those aren’t good results. Roman Reigns is WWE’s top star in the same way that Cody Ceci is the Ottawa Senators’ ‘shutdown defenseman.’ Someone decided that was what he is; and it seems that no matter how much evidence mounts that it just isn’t working out, they’re not going to move away from that any time soon. It’s debatable whether or not Ceci or Reigns is objectively bad as a hockey player or wrestler, but both have become lightning rods for fan criticism because they were placed in top roles before they were ready, and are cited as evidence of flawed organizational philosophies as a result.

Erik Karlsson – Daniel Bryan

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If ‘making people cheer for you’ is the wrestling equivalent of ‘being a good defenseman’ in the NHL, then Daniel Bryan’s résumé is a little more Karlsson-esque in that regard. Though there was some level of expectation early in their careers – Karlsson was a first round pick, and Bryan was a star independently long before WWE – no one could have predicted either of these guys would become possibly the best in the world at their respective positions. Both are electrifying performers who use their athleticism and creativity to produce exciting moments that transcend their sport. Both Bryan and Karlsson have continually exceeded all expectations placed on them, blossomed as performers before our eyes, overcome working for sometimes dysfunctional employers, and formed a bond with their respective fanbases unlike any other.

Daniel Bryan has long been a fan favourite in the most literal sense of the term. He’s really almost every fan’s favourite. He is returning to the ring on Sunday after a two year absence due to injuries and WWE-imposed hurdles on his medical clearance. Wrestling fans, who love Bryan in the same way Sens fans love Karlsson, thought they had seen the last of him in a WWE ring. If there’s anything to be learned from that as a Sens fan, it’s that maybe there is still hope, and maybe we haven’t yet seen the last of our Swedish miracle angel in a Senators uniform, despite the existential despair and sense of impending doom that we all feel right now. Let’s all take a moment to visualize how great it will feel to see “Karlsson signs 8-year extension in Ottawa” bless our twitter timelines this summer, and then see him step on the ice again (in the heritage ‘O’ jersey, or the 2D Senator logo) next fall. Please do not remind me that wrestling isn’t real at this time – I need this!

WTYKY Publishes Our DMs. This is content now.

In an effort to get out in front of Wikileaks publishing our DMs, we’re doing it ourselves. In this part of the DM, Luke, James, and Varada discuss the in-arena experience, who it is for, and whether it can be fixed.

Luke: Is a hockey game experience rocket science?

On the one hand, it can feel like some of the trappings are catered to people who think of going to a hockey game as an Event. Like the Prime Minister Race, or Timbits Game or whatever. There’s all this extra stuff around the hockey game, because maybe the casual fan doesn’t actually care about the hockey game all that much. Then there’s the Season Ticket Holders who have been seeing the same Spartacat Shell Game with Hats 41 times a year since 1997 (I have heard that being a season ticket holder is NOT always easy) and they’re basically impossible to please because their threshold for giving a shit is just too high.

But maybe there’s a game experience out there that’s basically agreeable for everyone regardless of how many games you go to. Or maybe hockey games are like the Star Wars universe in that they’re inherently limited and there’s only so many things you can do with them.

I read some tweets at some point about how the Dallas Stars (???) in-game experience is really good. Are they really thinking outside the bun on that one, or do they just happen to do the same bullshit better than other arenas?

Varada and James just did a podcast on this topic, where Varada was like “I went to a hockey game in San Jose. It was like going to a hockey game” so now I’m thinking maybe we just want too much.

James: Well, that’s what I’m saying. Varada was talking that gangster talk about it on our podcast a couple of weeks ago about going to that Sharks game, and how it was strikingly similar to going to a Sens game. Not surprising to me seeing as I cannot really think of what else you can bring to the table. It’s just 2 minute or 20 minute intervals between play. I remember it being kind of different back in the day where they first had the Sharks players coming out of the tunnel out our of a giant inflatable shark’s mouth. Then the Oilers skated out…from a giant oil derrick …then the Avs skated out of Big Foot’s dick.

Sometimes I try to consider what I actually already like about the in-game experience. I like getting there a bit early if possible and going down to the ice and watching warm up (I don’t even know what it is I like about that but I do like it), I like the 50/50 draw basically only because Varada and my mutual friend winning a bunch of years ago makes me feel like I have a chance…aaaaaaaaaand…Oh, I like during TV time outs when they do those little vignettes with players like, “What was the first car you owned?” because it’s super fun to watch with Chet because we see who can do the best impersonation of Mike Hoffman (the trick is never close your mouth all the way). After that it’s all Missing Chiclets try-too-hard shit and Mattamy Homes Presents How Long Can You Wait in Line to Take a Piss.

But back to your point Luke, we DO want too much. And by “we” I mean mainly Season Ticket Holders (I’m sorry but the main group I see on twitter that seem to complain about “experience” stuff tend to identify themselves as STH (that complaining is the actual reason is how I even know what STH stands for. Anyway, MYYYYYY main complaints about the in game experience are unfixable. Like, “People not clapping for player announcements”. I’m always personally kind of floored after “Number sixty one, numero soixante et un…MAAAAAAAAARK STOOOOOOOONE” and like maybe 1 out of every 10 people around me even bother to cheer for the like 5 seconds it takes for him to get from the tunnel to the blueline. Cmon guys, let’s get somewhat hyped?

Luke: I kinda defend the Ottawa crowd on this one a bit. If Ottawa has a reputation of being a more docile crowd, I feel like it’s because they know what the big moments are and they save it for those times. That playoff game vs. Pittsburgh was loud AF. I don’t blame people for not bringing the same energy for a Tuesday night game against Carolina in January. (But also I agree that it’s obviously more fun when everyone is into it.)

James: Every playoff game I go to is loud as fuck, it’s just funny how much the crowd can sometimes “Save their cheers” for the big moments as if it’s a finite resource. I ain’t talking about the same energy as playoff game that’s not a problem, I’m talking about some MORE energy. I feel there’s a disconnect twixt myself being heading into a game like, “Alright I paid like $60 bucks to be here and sat in traffic for like an hour LET’S FUCKING GET IT THO”, and a bunch of people around me who seem to be like, “Heartland was a repeat so I’m at this Islanders game” kind of kills my vibe sometimes.

Luke: Hot Take: The thing you dislike about hockey games is the thing you dislike about people.

James: Oh yeah absolutely. You can’t trust the Gen Pop (see also: The Current American Political Landscape) and Sports Fans have an extreme tendency toward Gen Poppiness. That’s why I’m saying I can’t fix it. While I’m jealous that the Panthers DJ is playing the dirty version of Trick Daddy’s “Thug dot Com” album from front to back, I also realize that probably 75% of the CTC is like, “YES THE NEW FOOD FIGHTERS SINGLE!”

Varada: I tweeted at Sens DJ once “You should use the new War on Drugs single, I’m not being ironic, it really works!” And after was just like “I’m an idiot for believing in things”

James: If, between faceoffs, they played Mykki Blanco, after one season I’d probably take it for granted like, “Their old shit is better tho”.

Varada: What about this: hiring someone to do funny scoreboard sketches on their Mac might be good. Tap into that internet memeness. I remember I was at the last game with the old scoreboard, and hung around after the game for a bit to avoid traffic and they played a montage of the scoreboard on the scoreboard set to “I Will Remember You” and it was basically for staff only. Why not play that shit during the game?

There’s also an element of “Ask people a question and they’ll answer it”. Maybe they should ask “How important is it to you?”. I think most people would say a winning team is more important to them than a laser show. All of the best stuff about 67s games is fan-driven. That, plus you find the tickets stapled in the Pennysaver.

Basically, I want the Constantines and Les Savy Fav to be playing in a small club in the basement of the CTC on the one night I decide to buy a ticket illegally off the internet at 1/3 face value.

Luke: Not enough bands playing unadvertised shows in intimate venues is definitely a problem with the CTC experience.

Varada: [Me, watching The Fall in the CTC parking lot]: “Pffft. They’re not even playing their early stuff.”

I have a hard time reconciling how much I like watching and talking about hockey with the fact that going to a regular season game in a league with way too may regular season games is basically a family experience. Kids will be awed by the size of everything, the brightness and the noise. And parents will pay something stupid, like $500, for tickets and merch and food to give their kids that special experience. It’s Disneyworld. And so I don’t mind if the team markets entirely that way and leaves me, a bitter man nearing 40 who’s going to wear a John Coltrane t-shirt to the game and pretend not to enjoy myself, out in the cold.

Basically, the “in-game Xperience” should be designed for everyone from the 2nd deck down – families and corporate interests – and the third deck should be about cheap tickets and beer and the scent of blue-collar failure, where people like us feel at home. Mike Fisher taking tickets at the front door, Chris Neil handing out oil change coupons in the rear.

My dad took me to games as a kid – Expos, Jays, Sens, Habs – and I remember leaving like “I am OBSESSED with hockey now” and also didn’t know where the teams were in the standings or what the score was or any of the players. They should market to more idiot children.

The League Owns the Melnyk Mess

What an embarrassment.

An entire fanbase, sitting on the edge of their seats, refreshing Twitter, waiting to see if the owner of their favorite team will destroy it. An entire trade deadline day, covered to the hilt by every network and dominated by speculation about when – not if – Ottawa will self-immolate.

Obviously, there’s a lot of blame to go around, and a huge share of that blame is Eugene Melnyk’s. He’s been so ham-fisted in the way he’s handled the past, well, several years, that they should use him as a case-study in crisis-management courses. But even if he’d revealed himself to be an insightful hockey thinker during one of his many interviews on Toronto sports radio, it should have signaled to the league that he was a meddlesome owner.

The owner is supposed to be invisible and sign the checks. When cornered at charity events, he should recite the line: “I let my hockey people make the hockey decisions.” Behind closed doors, sure, he’s the owner and if he wants to call the GM from Barbados and offer his thoughts on goaltending, that’s his right. But airing dirty laundry on sports radio should have been a red flag to the league.

The reason it hasn’t been over the years is that Melnyk used to be rich. Now he’s not, so now it’s a problem, but that wasn’t exactly out of the realm of the imagination. In Melnyk, we find proof positive that the NHL has been and perhaps continues to be far too comfortable with the risks associated with sole proprietorship of one of its franchises.

Melnyk bailed out this franchise over a decade ago and was welcomed as a conquering hero. Little did we know then that the pharmaceutical industry was about to experience a decade of contraction and that Melnyk’s personal fortune would shrink considerably. Hindsight is 20/20. But what can the league learn from this, only the latest in a long history of embarrassing owners? If tomorrow a different, whacky billionaire showed up whose fortune had been earned in, say, telecommunications or real estate, will the league make the same mistake in rubber-stamping the transfer of ownership just so long as he or she shows a bank statement with a lot of zeros?

Throughout the league, we see fanbases handcuffed to the investment portfolios of billionaire personalities: Jeff Vinik, Jeremy Jacobs, Ted Leonsis. The going is good in many of those markets, and not all billionaires are made equal. (Melnyk looks like a tin-pot dictator next to Vinik.) But we’re one worldwide liquidity crisis away from the league selling one of its franchises to the two guys who made Saw.

What’s the alternative? I couldn’t help but alight upon this Tweet yesterday:

What Winnipeg and Nashville have in common is not only patience – not that either franchise has had the funds to be especially hurried – nor is “good ownership” defined. What they also have in common is a diverse ownership group. It’s true that someone chairs that group and there’s usually a majority owner, but when a significant proportion of the funds for a franchise are put up by others, there tend to be mitigating governance structures that prevent a whacky billionaire returning from a rough weekend in Atlantic City from cutting payroll.

The league can and should be doing much more to build ties between potential owners at the local level. It can start by establishing principles for NHL owners that include public relations. What kind of sanction has Melnyk faced for threatening relocation during the league’s 100th-anniversary celebration? A stern phone-call from Gary Bettman? Having to film a canned statement on the league’s dime? To what can the Board of Governors refer when considering that one among them is comparing their product to fast food and what kind of sanctions are available to them? What diversity of investments should a group of investors create before they can realistically bid on a team?

Yes, Melnyk is the most stereotypical, embarrassing kind of clueless tyrant imaginable. Everyone in the league – not just in Ottawa – should be concerned when an owner takes over as President and fans are kicked out of games for holding up signs that criticize him. But we shouldn’t entirely villanize him without asking what sort of conditions led to him having such power over a franchise. The Ottawa Senators will be sold at some point; I can only hope that the league is changing the way they do business so that they don’t simply hand the keys over to some other, budding Melnyk.

WTYKY Podcast: Episode Eight: The price of life in blood magic is death

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In this episode, James and Varada welcome very special guests Chet Sellers and Luke Peristy of the Chet Sellers and Luke Peristy Podcast, and we collectively struggle to find anything to talk about because so little is going on in the world of the Ottawa Senators other than the slow-motion destruction of the very thing we all love so dearly.

Music by James.