In the midst of all the chaos and uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 NHL season, one thing holds true for Ottawa Senators owner, Eugene Melnyk.
“We’re well-positioned. We’ve done a lot of the work and it’s time to start seeing the beginnings of the results,” Melnyk told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun. “I want to see Josh Norris play now that he’s a year older. I’d love to see (Tim) Stuetzle play.”
After finishing the 2019-20 season 25-34-12 the Senators entered an important offseason looking to make additions, and they did.
“I want to see (Evgeni) Dadonov, Matt Murray, and I’m really excited about all these players.”
Alongside Dadonov and Murray, the team signed centre Alex Galchenyuk and landed defenceman Erik Gudbranson in a trade, as the franchise looks to turn a corner after rebuilding for a few seasons.
These players join an organization that is looking to find out what their pipeline has to offer.
“(Drake) Batherson, (Erik) Brannstrom, all these guys we’ve been talking about, we want to start seeing who’s going to be the real players and who’s going to be the pretenders. The only way you can do that is you’ve got to start playing.”
With lots to still be determined about the upcoming season, the Senators owner is prepared for his team to face an uphill battle with the schedule.
“Even with the Canadian division, it’s not good for us this year, but you can take a look at some of the upsides,” Melnyk said.
“Our young guys will be playing against better players. Every one of those Canadian teams are tough teams and you’re not going to have an easy night.”
The 61-year-old knows it’s likely he will open the Canadian Tire Centre for games without fans in the building, but he’s hopeful they’ll later be able to have a socially-distanced crowd of 6,500 wearing masks.
“It can be done and it’s very safe,” Melnyk said. “You walk with a negative test, you get a N-95 mask and you distance. We would do everything possible to be safe because there’s no joy in having a game and then the headline the next day says you had a super-spreader event. That’s not going to happen and I don’t want anybody in the arena if that’s going to happen."
One idea that Melnyk has had is simple: test fans at the games.
“One of the ways I would distribute it is, as you drive in, you’re handed a test for all the people in the car,” he said. “Part of coming to the game is you’re going to get tested. It goes onto your phone and you have a go or a no go, and, if you have a go, you go into the rink. You’re handed a mask, you’ve got your distanced seat and you can sit down and enjoy the game. It’s as simple as that. It’s better than nothing.”