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Bruce Arthur: Leaf-baiting Sens owner tops standings in bush league

Bruce Arthur: Leaf-baiting Sens owner tops standings in bush league
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If one had to guess, the hardest part of being Eugene Melnyk is probably all the enemies. There are so many people out to mischaracterize you, slander you, label you, even though you own the Ottawa Senators! Oh, the labels they employ: shortsighted, absurd, embarrassing, humiliating, intolerable, delusional, paranoid, cheap. I mean, really. Is it paranoia when everyone is out to get you?

It must be a relief to get to break through the smokescreen of the mainstream media and tell the truth. Or as people in Ottawa are saying a lot these days, to tell your truth. Thank goodness Eugene got on the radio a couple times this week to fight back against the misconceptions, the media and the Toronto Maple Leafs .

“You don’t do a rebuild with a short-term view, and it’s tough in sports, but you have to have a five-year outlook,” Melnyk told Ottawa radio host Bill Carroll on CFRA 580. “And if you don’t, all you’re doing is patching up. And I know a team that you know, that’s done it for 53 years. They’ve been selling out but all they do is, they’ve been patching up. Finally they collapse their team, say we need to do a rebuild, but mistakes were made and somebody forgot about defence.”

His next words were literally “so this next six months is going to be critical for (general manager) Pierre (Dorion) and his team and the whole hockey operations to get their act together in a bigwig big way,” but thank goodness someone finally said something about the Leafs’ D. Really, despite the fact the Senators traded away three of their best players at the deadline because they couldn’t sign them, and are dead last in the NHL without a first-round pick this season, it’s not an entirely unfair point.

Also, Eugene’s history of the Leafs is pretty spot on, if you include the shortsighted, absurd, embarrassing, humiliating, intolerable, delusional, paranoid and cheap ownership Toronto had for so many of those years. But then, he wouldn’t know anything about that.

In fairness, Harold Ballard was a legitimate monster, and Eugene Melnyk is just a deluded and impossible goof, if you listen to his enemies. There are almost too many to keep track of, and it is good he is vigilant. Melnyk has spent the last several years fighting with the media, the fans, the city, his former business partners, his staff, Uber and Matt Cooke. He even picked a fight with Ottawa radio host and writer Ian Mendes on Friday, calling the TSN 1200 host “bush league.”

(Ian is thoughtful and fair and big-hearted and handsome, an advocate for charity, responsible masculinity and quality parenting, and doesn’t need me to defend him. But his response to Melnyk — tweeting out a picture of the gift basket Melnyk sent when Mendes’ eldest daughter Elissa was in hospital for brain surgery — was so classy that even the months-long spate of pro-Melnyk Twitter shadow puppet accounts that wouldn’t fool a 10-year-old would admit Ian was a good guy.)

Look, some people might call with defenceman slash human shield Mark Borowiecki “bush league,” or the team’s pre-game media meal which is almost literally leftovers “bush league,” or the team marketing a baby onesie that was recalled as a choking hazard “bush league.”

But that’s just like the media! Those guys.

“You know what? Everybody has an opinion, but sometimes it’s an ill-informed opinion,” said the owner who said in late 2017 that he would consider moving the team if it becomes a disaster, and then criticized the media for reporting he would consider moving the team if it became a disaster. “And I don’t like some of the tactics that are used by a couple of your colleagues, so I just won’t talk to them anymore … I mean, that’s bush-league stuff. You do that in little towns in the middle of nowhere, not in a G7 capital.”

Ottawa is indeed a G7 capital whose mayor the owner seemed to vaguely threaten on Friday. Look, there are a lot of hockey problems in the country. The Oilers CEO who fired the GM he had hired and who ran the team further into the ground had to apologize to an Oilers player for blaming him for the team missing the playoffs this year. The Leafs are still in a bit of a slump and coach Mike Babcock had to clarify that all his recent passive-aggressive jibes at rookie general manager Kyle Dubas have been inadvertent, which is a little like saying whoops, I toilet-papered your house, total accident, could have happened to anyone.

But there’s nothing like Ottawa. Some might think that any organization that has seen its best players flee despite loving the city, that has seen legal battles as arena plans disintegrate, that has produced faceplant after faceplant as fan anger surges and attendance goes down and the owner is widely mocked and derided every time he opens his mouth … well, some people might say the owner is the problem.

But then, that’s just what you’d expect enemies, rather than supportive Twitter bots or exhausted employees, to say. In Toronto, Babcock said, “There’s going to be a s--tstorm every once in a while, there just is,” and it’s true. And some places, it’s just the weather.
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