• By: Dave Gross

Ottawa’s hockey base suffers yet again

Don’t know about you, but I’m certainly looking forward to Eugene Melnyk’s hotly anticipated book: How to Alienate a Fan Base in Short Order.

Should be a great, historic and resounding read. After all, the last couple of years have presented plenty of fascinating fodder.

The sizzling plot line, though, reached its pinnacle on Thursday afternoon.

What a whopper, what a turning point.

What a horror classic. Ugh.

Melnyk’s Ottawa Senators shipped two-time Norris Trophy winner and team captain and the best player in franchise history (hint: Erik Karlsson) to the San Jose Sharks for what can only be classified as, well, not nearly enough.

In case you don’t have time to look it up, here you go with some details: Melnyk and general manager Pierre Dorion packaged Karlsson and prospect forward Francis Perron to the Sharks for forward Chris Tierney and defenceman Dylan DeMelo, prospect forwards Josh Norris and Rudolfs Balcers as well as two conditional draft picks.

Folks in the know have been talking for months about the notion that when you swap a player of Karlsson’s stature, you rarely get a fair, equitable return.

Something close, though, might have been excusable.

This was not (either close, or excusable).

Forty-point-man Tierney is a nice addition (and just 23) as is Norris, a Michigan product and the 17th-overall selection in 2017. Everything and everyone else provides question marks and possibilities, but no certainties.

Unlike San Jose.

GM Doug Wilson gets a sure-thing and certainty for the 2018-19 season, a monster Top-3 defence comprised of Karlsson, Norris winner and five-time all-star Brent Burns, and Olympic gold medalist (2014) Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Fans in Winnipeg and Las Vegas and Nashville won’t be doing handstands over this ‘deal.’ The West just got a whole lot tougher.

But let’s circle back to the Senators.

We could focus on the year that has been (fiasco, anyone? Bueller?) but that turnip field has been hoed . . . many times over.

Let’s just examine this past week, a week where a bizarre, ponderous and perplexing promotional video was released to a baffled fan base.

A week where, even before the Karlsson deal, confusing promises of a rebuild were floated about. Lots of dancing prose without much substance.

Then the capper came with this trade.

In a release to the media, Dorion vowed: "This is the right moment for us to rebuild our team, and shape our future with a faster, younger and more competitive team on the ice. We are going to build a culture of consistency which will allow this team to sustain better performance over the long term."

So, let’s examine.

First off, what the hell is “a culture of consistency” exactly? This is the kind of BS you expect to see from government media relations, not from a hockey club hoping to lure back its fans.

Furthermore: “shape our future with a faster, younger and more competitive team on the ice.”

Yup, gotta get rid of Karlsson. He’s one of the slower, older (27) and least competitive players you’ll come across.

Let’s face it, this whole promotion was a sham. From the Senators promising to do their best to sign Karlsson long term, to this nonsense about the former captain truly wanting to stay.

It was an embarrassing, eyebrow-raising process that suggested Melnyk believed his (shrinking daily) fan base was that dull.

Karlsson doesn’t get a complete pass either though.

“I don’t think I ever in my wildest imagination I ever thought that I would leave this place but unfortunately we’re here under these circumstances,” he told the media Thursday after the trade.

That’s a little rich. Maybe he’s trying to take the polite route but to suggest he’d never considered this would be the fallout rings untrue.

The hope here from everyone connected seems to be – the slate gets wiped clean. But the way this all played out leaves a bitter, disbelieving taste.

And the troubles don’t end now.

Questions surrounding Mark Stone’s future and Cody Ceci’s and Matt Duchene’s (the one guy who keeps proclaiming his loyalty to the organization) likely continue for a long while.

But that’s another story for another day.

The one thing about the Ottawa Senators is, they’re never dull.

Good for journalists in need of a story, not so good for fans of Eugene Melnyk’s hockey franchise.