When it was announced on Wednesday that Jim Little had been fired by the Ottawa Senators after less than eight weeks on the job, we were given an indication of how messy the situation was.
In a statement the team’s former CEO released about the incident that led to his termination via Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Little revealed the two “had a personal disagreement” over the approach that he had been pursuing and the disagreement included him “using some very strong language” with Melnyk over the phone, “including swearing.”
Little also said, to his knowledge, these events were what led to his dismissal.
Friedman provided more insight on what allegedly happened during that phone call between Little and Melnyk while on Sportnet 590 The Fan on Thursday. He also gave his thoughts on what he thinks happened in Ottawa.
“This phone call and this conversation, I heard that it was... one of the issues was people could hear it,” said Friedman, via Graeme Nichols of The Athletic. “Even though it was in an office, I guess, the yelling was so loud that everybody heard what was said or people in the area could hear what was said.”
According to Friedman, the Senators organization recently completed a report that concluded the franchise’s “biggest issue is a crisis of confidence in the owner.” Essentially, “fans aren’t voting with their wallets because they don’t believe in the owner.”
After 37 regular-season games at home during the 2019-20 campaign, the Senators sit last in the league with an average attendance of 12,618, according to ESPN. That barely puts them behind the New York Islanders, who have an average attendance of 12,778 so far this season.
It’s the percentage of their home arena’s capacity they’re filling that’s most embarrassing, though. Per ESPN, Ottawa has only been able to fill 65.9 percent of its rink on average this season. The Islanders are also second-last in this category, but at least 81.1 percent of their seats are being filled for home games.
Friedman has reason to believe the findings of that report were brought up to Melnyk by Little during their “disagreement.”
“Whatever they were arguing about, I believe that Jim Little reminded the owner of that and it wasn’t obviously, as he said, in the best possible language,” said Friedman. “And I think that’s a tough one because I’m sure Eugene Melnyk did not want to hear that. I’m sure that he didn’t want to be reminded of that. But, imagine the frustration after 54 days [for Little] that it would already get to that.”
The Senators last made the playoffs in 2017, losing in double overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final to the Pittsburgh Penguins — the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Since then, they finished 30th overall in 2017-18, 31st overall last season and currently sit in 29th with a record of 24-32-12 for 60 points after 68 games played.
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