Melnyk moves forward

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Eugene Melnyk is ready for another long ride.

The Senators owner told the Sun yesterday that he's confident his club can get back to the Stanley Cup final this season after losing to Anaheim last spring.

With the Senators set to open the season with a back-to-back series against the Maple Leafs starting Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre, Melnyk is confident the changes the club made in the off-season will work.

'HAVE WHAT IT TAKES'

"We couldn't be more excited about the puck dropping ... I really think we have what it takes to go all the way this year," said Melnyk. "We have been able to keep together most of the team.

"On the landscape of who got stronger and who got weaker, there's no one that stands out (in the East) -- including ourselves -- that has changed their lineup except for the Rangers and Philly a little bit. As far as playoff contenders are concerned, it's pretty well the same cast of characters."

Melnyk is pleased the club was able to keep changes to a minimum this summer. He has no regrets about replacing GM John Muckler with coach Bryan Murray because Ottawa had a quality person with experience ready to step in.

"I really did (think it was time for a change). I looked at the next several years and John's contract was running out," said Melnyk.

"I felt very comfortable with Bryan as a coach and he obviously had tremendous experience as a GM.

"This was not tough decision to move Bryan up to the GM's position. He readily accepted. We had (coach) John Paddock, who has a different style and it's a style the players are comfortable with and he'll be very effective as a coach.

IMPRESSED WITH DEPTH

"I'm very confident and comfortable with the people that we have in place."

Melnyk said because of the minimal changes that improvement has to come from within.

"That's critical. We were able to keep the team together the way we wanted. The difference this year is a couple of guys have stepped up," said Melnyk. "(Jason) Spezza looks likes he's stepped up and (Andrej) Meszaros looks like he's stepped up.

"What we have that we didn't have last year is the depth. We've got some prospects that are looking good with (Brian) Elliott, (Nick) Foligno, (Ilja) Zubov and (Alexander) Nikulin. Those are not players who we're going to think twice about bringing up (from Binghamton) if we need them."

But Melnyk understands repeating as Eastern Conference champs and winning the Cup isn't going to be easy.

"The players have had the experience, they know what it takes and it's truly a question of having talent, injuries and luck. It's a grind, there's no question," said Melnyk.

"I can't imagine what the players and coaches go through. It took a month for everybody to decompress. It's probably the same thing for the fans.

"What they gained is the experience and they know what it takes to get there. They know what it takes to win. It's a mental grind, but those players have that experience and they want to get there again."


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