Sens a 'Cup contender'

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

SUN MEDIA -- Eugene Melnyk played Santa for about a hundred kids at Scotiabank Place.

The eternally optimistic Senators owner then promised fans something for Christmas: More wins, maybe even a Stanley Cup.

When asked yesterday about the chance of a big trade to shake up his 12th-place team, Melnyk responded, confidently:

"The only thing that is going to change is our win column is going to get a lot more stacked up than it has in the first 30 games."

The reason for his bold prediction?

Melnyk said he thinks the Senators just need time to bring together a new coach, nine new players and a new system.

He was encouraged by Saturday night's 5-4 overtime win over the Dallas Stars.

"I can't say I'm disappointed (in the first 30 games). I'm watching it progress. We're still too early. I would be disappointed if we were at Game 70 where we are today. We've got 50-plus games to go and there's a lot of time. I really believe, without question, that this team is going to be a major contender as soon as they start playing like they did (Saturday) night."

Melnyk reaffirmed his top-4 prediction, and even went a step further.

MIRACLE MISQUOTE

"I truly believe we will wind up in the top four in the conference. Watch this team. You're going to be very, very surprised. We have nine new players. We have a new coach. We have a new system.

"It's only 30 games into the season and we will be a Stanley Cup contender. Mark my words. You'll see. Just give them some time and that time is right now."

Melnyk also clarified his comments about the Senators and miracles after an interview on The Fan 590 radio station last week.

"That's a misquote. I actually said -- if you look at the transcript -- I said the media is going to call this a miracle turnaround, not me. To me, I know where we're going. We're going to grind out every game. I can see those headlines come March: 'Big miracle turnaround,' and all that. I'm not saying that at all. We don't need a miracle. We just need to go play and we have the talent."

'MEMORY OF LIFETIME'

Melnyk was obviously in a good mood, skating around the Scotiabank Place rink with beaming kids sporting new helmets, skates and other gear donated by the Melnyk family (each child also received four tickets to a world junior championship game).

The group, which included Santa and Mrs. Claus, then had lunch in the Local Heroes Hockey Country Lodge.

"I remember as a little kid just dreaming of one day skating on Maple Leaf Gardens ice. I thought, 'Man, if we could do that, it's something that would be a memory of a lifetime.' I think that's what these kids are getting ... a memory of a lifetime," said Melnyk.

"I go around and look at the kids' faces with those smiles. It just puts you right in the spirit of the season. It rockets you into it. It's very emotional and a great thing in my mind to do for people who are less fortunate than most kids. It's something I look forward to every year."


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