The 29th place Ottawa Senators (quick, name the other 28 teams!) were defended after Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to New Jersey by owner Eugene Melnyk with what the Sun’s Don Brennan diplomatically calls “an inadvertent choice of words in a war-sensitive time.”

“Anybody that says we should blow up this organization should get their own bomb and go blow themselves up,” Melnyk said, flanked by 30 Grade 4 students, at a press conference to announce new fan initiatives.

“This is not an organization that is completely crippled,” he said. “It needs fine-tuning, it needs some tweaking, it needs a player here, a player there, a few good bounces and that’s it. But we are nowhere near that type of environment.

Melnyk did declare “the excuses are over” and that it was now-or-never time to salvage the season.

“To tell you the truth, it is hard after a game like (Tuesday) night,” Melynk said when asked about remaining upbeat. “On the other hand, you hope it’s just a blip. Going into (the Devils) game there was tremendous optimism. We played a few great games and then we had the all-star break and then we came back, and unfortunately enough was said by Craig, and that’s all I can tell you.”

Asked if he had made any decisions on the future of the team’s management and coaching staff, Melnyk offered some ominous words.

“As far as the hockey organization is concerned, I leave the hockey operations to the hockey people. I’ve always done that,” he said. “And we are going to continue doing whatever it takes to put a winning team on the ice. As far as I’m concerned right now, we are at a crossroads. This is it. We have to win 26-27 games, it’s got to be done.”