The Senators: A Tough Sell

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    Have the Sens lost the trust of their fans?

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    davetherave
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    The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by davetherave on Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:56 am

    Ken Warren's article in today's Ottawa Citizen attempts to summarize Ottawa Senators fans' frustration.

    He also raises the question of what kind of damage the team's slide, and the very public mess that surrounds it, has done to the value of the franchise.

    Will fans continue to support a team in this kind of obvious disarray? And do the players care about the fans who help pay their salaries? Or are they just playing to save their jobs?

    Here's what Warren offers:

    Senators have become tough sell

    The challenge now is to not only turn the team around, but to also keep increasingly disenchanted fans interested, reports Ken Warren

    Ken Warren for The Citizen, February 5, 2009

    With all due respect to the club's advertising campaign, the Sens Army is not a force united.

    Rather, Ottawa Senators fans are deeply divided and confused -- and worse still for the organization, becoming increasingly apathetic -- about the future of the organization following the events of the past four days.

    After general manager Bryan Murray fired Craig Hartsburg on Sunday and promoted Cory Clouston from Binghamton of the American Hockey League, there were pockets of empty seats in all areas of Scotiabank Place to watch Clouston's NHL coaching debut against Los Angeles on Tuesday.

    Fans attending tonight's game against the Boston Bruins will receive gift certificates to a Kanata-based spa, and ticket prices have been slashed for children and minor hockey players for the majority of the remaining home games this season.

    The "value added" plans are designed to keep some degree of interest in a team that has almost twice as many losses (32) as wins (17) and is now only four points removed from dead last in the NHL.

    "It's frustrating for everybody," said Daniel Alfredsson, who, as captain of the team, is forced into becoming somewhat of a salesman for the present and future. "It has been a tough few days, no question. Nobody enjoys it when a coach gets fired or a player gets traded because of our play. But in this business, somebody new comes in and gets an opportunity, and that's it with Cory.
    "We've got to try to rally around his ideas as quickly as possible, and I think we're going to see a more aggressive style from us."

    Players buying in is one thing. Fan reaction is quite another.

    Depending on what fan faction you listen to on any given day, everyone from Murray to Jason Spezza to Dany Heatley to Christoph Schubert to long forgotten former general manager John Muckler is responsible for the mess.

    Clouston has been dismissed by many as a lame duck, with suggestions being made that the players won't respond until an established veteran NHL coach such as Pat Quinn or John Tortorella is hired.

    In one sense, you can understand Murray's rationale for the firing of Hartsburg and the hiring of Clouston.

    In hockey terms, it was akin to a defenceman starting out of his own end, looking at his options and, seeing no hope for a successful rush, retreating back behind his own net to start over.

    Murray saw the team was going nowhere under Hartsburg, realized making the playoffs was a longshot and opted to bring in Clouston in the hope that the tactician with experience teaching young players could help kick-start the organization's future. Danish rookie Peter Regin was sent back to Binghamton yesterday, but Clouston suggested that more prospects would be brought up in the days and weeks to come to showcase what they can do at the NHL level.

    Last night, the club recalled right-winger Ryan Shannon from Binghamton.

    The firing/hiring takes the heat off Murray for the time being, and gives him a chance to deal with possible trade offers for pending unrestricted free agents Filip Kuba and Chris Neil leading up to the March 4 trade deadline. He can also consider big-picture changes involving the core group of underachieving forwards, including Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly.

    If, however, the Senators show no noticeable improvement under the rookie NHL head coach, club owner Eugene Melnyk could opt to turn the whole operation over to a new general manager and coach.

    So, in essence, the entire operation remains in limbo, virtually starting from scratch 49 games into the season. (Spezza likened Clouston's practice session yesterday as something akin to a training camp exercise.)

    But how, exactly, do you sell that message -- starting over more than halfway into the season -- to a fan base that was originally told the team would be a playoff contender and to a city conditioned to regular season success?

    The Senators have made the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons. Fans are accustomed to the team adding veterans to the roster for a push toward the playoffs at this time of year, and of tickets becoming increasingly difficult to obtain as the postseason approaches.

    Alfredsson realizes he can't sweep the club's dreadful first four months of the season under the carpet. He hasn't endured a season anything like this since his rookie season with the team in 1995-96, when the Senators played out of two buildings (they began the season in the Civic Centre), had two general managers (Randy Sexton and Pierre Gauthier) and three head coaches (Rick Bowness, Dave "Sparky" Allison and Jacques Martin).

    He has seen the best that a hockey-mad city can offer. Now, he's getting a taste of the worst.

    Alfredsson has a message for fans who believe the Senators are simply playing out the string, waiting for spring to arrive.

    "We're playing in a Canadian city," he said. "We're not playing in Carolina or somewhere where nobody really is interested or doesn't really care. Everything we do is followed by the media and the fans and hockey analysts, so we're evaluated every day from our own management and coaches, so I don't think that's a problem for us.

    "We're playing for jobs, for management to see what they're going to do at the trade deadline. For us, as players, our focus is just to get to understand Cory's game plan as quickly as possible and go from there.

    "We've just got to make sure we bring energy and emotion, and (Clouston) has got a great attitude coming in. He has got a fresh head and he's going to judge on what's going on on the ice now, not previously. It's a fresh start for everybody, in that sense."

    It sounds good.

    The big question for the Senators organization is whether the fans will buy it.
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    Number Twenty Nine
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by Number Twenty Nine on Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:58 am

    I'm about to move to a new city in a few months, so ya unless they shape up, I'll probably support the local city team (as is always the way I do things)
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    davetherave
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by davetherave on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:05 am

    So don't forget to vote in the poll :cyclops:
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by Hayden on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:08 am

    regardless how they play - i'm still on the edge of my seat for every game. makes me sick when "fans" say they're never watching them again or that they're going to stop going to games.

    they will always be my team - regardless.
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    SeawaySensFan
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by SeawaySensFan on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:10 am

    Win or lose, they're still my team. I was there for the early days listening to most games on the radio when TV coverage was infrequent.

    I doubt that season ticket holders and frequent visitors to the rink will keep supporting this team with their wallets though.
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by Cap'n Clutch on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:13 am

    I will continue to support this team but I may not always be happy with what they do with it. Not buying tickets will just make them try sensational marketing tactics. Do people honestly believe that if you stop buying tickets it will make them a smarter franchise that will make smarter moves to improve the team?


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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by Guest on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:16 am

    They wll always be my team, but will I support the team if there is no effort on and off the ice? I wont. It would just imply that I am happy with having things at the status quo. If they arnt trying, why should I care?
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by SeawaySensFan on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:18 am

    Cap'n Clutch wrote:I will continue to support this team but I may not always be happy with what they do with it. Not buying tickets will just make them try sensational marketing tactics. Do people honestly believe that if you stop buying tickets it will make them a smarter franchise that will make smarter moves to improve the team?

    How do you tell or show the team that you're not happy? Fans have very little leverage and when push comes to shove, they are always left holding the bag. Specially when there is an expectation that they will just keep coming back no matter what. It's a recipe for Leafness.

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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by Guest on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:22 am

    Thats exactly it. Are we just supposed to write on blogs that no one but us really cares about? haha. No, you send a message by closing your wallets.
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by Cap'n Clutch on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:28 am

    All it tells them is you're not happy. It doesn't tell them why. My point is they'll try Marketing gimmicks and not reasonable changes to the team to make it a better team. Do you also think they're trying to put together a losing group here? Melnyk and the management group want to win and they want playoff dates. They will work to acheive that because they want the revenue.

    The tired arguement that MLSE doesn't give a crap about winning and getting into the playoffs is ludicrous. They want more revenue and the best way to get more is more playoff dates and a Stanley Cup! Imagine the money they make for each playoff win, each playoff round and all the merchandise sales especially if they won a Cup!


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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by Guest on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:31 am

    And if you keep telling them you are happy, nothing will change. Best way to someone's head is through thier bank account.
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by SeawaySensFan on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:37 am

    Cap'n Clutch wrote:All it tells them is you're not happy.

    And?

    The results in Toronto support the "ludicrous" argument that they are less about winning than the bottom line.

    Tell the team you're not happy and you'll get assurances that they are listening and you're a valued customer and that they look forward to your continued support and you will feel somehow important with those empty words.

    Action provokes reaction and it goes both ways. Actions by the team that show the fans a commitment to winning drive ticket purchases.

    The action of withdrawing your financial support of the team will provoke the reaction of intensifying the work to deliver an acceptable product on the ice.
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by Cap'n Clutch on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:39 am

    SeawaySensFan wrote:
    Cap'n Clutch wrote:All it tells them is you're not happy.

    And?

    The results in Toronto support the "ludicrous" argument that they are less about winning than the bottom line.

    Tell the team you're not happy and you'll get assurances that they are listening and you're a valued customer and that they look forward to your continued support and you will feel somehow important with those empty words.

    Action provokes reaction and it goes both ways. Actions by the team that show the fans a commitment to winning drive ticket purchases.

    The action of withdrawing your financial support of the team will provoke the reaction of intensifying the work to deliver an acceptable product on the ice.

    So MLSE cares about revenue but just not enough to want the boat loads of playoff revenue? That makes sense. scratch


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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by SeawaySensFan on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:44 am

    Cap'n Clutch wrote:So MLSE cares about revenue but just not enough to want the boat loads of playoff revenue? That makes sense. scratch

    MLSE cares less about playoff revenue than most teams because they can fill the building in the regular season for extortionist ticket prices and they are sitting on interest-bearing seat license money.

    Anyway, I've had enough of not making sense and offering ludicrous arguments.

    All is well in Ottawaland and everyone will be lining up to watch a losing team.
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    Re: The Senators: A Tough Sell

    Post by Cap'n Clutch on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:44 am

    Cap'n Clutch wrote:
    SeawaySensFan wrote:
    Cap'n Clutch wrote:All it tells them is you're not happy.

    And?

    The results in Toronto support the "ludicrous" argument that they are less about winning than the bottom line.

    Tell the team you're not happy and you'll get assurances that they are listening and you're a valued customer and that they look forward to your continued support and you will feel somehow important with those empty words.

    Action provokes reaction and it goes both ways. Actions by the team that show the fans a commitment to winning drive ticket purchases.

    The action of withdrawing your financial support of the team will provoke the reaction of intensifying the work to deliver an acceptable product on the ice.

    So MLSE cares about revenue but just not enough to want the boat loads of playoff revenue? That makes sense. scratch

    Edit: It also doesn't explain why they don't just spend to the Cap floor. If it's all about the bottom line then they'd spend the minimum amount of money on the team.


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