The Ageing Veteran Perspective
It’s no secret that the Ottawa Senators are in a world of trouble. Their captain is likely leaving, their top goal scorer was involved in a scandal that saw him traded to the Sharks, then to the Panthers, and their owner is more hated in the city of Ottawa than Gary Bettman. This would be enough for most teams to hit the panic button, but it is just the most recent issues in a long list for the Sens organization.
My question is – even if the Sens manage to keep Karlsson, will they be able to turn things around?
The Ottawa Senators hold the 20th spot on the Forbes’ list of NHL most valuable teams. Not a great ranking for a Canadian market. Eugene Melnyck constantly says the Sens are a budget team, and they are seeing steep declines in ticket sales. All things considered, one player remaining in Ottawa doesn’t seem as though it could right the ship.
I have been fortunate enough to go to many games over the years in Ottawa. Not all the games have been sellouts, though whenever the Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens are in town, the building hits capacity. Over the last two seasons, even when the aforementioned teams roll into town, there are many seats left open. The declining ticket sales really hit me when Austin Matthews played his NHL debut in Ottawa’s 2016 home opener. When the game started, many empty seats could be seen in the stands, and a significant amount still remained as the first period rolled into the second – more than any arena in the NHL should see on an opening night.
In a poor attempt to appear as though games were selling out, the Sens organization removed 1500 seats by placing large leather covers over top of them. Out of sight, out of mind. As expected, this did not help sellouts happen!
In order to really draw people into the Canadian Tire Center, the team will have to do a lot more than simply keep Karlsson. But with the budget Melnyck has in place, and the turmoil in the dressing room, it seems highly unlikely that anything short of a completely fresh start – new owner and all – will garner real progress in the nation’s capital