The Senators organization concluded an exclusive conference call for Senators season ticket holders that was streamed live on Sens TV this afternoon. Fortunately, I was able to catch most of it and I’ve jotted down a summary of the event. Due to the nature of the event, this isn’t a word-for-word transcription. It’s more to give you the gist of what was discussed.
To find out what happened, follow the jump…
– The session begins with Gord Wilson introducing the panel of GM Bryan Murray, President Cyril Leeder and The Euge (who is on the phone from Barbados). The Euge kicks things off by discussing how the future is bright and that the organization has accrued a tremendous amount of draft picks. With these picks, he’s extremely optimistic about the future and direction of the team and as a fan and owner, he’s excited to see what comes out of it. After discussing the youth, he mentions the importance of having core veterans. He refers to the Phillips signing and that the team has four veterans left from that 2007 Stanley Cup Finals team — Neil, Phillips, Alfie, Spezza. He goes on to butter up the fans and refers to us as “the best in the NHL”.
When Wilson asks the owner what the 20th season in the modern history of the team has in store for, The Euge retorts with, “Besides having a great team? (laughter)” Wilson laughs half-heartedly out of fear. I’m convinced that there’s some kind of electroshock apparatus attached to Wilson’s leg under the table. Behave Gordie! Eugene goes on to mention the 2012 All-Star Game, that there will be tributes to the team’s heritage and the Sens teams of the past.
– Bryan Murray is afforded the opportunity to speak. He talks about how he’s traded six players and how the organization has 12 picks in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. He casually mentions that whomever they select with the first overall pick, that player will play in the NHL next season. Which is something that I don’t really get. As one follower on Twitter (@RevDale) noted: So we will not be drafting a defenceman then. Murray then emphasizes the quality of depth in this year’s draft. With the amount of picks that the team has, they should be able to bring more depth to the organization’s coffers. It’s prospect porn time: Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the priority of having the best kids receive callups from the AHL. He goes on to fellate the play of Butler, Greening and Condra. Patrick Wiercioch and Robin Lehner get plugged and while he’s on a roll, the names of Jared Cowen and David Rundblad are thrown out there for good measure. Wilson interjects and plugs Rundblad’s Youtube videos and Cowen’s offensive numbers down in Spokane (16 goals, 26 assists). Murray says that Cowen will be more of a defensive defenceman at the NHL level but compares Runblad’s calibre to that of Erik Karlsson. Interestingly, Murray brings up Jakub Silfverberg and says that management wants to sign him and bring him to North America next season. Although he may not start the year here in Ottawa, he’d be a candidate for a mid-season callup.
– Once Murray’s spiel is over, Cyril Leeder takes the mic. He indicates that last summer was the team’s best for the team’s season ticket seat renewals and that he expects a similar amount of renewals this offseason. Free parking will be offered to loyal season ticket holders who have retained their tickets for 5 years or more. A new flexible benefits package — that Leeder refers to as the most progressive in professional sports — is announced for season ticket holders that offers them 60 different options to choose from — ie. autographed merch, attending hot-stove meetings with other fans and management, etc. Also announced is a new 12-month payment for people who want to purchase season tickets. He notes that there is a priority deadline for tickets that affords you the opportunity to buy All-Star Game tickets for next season. And to celebrate the 20th season, he announced that the team would wear a heritage style third jersey next season. I’m inferring that it will be the classic Barberpoles jersey that features the ‘O’ and was worn by the Bingo Sens during one of their AHL games. Having watched the Habs wear their similar CAC jerseys, my only concern with this style of jersey is how well it translates on TV.
Gord Wilson opens up the phone lines
– The first caller wants to talk to Bryan Murray about the youth movement. Murray spends a brief period of time talking up Ottawa’s current draft position and how he has created a better opportunity for the young players to play by moving some veterans.
– A fan named Noel calls in to complain about the state of the current scoreboard and wants to know when a new one will be in place. Cyril indicates that the team is still looking at concepts and that a new board will be in place within 2 years.
– A female caller asks Leeder about the availability of All-Star Game tickets and wants to know if corporate sponsors will receive any priority. Cyril says that there are no priority seats for corporate sponsors but the All-Star Game is a league event and as such, the NHL receives 6,000 tickets.
– Jack calls in with a question pertaining to the timing of the Craig Anderson deal. “Was this deal available sooner? And if so, would players like Fisher and Kelly still be around?” Murray responds by saying that this deal wasn’t available earlier and that as the team struggled, he called around to Greg Sherman and a few other general managers to see if he could make a move to acquire a goaltender. One day after talking with Sherman, the Colorado GM insisted that Brian Elliott come back in return. (Note: Kudos to Murray for being proactive here. And reading into Murray’s comments, if Elliott wasn’t in the initial offers, I wonder who he was trying to move instead? Leclaire?) Jack followed up by asking if an Anderson signing was imminent. The team apparently has had preliminary talks with Anderson and his representation but Anderson wants to see how things shake out in Ottawa first. If a signing happens, expect it to happen before July 1st.
– Dave, a season ticket holder since day one and someone who has shared season tickets to the Binghamton Sens, calls in. (Note: Disposable income and time much?) Dave praises the work of Randy Lee and how his presence in Binghamton has not gone unnoticed by the fans there. Wants to know whether Lee will be commended with a promotion to the Assistant GM job (with Binghamton GM responsibilities) here in Ottawa. Shit Dave, you do realize that Murray’s nephew is the Assistant GM here, right? Dave also wants to know whether players will be returned to Bingo for the playoff stretch and what is Murray’s philosophy regarding player development: Is it better for a prospect to experience success in the minors? Or is it better for these prospects to get development time in the NHL instead?
Murray agrees with Dave regarding the work that Randy Lee has done. He also uses this as an opportunity to give Tim Murray a plug too. The players that Ottawa has up will be returned to Bingo and wants the Baby Sens to get back into the AHL playoffs. The philosophical question never really gets addressed but given how Ottawa’s roster is currently comprised, I think it’s safe to assume that the organization values the exposure of their prospects to the NHL level of play foremost.
– A caller asks about some specifics pertaining to the aforementioned 12-month payment plan on season ticket payments. Leeder says that 12-month payments would start in April and that for each month, there would be a 3-percent administration fee.
– More prospect porn! The next caller asks whether or not management would draft Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson if he were available. Murray refuses to disclose whether that’s what the organization would do, however, he mentions that he would have to consider the needs of other teams and whether this would present an opportunity to trade down. Refusing to tip his hand, Murray conversely states that a Larsson selection would mean that the organization would have one of the best young defensive corps that the league has ever seen.
– Steve from Peterborough calls in to vent about the Mike Fisher trade. Surprise, surprise. He wants to understand the rationale behind trading away the “heart and soul of this club”. And to convey the point of how narrow minded Steve is, he also wants to know how the organization could allow Dany Heatley (caller acknowledges that Heatley had a NTC) to dictate where he could be traded. Murray starts by emphasizing that a 1st round pick was a starting point in any trade negotiations involving a player of Fisher’s ilk. When it came to moving Mike, the organization had to consider unloading his expensive contract without taking any salary back. Regarding the Heatley deal, Murray said that his NTC was a necessary evil and he had a choice of trading Heatley to a place he wanted to go or risk letting him disrupt things in Ottawa as he sulks. Even though Cheechoo was a throw in that the organization didn’t want, they still feel that Michalek’s a better player for the organization in the long run. Gord Wilson chimes in by marvelling at how well respected Michalek is by the rest of the guys in the dressing room. Gord also feels that Milan was just starting to get himself in a groove and sympathizes with Milan now that his season is likely over after he took a Spezza shot to his foot.
– The next caller inquires why Erik Karlsson has stank since the All-Star Game. Murray believes that it has to do with him being a young player. Defensively, Karlsson was never going to be a stud. He thinks that he has had a few games wherein he’s been a little too casual but he thinks he’s been a bit better of late within his own end.
– Speaking of All-Star Games, one caller wants to know whether the Game tickets and the skills competition tickets will be sold in one package. They will be.
– The last caller wants to know what Bryan Murray’s long-term strategy is once the honeymoon is over. The key is for the organization to draft well and continue to develop players. When Murray first took over, Melnyk afforded him the opportunity to hire more full-time scouts and this has helped separate the Murray regime from the Muckler years. Murray briefly discusses the work that Detroit and Hakan Andersson — the Red Wings’ highly acclaimed Swedish scout — have done in respect to their ability to draft and cultivate talent. Murray pimps the work done by his “good people” in Europe. And to wrap things up, he states that the organization might have to sign one player in free agency this summer (likely a forward) but that ultimately, he wants to let the young guys take over and develop.
– Melnyk concludes the session by reiterating that they’re not looking for a quick fix. They want to do things properly and build a team that can contend for years to come.
As I penned my summary, the Senators released their initiatives on their newswire:
OTTAWA – During the Ottawa Senators fourth fan forum call today the club outlined various ticketing and promotional initiatives for the 2011-12 season.
The fan forum offered season-seat and suite owners an exclusive opportunity to call in and speak directly with club owner Eugene Melnyk, president Cyril Leeder and general manager Bryan Murray. The fan forum call was also streamed live on Sens TV.
The new fan initiatives presented by Melnyk and Leeder were as follows:
2011-12 season: The Senators will celebrate the club’s 20th anniversary in the National Hockey League throughout the whole season. Celebrations will highlight the Senators and city of Ottawa playing host to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game and Weekend, as well as recognize the 11 Stanley Cup-winning teams of early-era.
Senators heritage jersey: The Senators will introduce a new third jersey, a heritage jersey in recognition of early-era teams.
2012 NHL All-Star Game and Weekend: Senators full- and half-season seat owners, renewing by March 31, will receive priority access to tickets for the all-star game. New purchasers will also have access.
Ticket prices: The average price increase is 1.6 per cent. Some tickets will see no increase; the highest increase is 2.24 per cent. This will mark only the first time in three years that ticket prices have increased. Season-seat owners will save an average of 32 per cent off of single-game prices. The Senators will offer the lowest prices of any Canadian team.
Parking: Full-season seat owners of five years or more will continue to receive free parking, as well as those who have had a half-season package for 10 years or more.
Ticket trade: Season-seat owners can exchange any game tickets, guaranteeing then 100 per cent use of their ticket packages.
New flexible benefits program: Season-seat and suite owners will have the opportunity to select benefits they value the most. There will be more than 60 unique benefits available, including promotion and recognition, exclusive events and Senators experiences.
New 12-month payment plan: Season-seat owners will now be able to pay for their seats with easy monthly payments.