Originally posted on The 6th Sens  |  Last updated 7/20/13
With the City mired in a the middle of a tornado watch, it was only fitting that Senators President Cyril Leeder's appeared on The Drive this afternoon to explain how the organization survived July 5th's winds of **** and emerged at the end of the day as a team that was better on paper than it was going in.  You can check out the full interview here, or via the embed below. As always, my thoughts are in bold.  On his initial reaction of the schedule… “No, it’s a good schedule for us. There are a lot of things that we like about it. Just had a few questions with some guys about road trips and we like the fact that our road trips are early, after Christmas and right after the Olympic break, so the team is as rested as it’s going to be when we have to do those longer trips. From a home team fan’s perspective, obviously now we’re getting every team here at least once. We’re seeing teams that haven’t been here… now some of them for three years haven’t played here in our building. We get one team at home three times and that happens to be Montreal – which is good now coming off of the playoffs. I think (there’s an opportunity) a newfound enthusiasm for our rivalry there. And of course, we’ve got Detroit coming into town with Daniel Alfredsson twice – the first game is December 1st. And then we have Chicago, the Stanley Cup Champions, coming in for a Friday night later in the season – which we like that as well. It’s a Friday at the end of March, so there’s a lot of things in the schedule that we like.” The point about getting an advantage at these similar junctures of the season is important. Hopefully we won’t see this trend continue should the Senators make the playoffs. Home ice advantage please. On starting the season with a six game road trip and then a surplus of home games after that stretch... “Yeah, it is, but that’s a function of again, going to the Olympics. We’re going to have basically a three week break in February, so the month of February really is shot. It’s a 28-day month as it is, so really, the first half of the season, we’d normally would define as October until December 31st but now the first half of the season really is the beginning of October until the middle of December. And then the middle of December until the end of the season is the second half. And again, that’s just the function of sending your players to the Olympics. We like the fact that we play in the Olympics, but there is a give and a take there. For us, that means we’re going to play a lot of our games before January 1st and all teams will be in the same boat.” With a few significant adds, the opportunity to start the season on the road has the added benefit in that it forces the players to stick together and hopefully in turn, it allows the players to bond. If the end product is that the team has more gel than whatever the hell was in Mike Piazza’s hair during the MLB All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby, we’ll all be better for it. On there being any other reasons why the Senators have a six game road trip to start the season and whether there’s anything going on at the Canadian Tire Centre to warrant this trip… “That’s just the way that it worked out. (The NHL) asked us, ‘When do you want to do these trips? Do you want to do them earlier? Later?’ I spoke to Bryan (Murray) about it before we talked to the scheduler and Bryan thought we’re going to have to go more, because it’s more of a balanced schedule. We’re going to play every team in the (Western Conference). This is the first year that we’re going to be doing that, so there’s going to be normally, with one or two long trips, there’s going to be at least three now, and in getting one out of the way early, we thought was a good idea. And really, (the six game road trip) is not as bad as it sounds. We’re going to play Buffalo and Toronto on back-to-back nights and then you’re going to come home. You’ll be back home for a few days. Guys will get a chance to relax and catch their breath and then they’ll get out west for the four games before they come home for the home opener. It’s really a two-game trip to basically southern Ontario and then our four game western swing.” Getting Los Angeles and San Jose out of the way early may not be the worst thing in the world either since it may allow them to catch either team at a time when they’re coming out of the gate and may not be in midseason form. Of course, this perk or the benefits Leeder mentioned will matter if the Senators stumbled out of the blocks to a sub-.500 record. On how much being in the Atlantic Division changes things… “Well, I think it’s good from a fan’s perspective. Again, they’ll get a chance to see all the players and all the teams. You won’t have four home games against Montreal and Toronto. From a business perspective, I guess that’s something that you have to deal with but I think we’ll make that up with Detroit in our division and Chicago coming in now on an annual basis. Those are things that we just haven’t had before, so there are some gives and takes but I think, by and large from a fan’s perspective, it’s just a better schedule matrix. What gets me excited as the President of the team really is the fact we’ll play the first two rounds of the playoffs within our division. You know, it took us 21 years to get into a playoff series with Montreal and we still haven’t played the Bruins in a playoff series, so hopefully we’ll get more of those intense rivalries with our division opponents through the playoff process.” And when the league and its fans grow tired of or identify the shortcomings of the new setup, the NHL will just move to something else. On getting four of the original six teams within their division… “Yeah, we like that a lot. There’s no doubt or denying the fact that it’s probably more difficult from a competitive point of view. We think we’re in one of the toughest, if not the toughest (division) of the four. But, again, looking at it from a fan’s perspective, would I rather see the four original six teams or four newer teams? I think (the fans) are obviously going to prefer the original six teams. So again, we like that and I think it gives our fans something new to look forward to and a little more variety. On balance, I think it will be good for us in the long-term too.” Interesting to hear Leeder point out the competitive disadvantage that the Senators have considering how sensitive some have been to team’s financial situation. Of course, when ownership is making personal appearances at Council meetings to lobby the City for a casino, maybe pointing out this financial competitive disadvantage is more strategic than I’d otherwise give it credit for. On taking us through the range of emotions from losing Daniel Alfredsson and then bringing in Bobby Ryan… “Yeah, I mean, I think I was like most fans. I just went through that rollercoaster of emotion and I couldn’t believe that Daniel wasn’t coming back. I was very disappointed and didn’t like the fact that he wasn’t going to be a Senator next year. And then I went through the point where I was ecstatic when we were able to acquire Bobby Ryan and know that he’ll be playing here likely on a line with Jason Spezza. I think you’ve got a lot to look forward to there from a fan’s perspective. I went through those emotions. I was mad. I was unhappy. I was ecstatic – the whole range during that day. But on balance, I think going forward, we knew at some point that we were going to have to deal without Daniel in our lineup. I think we all would have wanted a more elegant transition from playing to retirement, but that’s what sports is all about. He played hard here for seventeen years and I don’t think anybody will question that and he earned the right to make the decision on where he wanted to play this year.” *Nodding head* On December 1st marking Daniel Alfredsson’s return and what he expects of the fans that night… “Yeah, I think again, I think there’s a real range there. On balance, most people will welcome Daniel back and I hope they do. I think that’s the appropriate and right way to treat him. He never took a shift off here that I saw in seventeen years, so I don’t know how you couldn’t treat him with anything but respect when he comes back.” On the plus side, it’s not like Alfie hasn’t been booed before in our barn. On the organization doing anything to celebrate Alfie… “Well, sure. We’re obviously *laughs*… We’ve done things in the past for players when they’ve come back. I can’t think of a player that would be more deserving of something than Daniel.” *More nodding* On the season ticket holder response to the organization since Alfie’s decision… “Yeah, I mean, I’ve got the full range. It’s a bit of a long answer but I’ve had people who were really mad at the organization for not finding a way to get Daniel signed. But those were really in the minority and the one (thing) that really surprised me, the majority of the people felt that we were a better team today than we were a month ago. And having talked to them, I said, ‘Well yeah, you might be able to make the case for that, but it would be hard not to make the case that if we had Clarke MacArthur, Bobby Ryan and Daniel Alfredsson that we wouldn’t be a better team yet still. And I think that, if there’s any disappointment on our end, we would have liked to have had all three of those guys in moving forward. I think the fans that I talked to, and again, they went through that range of emotion on the day. I had people calling me early on the morning of (July) 5th saying they were really upset and then calling me back early that afternoon saying, ‘Geez, this is great! This worked out fine.’ I don’t think we feel that way as an organization. We would have liked to have Daniel here, but I know there are fans out there who think that we’re in a pretty good spot.” *Still nodding* On July 5th being a surreal day… “Yeah, you guys lived through it. You guys were on the whole day. You know that the calls coming in,  I think, were more of the latter, where we’re a better team. I think people, I think, may have missed the point that this is once in an ever, once in a lifetime, certainly once in a generation kind of player that we had here. It would have been nice to keep him for the rest of his career along with the addition of Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur (it) would have been ideal.” Yet, some select morons will exert their right to boo Alfie on December 1st. On the City looking at the casino issue again next month and looking at whether there can be two sites here in Ottawa and what the organization hopes to get from that… “Yeah, we’re hoping that we’ll get to that point. We certainly believe that there is room for two sites in Ottawa. If you go to other jurisdictions, there’s two, in Ontario for example, there are two in Niagara Falls. In their downtown district, they’ve got two different locations and they both do very well. But, a better example is what happens out west in Edmonton and Calgary. There are multiple gaming sites in each of those cities. In Calgary, there are five or six and four or five proposed in Edmonton now, and I think our view certainly is that we should have at least two in Ottawa. We weren’t opposed at all to Rideau Carleton (Raceway) maintaining their slots where they were right now; allowing the track to stay open and provide some form of subsidy to the racing component. They need it, otherwise they won’t survive. But, having a full-on competition for a major casino across the rest of the city, we felt was the right answer. And I think Council has been there for a while; this isn’t anything new for Ottawa City Council. They’ve wanted to have two sites and were trying to get it. And this is just now, I think, more of a full-court press with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the province to hopefully change their previous stance to allow two different sites within the City of Ottawa.” Considering the lengths the organization has or may go to – including the threat of potential litigation against the City – to protect its interests, I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising to hear that the organization is following up on the conversation from their last Council meeting in which a councillor asked Melnyk whether the Senators would be interested in the possibility of having a casino near the Canadian Tire Centre and operating Rideau Carleton Raceway as a satellite site. In an interesting twist however, heat is being taken off the City and is now being displaced onto the province and OLG. On what the casino could mean for the team… “Since Eugene (Melnyk) has bought the team, we’ve been in a really good spot financially and we will continue to be. But anytime you can add a major revenue component to your hockey club – whether it’s a new naming rights partner, or a new sponsor, or a new section in your seating, or in this case, a major casino marketing partner right next door to you – that’s going to help you financially. And when it makes you stronger financially, you are able to better compete in this league because it is about our resources – both financial and our players – which really makes a difference at the end of the day here. Your coaching staff and your development staff will only carry you so far, you really need to have the players and have the budget to be able to deliver. If we are able to add a casino or another major revenue opportunity, that just means we’ll be a stronger club financially and (be) able to do more and compete harder in the NHL.” Again, while it’s true that the Senators need the financial wherewithal to hold onto and support their core, it’s easy to play up this financial disadvantage card when angling for an additional revenue stream. On the loss of Alfredsson and how it changes the organization’s mindset in how it effects how they market the team… “The short answer is yes. You have to be cognizant that players do change in a salary cap era and the probability or likelihood that players will change teams is increased. There’s more likelihood that they will move around. If you around all sports and even across the Canadian NHL teams, you’ll see that just about every one of their marquee players has moved at one point in time. That shouldn’t be a surprise to our organization or our marketing team. And how we go forward? Certainly in the short-term, we won’t be able to rely on Daniel and using him as a platform which we had in the past. We were in the middle of creating a marketing campaign for this year and he was a big part of that. So we’ve had to reset that and we’re starting over and working on a new plan now. But going forward, we’ll be more cognizant but, I don’t think it will stop us from using stars to promote our game because that is part of our game. We’ve got a number of stars here now and I think we need to use them to promote the game. Whether it’s Erik Karlsson, or Jason Spezza or Craig Anderson, those guys… we need to use those players to promote and market our team.” On Bobby Ryan making great first impressions in Ottawa… “He was great. I sent my notes to our guys saying, ‘I hope Bobby will be able to do A, B and C when he’s here,’ and he did that and about ten other things. He was phenomenal and if that is his first day on the job, and his first impression, he made a great first impression on the President and we’re really happy to have him.” Hey, it wouldn’t have felt like a real interview unless someone fluffing up Bobby Ryan just a little.  
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