If you want to try to decipher or read between the lines of the interview that the excitable (and sometimes rambling) Senators owner Eugene Melnyk gave to the Citizen’s Wayne Scanlan yesterday, you would probably head straight to this part with your magnifying glass:
“Melnyk wouldn’t say if the suggested $14-million loss figure was accurate, but he admitted that scaling down the payroll makes sense in a city like Ottawa, where “the revenue base is somewhat flatlined.””
That seems to be a significant statement. Melnyk has pretty much spent to the salary cap ceiling since 2005, which was a luxury Sens fans didn’t enjoy under Rod Bryden before the cap-era, and no one can accuse him of going cheap in his zeal to win a Stanley Cup. But it sounds like Melnyk is tired of losing money.
Does this mean that the reduction in payroll after the player purge last year is going to be a permanent state of affairs? Melnyk goes on to say that “We should not be in business if we have to make the playoffs just to break even…That’s not fair. That’s your bonus.”
My hunch is that Melnyk will once again break out the wallet if and when this team gets close to real contention (no reason to spend outrageous sums on a rebuilding team anyways) but there seems to be some signals that perhaps Melnyk is going to be much more careful about the bottom line despite his obviously competitive nature. There is always the possibility the Senators could become like the Sabres pre-Pegula or the current Nashville Predators. After all, Ottawa is a small-market team with a building that doesn’t regularly fill to capacity or have a high season-ticket base. Melnyk describes the revenues as having “flatlined”, which is not what you want to hear an owner say. Perhaps the big spending days are truly over, even if it may mean important players will have to depart due to a new self-imposed cap in the future.
Perhaps the only way to safeguard against such a possibility is to sell the building out regularly like other Canadian cities do. That’s a tough task in a town without a major corporate base and a public service facing major cuts under the Conservative government.
It will be interesting to see if the fans who actually have the money to afford tickets will do so in the next few seasons. The young rookies stirring up some excitement will certainly help in that regard.