Friday, March 2, 2012

Lehnsanity Rolls On But Ex-Sens Take The Two Points .... Leeder's Not Bluffing... And Friday Night Game Notes

Chicago 2 Ottawa 1

Give Ray Emery his due.

On Friday night he played his first game in Ottawa since being run out of town in 2008 and didn't show many nerves in helping take two much needed points for the Blackhawks as they fight to stay in the playoffs out West. He had a lot of help from another ex-Sen, Marian Hossa, who has played back in Ottawa so many times that the fans don't even seem to care anymore. But Hossa still looked like the same powerful winger who used to blow the ads off the boards as he roared by, carrying two defenseman on his back on his way to the net.

It was a strange night because at the other end of the rink from Emery was a young goalie who, in many ways, is very similar to the young and brash Emery we all remember from the Stanley Cup run in 2007.

Robin Lehner, a confident kid who clearly believes he's too good to waste away in the AHL, was coming off a shutout of the Boston Bruins and very nearly stole this game from Chicago, making 37 saves, including a big one on a Patrick Sharp penalty shot that he caught in his glove and gave the Statue of Liberty pose for the fans who went predictably berserk in the stands.

If you remember, Emery got his chance to be the number one in Ottawa after future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek went down to injury halfway into the 2005-2006 season. Now Lehner has temporarily taken over for Craig Anderson after the veteran mysteriously sliced a tendon in his hand fumbling around in the kitchen and Lehner hasn't disappointed one bit.

No one is saying Lehner has stolen Anderson's job but the similarities between he and Ray are too weird not to mention.

If an article came out tomorrow saying Lehner ate a cockroach on a dare from Daniel Alfredsson, would anyone be surprised?

Despite the loss on Friday, there's no way Lehner is coming out of that net for Sunday's tilt against the Panthers.

Looks like Emery is going to get the same chance in Chicago.

Two pretty good stories, and you don't often hear Senators goalies, either current or past, in that kind of context.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Robin Lehner
2. Milan Michalek
3. Jason Spezza


Leeder Not Bluffing In Fight Against Tax Change

The story about how the Ontario provincial government has asked the Feds to look into possibly eliminating tax deductions on corporate-bought sports tickets seemed to sneak up on everyone but the headlines were pretty grim for Ottawa Senators fans.

Essentially, Senators President Cyril Leeder said the team could outright fold if all those luxury boxes go unsold because of an unexpected change in tax laws. In fact, it’s been hinted some current owners of those boxes are already getting gunshy about renewing for next season in case they can’t write off a portion of the cost as they’ve been able to do in the past. Ontario would reap an estimated 15 million annually from the change according to the Ottawa Citizen, but lost ticket sales for the Senators could, according to Leeder, be catastrophic for the small market team that already has trouble moving their regular seats. If you think Leeder is just being dramatic for the benefit of the press, you may find it interesting that he’s being just as emphatic with internal staff.

Below is an excerpt from an e-mail sent by Leeder to employees of the Ottawa Senators. In an omitted portion of the e-mail, Leeder asks staff to distribute a series of approved letters to all their associates and contact their local MP (“ideally” by phone) as well as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (who is the highest ranking local Ottawa MP in Stephen Harper’s cabinet):

“You all have heard by now that there is a proposal being circulated to curtail the tax eligibility of deductions for corporations that purchase seats or corporate suites to sporting events. This was a proposal made by the Provincial Government to the Federal Government. (…) The Federal Government is releasing its latest budget on March 29th and could, if it chose to, amend the legislation at that time. That would be devastating to us.

“I cannot overstate how important this is to us. Please take the time to contact your MP and the two ministers today or tomorrow. When you do, please let XXXX know via email that you have done so and how many contacts you think we can count on for you and your network. We are trying to create a rush of contacts in the next 48 hours.”
Clearly, this is an issue that caught the Senators organization off-guard and the tone of the email is unmistakable – they’re going to the mat on this one. It’s somewhat rare for an organization like the Senators to turn to their rank and file employees to do an ad-hoc public relations blitz, so that should tell you something about how upset the Senators really are about this proposed legislation.

It would be one thing for the microphone loving Eugene Melnyk to sound the death knell publicly, but when the calm, collected and highly respected Cyril Leeder does it, you tend to take notice.


How many articles have you read in the past week about why Erik Karlsson doesn't deserve the Norris Trophy? I think I've read about ten too many and it's left me with one thought: Some of these writers are resentful they didn't see it coming. Many hockey pundits were caught off-guard by a young kid they either didn't know too much about or simply had pegged as a small, defensively weak power-play specialist who would never make much of a ripple, especially on a terrible team like Ottawa who they almost universally panned in the summer. The fact that Karlsson escaped everybody's attention until they were forced to acknowledge his amazing season probably feeds into the current mania to discredit him as a favourite for the trophy. How could he be this good if they didn't see it coming? That's the mindset here. Karlsson is making a lot of experts look bad, hence the need to point out why he's not as good as known commodities like Shea Weber that most pundits pencilled in for the Norris last September. Same thing happened to Nicklas Lidstrom early in his career. One day Karlsson will win a few Norris Trophies, but don't count on it being this season. He'll have to pay the price for playing on a team nobody paid much attention to and not already having name recognition....

.... Eric Duhatschek, after another one of those articles trying to explain the "Karlsson problem", went on to other matters and had a good point about the steady decline of offense in the NHL since the lockout:
It is Year 7 now since the lockout ended, which was supposed to usher in a new era, featuring more offence, more attack, and more of the stuff that lifts fans out of their seats. So what happens? Goal-scoring, in that seven-year span, on a per-game average, is slip-sliding away. From a high of 6.1 in 2005-06, it dropped to 5.8 the next year, and then had seasons averaging 5.4, 5.7, 5.5, 5.5 again - and this year, the league is on pace for a new low, 5.3. (...) On Thursday night, in a matchup of the league’s two top teams, St. Louis and Vancouver, it was 0-0 until five minutes into the third period... Maybe time for a second Shanahan Summit. Something’s gotta change.
….. You’d have to think the Senators would have no problem finishing 6th in the Eastern Conference. In that spot, they’re pretty much guaranteed a first-round matchup against the winner of the weaker Southeast Division, currently the Florida Panthers. But it could also end up being the Washington Capitals or the Winnipeg Jets, all teams that are beatable. Dropping to 7th or 8th would mean a much tougher ride with either the Rangers or the Bruins. Yet, NHL history is littered with teams that fell to opponents they thought "favourable". The Florida Panthers themselves proved that back in 1996 as they stormed all the way to the Stanley Cup final against Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche until Uwe Krupp finally buried them in overtime of Game Four. The Panthers had already upset Ray Bourque and the Boston Bruins, Eric Lindros and the Philadelphia Flyers, and Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins.....

…. Jeremy Roenick went for the bone marrow when he called Mike Milbury “soft” on live television for saying the Stars Eric Nystrom should be suspended for his perfectly legal hit on the Penguins Kris Letang. But the real laugher was Roenick saying he was going to go get Milbury a “Shirley Temple”. Watching two grown men trying to “out-macho” each other is a little sad, but anything that gives us confrontations between Milbury and Roenick is worth watching. When analysts go at each other, the fans win. It’s too bad Al Strachan is no longer on HNIC’s Hot Stove in the second intermission. I’d love to see Strachan fix the young Eric Francis with one of those patented withering looks and a perfectly timed insult that Francis wouldn’t have a clue what to do with. At least CBC now has Elliotte Friedman who actually likes the hockey players he covers. Strachan was like that as well but unlike Friedman, he seemingly enjoyed getting various owners and management types furious with him, especially Brian Burke who tried to get Strachan fired on various occasions. There’s not much of the old battling journalism spirit left in the hockey world and that’s a shame. When they finally succeed in taking Don Cherry off the air, who’s going to be able to take blowhards like Burke down a peg or two just for the hell of it? …. My three favourite hockey writers of all-time? I’m sure you’re just dying to know. The list changes year to year but right now it’s Strachan, the late Jim Kelley and Red Fisher. I once stood right behind Fisher in a line at the Ottawa Greyhound terminal for a bus to Montreal. I remember finding it strange that Fisher would be taking a Greyhound but then again sportswriters are notoriously frugal. But I also remember fighting with myself whether or not I should try and talk to him. In the end, I didn’t say a word, not wanting to be “that guy” who bothers a complete stranger just so they can stammer and gush a bunch of bullshit. But what I would give to sit and listen to Fisher tell stories over a couple of beers….


Anonymous said...

That was a great game.

Great that Emery had a good performance and that Lehner showed his 'A' game as well. The guy has skills.

Spezza had a strong game also.

Huge fan of the NHL. It's a great game and a great product. The owners and the players deserve all the money they make. But, I'm a citizen before I'm a hockey fan.

I hope that the Ontario government calls Leeder's bluff.

The NHL's a great business. It's a business where billionaires pay millionaires. But, when they cry poor, I roll my eyes.

Ottawa's a rabid hockey market. If you depend on a tax deduction to make your business work, then something's wrong.

Governments across North America are in debt. The books need to be balanced.

It's very easy to say don't cut my in my department. It's quite another thing to offer an alternative.

Maybe we should keep the tax deduction and fire a bunch of nurses instead. Or keep the tax deduction and not pave a few roads. Those are the real choices that the governments face. It's about priorities.

As far as I'm concerned, the Senators have just written the playbook on how to fight against cutbacks, if you're affected. Next time a hospital budget is cut, the hospital CEO shouldn't say that some beds may have to be closed. Rather he/she should say that the whole hospital will close.

This is the best way to turn it into an emotional issue, where all rationality gets thrown out the window.

So the Senators may not survive if the tickets are no longer tax deductible. Give. Me. A. Break.

Anytime an NHL franchise complains about a loss of revenue, the first thing that pops into my mind is linkage. That's what the 2004-05 lockout was all about.

Gary Bettman implemented a great system. If NHL revenues fall, then so do salary expenses. That's what linkage is all about.

So, if the Canadian teams actually end up losing revenue due to the new tax policies, NHL revenues will also fall and so will salary expenses.

But, is it a certainty that tickets sales will fall? That's what we're told.

But, there's no point on speculating whether ticket sales will fall. The Senators have a good handle on their business, and if they feel ticket sales will fall, they have every right to make their voice heard and protect their turf and make whatever decisions they need to make.

The best part is that we live in a free market. So if Melnyk and Leeder feel that without tax deductible tickets that the numbers don't work, then they should put the team up for sale.

That's how a free market works.

The team doesn't fold. The team is put up for sale and a new entrepreneur with different ideas takes a run at things because they see an opportunity.

It happens all the time.

That's what happened to the Habs in 2001. The Canadian dollar was low, player salaries were rising. The Molson group essentially said that the numbers didn't work as far as them owning the team.

They put it up for sale. American George Gillett saw opportunity where Molson's saw a problem. Gillett took a risk and paid $185M for 80% of the team and rode out the storm. After 8 years, he sold the team back to Molson for $550M. I guess the numbers worked for him pretty good.

We're entering a period where everybody's being asked to do a little more with less. Hospitals, schools, and many other areas of the economy across North America are adapting to do a little more with less.

I don't see why billionaire owners and millionaire hockey players should be protected.

And besides, we don't even know for sure that ticket sales will fall. One thing I know for sure is that when you have a winning team, in any sport in any city, the building is full.

If the Sens want to immunize themselves against the effects of non tax deductible tickets, they should be laser focused on creating an exciting and winning product.

I'd bet that it would turn all this fuss into a non issue.

Anonymous said...

Just as a reference, here's how the numbers work (feel free to correct me if I missed something):

The general corporate tax rate in Ontario is 26% and tickets are 50% deductible.

That means on a $100 ticket:

$50 is deductible.

$50 x .26 = $13

Essentially, if a large business gives the Senators $100 for a ticket, when the business files its taxes, the government gives the business $13 back.

That means the actual cost for the ticket was $100 - $13 = $87.

If the Sens feel that all businesses would stop buying $100 tickets without the tax deduction, well then they could reduce the price to $87 because that's what it's costing them now.

Anonymous said...

The billionnaire owners and millionnaire players aren't the issue here at all. It's the incentive that a 50% tax deduction provides to businesses to go out and fill up the building by purchasing suites and season's ticket packages.

The Senators and the players aren't getting some tax break here. They aren't being catered to, or protected.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 6:14pm

Agreed that the players and owners aren't the issue, directly.

But, as you mentioned, a 50% tax deduction is an incentive to purchase tickets and suites. In Ontario, if gives businesses a 13% discount to attend a game.

The taxpayer is paying for that discount.

My point is that if you need to discount to survive, maybe your ticket prices are too high. Reduce the ticket price, to business, then you won't need the tax deduction.

As it is, the taxpayer is paying 13% of the ticket price for business. The owners and the players benefit because this goes to general revenue and results in higher salaries and higher profits.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Senators are QUITE catered too. They get access to the best health care without wait times, they can jump queues whenever tehy want for any business and they probably have some great accounting going for them so they avoid taxes, kinda like the owner who lives in Barbados all the time.

Call the bluff Ontario, you'll see it was all smoke and mirros and the team will still be there...just another scare tactic to leach more money off us.