Despite owning the second best record in the Atlantic Division at 16 – 11 – 3, the Ottawa Senators are struggling to draw fans to their home games and as Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun writes, team owner Eugene Melnyk is not happy about it. According to Garrioch, the Senators are averaging 15,357 fans through 17 home games this season. In 2015-16, the Senators drew just more than 18,000 per home contest.
The steep decline in attendance is obviously disappointing but Melnyk is mindful that Ottawa’s recent postseason absence plays a role.
“I’m hoping now that we’re doing very well on the ice (attendance will increase) and I hope we continue to do well and remembering we’ve been out of the playoffs two of the last three years and that one year we lasted a round. We have to turn that around and become a playoff team every year and then you’ll see (fans) come back.”
Melnyk bristles when asked whether ticket prices might help explain the decrease in paid attendance:
“The prices are not too high. We are one of the lowest prices in the league. It’s a fair price.”
Obviously a drop in attendance will have a direct affect on team revenues and subsequently could lead to a decrease in player payroll as early as next season. According to Cap Friendly, the Senators currently have around $68.7MM in salary commitments to 25 players in 2016-17. In 2017-18, the club already has $59.15MM devoted to player salaries with 10 players coming off the books. If the organization decides they need to trim payroll it might make it difficult to replace or re-sign players with expiring contracts this summer.
It’s also possible if attendance doesn’t improve this season that it could alter the Senators trade deadline strategy. If the Senators are still in the playoff hunt in February, the front office could be prevented from adding another scorer to a roster that ranks 26th in the NHL averaging just 2.33 goals-per-game.
Melnyk still appears to be positive about the team’s situation, both in the near and the long term. Garrioch mentions the progress made in the RendezVous LaBreton bid to build a new arena for the Senators.
“This is something that will be (good for) the next 30 to 40 years and it’s OK to take that extra time to make it perfect.”