On January 26th the two competing bits for the redevelopment of the Lebreton Flats area of Ottawa finally revealed their proposals. Both groups have plans for extensive retail, residential, and green space, as well as an arena. The mention of an arena in both proposals is a surprise as while the “Rendez Vous LeBreton Group” is affiliated with the Ottawa Senators current ownership the competing “DCDLS Group” has no affiliation with the team or its owners.
What this means for the future of the Ottawa Senators and the development of the lebreton flats is unclear. What is clear though is that the current owner of the Ottawa Senators, Eugene Melnyk, is intent on using any means necessary to secure the development contract for the Rendez Vous LeBreton Group bid that he supports.
In what seems like an effort to undermine the percieved functionality of the DCDLS groups’s arena Melnyk has announced that he both has no intention of selling the Ottawa Senators, and that the team would not play in an arena that he does not own.
More disturbingly, in an additionally, in an attempt to gain the support of the Ottawa Senators fans for the Rendez Vous LeBreton Group’s bid for the Lebreton Flats development Melnyk has announced that should the team be able to move to Lebreton (of course only under his ownership of the team and arena) the result would be a more successful team. This would apparently be through the teams ability to use the extra revenue (from their more convenient location downtown) to spend more money on players.
Although both of these announcements are little more than callous attempts to unduly influence the results of the tender process, it is the unsubstantiated claim about the potential future success of the team that is just quantifiably inaccurate.
There is really only a tangible correlation between the amount an NHL team can (and does) spend on players and how often (if at all) that translates into championships. Looking at the salary cap for the 2015-16 season we see that Ottawa is ranked 23rd out of 30 teams (see diagram 1). The issue is that a teams rank in terms of their salary cap hit position has very little relation to how well they will do. This can be demonstrated by taking an average of the salary cap hits for teams over the past 6 years. In this case Philadelphia is the top spending team over this 6 year period. Unfortunately for Philadelphia this has not resulted in a championship for them in even the past 10 years. The best performing team over the past 10 years has been the Chicago Blackhawks who have won 3 Stanley Cups in the past 6 years despite only being ranked 8th overall in terms of their salary cap hit. This lack of correlation between salary cap hit and team success continues with the realization that only two of the top 5 spending teams over the past 6 years have even won a cup in the past 10. This clearly demonstrates that there is much more at play than just money in winning a championship.
In the case of the Ottawa Senators the issue is very much about spending the money in the right places rather than not having enough to spend. According recreational sports pundit Jordan B. the Senators are not spending too little on players overall, just too much on under-performing players. His recommendation is to dump players like Cowen and Greening who are under-performing in relation to their value to the team. Cowen, who has failed to be successfully paired with any of the other deferencemen, is being paid $3.7m/year till 2017 and has been on the roster for 5 years. Greening, who the Sens are still paying $2.75m, is already playing in the minors, where he will presumably stay till the end of his contract.
Regardless of the merits of either of the two proposals for the Lebreton Flats redevelopment the Ottawa Senators owner should not be setting such ultimatums for the NCC, the city, and the teams fans in order to push through his groups plan. Beyond empty threats about the teams home and owner it is quantifiably disingenuous claims about such things as their future performance that are an insult to the process and everyone involved.