Tom Anselmi inherited a franchise, not in utter distress, but in need of tweaking. We take a look at what he can do in the next few years to make an impact on the organization.
1. LeBreton Flats Development
There is no doubt that the development of LeBreton Flats and the construction of a new NHL arena for the Senators will be Anselmi’s legacy project during his tenure with the organization. Anselmi, a native of Etobicoke, Ontario, held various positions with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), most recently as President and COO until 2013. He was largely credited with overseeing the construction of the Air Canada Centre, home of the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. Anselmi saw the project through on time and on budget. Now the Ottawa Senators have secured the rights to build an arena on the soon-to-be-developed LeBreton Flats land, and Anselmi will be a big part of any discussions and processes involved in building a new arena over the next few years.
Recently, owner Eugene Melnyk, in a sudden and somewhat shocking decision, decided to part ways with longtime President Cyril Leeder, drastically steering the organization in a new direction. A deciding factor in Anselmi’s hire was obviously the experience that he brings to the table. Could Leeder have overseen the development of the new arena on time and on budget? Maybe, but Anselmi has a proven track record, and in the high-pressure vacuum of the Toronto sports world no less. Time will tell if Anselmi can achieve the feat once more, but the result of the LeBreton development will be a big part of his legacy, and Eugene Melnyk’s as well.
2. New Jerseys and Branding
If Anselmi wants to appeal to his new organization’s fanbase, this is as easy as it gets. I won’t go into extreme detail on this point, because it’s an objective fact that Senators’ fans and players alike want to move away from their current jerseys, which easily rank in the bottom five of the league. The team has made some questionable branding faux-pas in recent memory, most notably the SNES jerseys and the current 3-D centurion abomination. This isn’t an expansion franchise anymore. Ottawa has an established league history (albeit briefer than certain divisional rivals), highlighted by the recent retirement of Daniel Alfredsson’s number. With the Senators finally looking towards making the long-term move to a new downtown arena, it’s time to grow up. We’re a legitimate sports franchise; it’s time to look the part.
Thus far, the best designs for new uniforms have come from the Senators’ vocal fanbase. Branding guru @Le_collectif has absolutely nailed the look for the Senators’ heritage jerseys, and it’s a crime against humanity that the organization hasn’t made them the full-time home and away jerseys yet. A vocal part of the Senators community has rallied behind the #GoWithTheO social media campaign, advocating the team to replace the centurion design with something a little more sophisticated and less cartoonish. It should be a no-brainer for the team, seeing as how they ALREADY OWN THE DESIGN FOR THE JERSEY. But alas, here we are. If the Senators are truly stuck on the idea of the centurion, then there are a plethora of designs that would see the Senators revert back to the 2-D logo of days gone by, with a bit of a refresh of course. @Rocket57, @teamup182, and @Le_collectif have made some phenominal mock-ups, some of which can be seen below (and if you haven’t already checked them out on Twitter, do so…right now). Fans seem to be comfortable with either design, so long as the current jerseys are replaced.
3. In-Game Atmosphere
I’m not sure what it is exactly, but the Senators’ in-game experience seems lacking compared to its counterparts around the league. The entertainment and overall impression you get is: meh. It’s very bland and fails to stand out. For die-hard fans and season ticket holders, it is likely not a big issue, as they attend games because they are hooked on the team and its players. For the casual fan, however, it is severely lacking. Maybe it’s too “childish”, not mature enough, or maybe fans just aren’t into it, but something has to change. Icing a better team might help with that, to a point, as well as sprucing up the jerseys as mentioned above. But it’s something for Anselmi and company to work on if they want to get back to the golden days of selling out every game (or even one game).
4. Restructure the Front Office
Yes, yes a million times yes. This is an absolute must. Little is known about the Senators front office, other than the big names and high-profile roles. We do know that the Senators employ an advanced stats individual in some role, but they have been extremely coy on the matter. It has been widely reported that the team has one of the smallest front offices in the NHL. Whether this is a matter of Melnyk not being willing to shell out the necessary cash to expand the front office, or just general naivety about the quality of the people they currently employ, it’s clearly not sufficient. Anselmi has already stated in his early interviews that this would be a key area of focus in the coming months, although it is highly unlikely any moves are made until the offseason in the summer.
5. Be A Filter for Eugene Melnyk
This is a tough one. The one complaint I had about Cyril Leeder was that he was widely unavailable to fans. He rarely made appearances, outside of the odd press conference or charitable event, had no social media presence, and would rarely comment on financial aspects or ambitions of the organization. This left Eugene Melnyk as “the voice” of the Senators. Tom Anselmi seems to be more in touch with the Senators’ fanbase, frequently tweeting (or at least retweeting) about the team and its players. In the few interviews he’s conducted since being hired, he seems like a calm, cool, and collected presence, something Senators’ fans are not used to around Melnyk. His comments about Ottawa not being Toronto or Montreal were poorly received by some, but I, like many, saw them in a positive light. It’s true that we’re not a 100+ year storied franchise in one of the two of the biggest cities in Canada, but we don’t need to be. The Senators need to forge their own, unique identity, and a big part of that hinges on re-branding as previously mentioned.
What do you think? What do you want to see Tom Anselmi achieve during his tenure here? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below.