FROM THE DESK OF BRUCE LANDON
From the Desk of Bruce Landon - January 15, 2009 - 4:30 pm
It is time for me to address the performance of the team and to answer to all of the posts that are showing up on the Falcons’ Forum on MassLive.
First of all Edmonton is responsible for all player signings. The last time I actually signed players was when I signed Chris and Peter Ferraro. Times have changed. AHL salaries have escalated at alarming rates. A top notch AHL veteran is now demanding and receiving in excess of $175,000 thousand dollars a year and there are several now making more than $200,000. I would love to be in a position to recruit and sign a few of our own players and have more control over our on ice product. However, we simply do not have the revenues to support it. Keep in mind that when you sign a player for $150,000 you need to add on about another 18-20% for all of the other associated costs that go along with signing your own players.
Hershey has significant revenues. They are able to offer their parent club additional dollars over and above their affiliation payment to sign certain veteran players they target in the off-season. Chicago and Winnipeg can do the same. Teams like Springfield, Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany etc, do not have that luxury and basically are at the mercy of our NHL team to provide us with the best team they can, within the confines of the budget they have to work with. You have teams in our League who are owned by an NHL team and therefore have an interest in every fan that goes through the turnstile. It makes sense for these NHL teams to do the very best they can, to make sure their AHL owned team has success and therefore can draw well.
There is no one more frustrated than I am that we have not delivered a playoff team in 5 years. I believe our fans who have stuck with us through these difficult times deserve better. It was not working with Phoenix so we made the change to Tampa, which I felt was going to be the perfect fit. That did not work. Edmonton was available and I was able to sign an affiliation deal with the Oilers. For the first four months last year we were a very good team and fans were thrilled with Edmonton and the team on the ice. The wheels fell off in February and March due to injuries and call-ups and we did not make the playoffs. Our goal this summer was to add more depth and to try and sign three quality veteran players. I can’t tell you how many offers were made to players who are now playing on other teams. The cost of players simply got out of reach for what Edmonton was willing to pay. This year we got off to a good start and again fans were happy with the team. However, once again injuries in Edmonton and Springfield decimated our team. We lost three key defenseman and three key forwards almost at the same time. As a result we had to depend on call-ups and we simply could not put a competitive enough team on the ice. These are not excuses, these are straight facts. Other teams also went through their share of problems. Hartford had a horrible start and rebounded. Lowell, Worcester and Manchester did the same. Providence and Portland have been pretty consistent since the start of the season. I am hoping we can get our injured guys back soon and a couple of players back from the Oilers and see if we can’t put a winning streak together to climb back in the race. As I write this blog we are exactly at the half way mark in the season.
A person who goes by the name of Byeyotes on MassLive made a very good point. As an independent ownership group, we have very little input into our on ice product that eventually affects our bottom line. We also have to understand that our choices are limited, as to who is available as an NHL partner if Edmonton and Springfield were to end their agreement.
I still have an ownership stake in this franchise. We simply can’t continue to lose money year after year and write checks to keep this franchise operating. We have done a good job of building our season ticket base with our most recent campaign. We are working hard at increasing our group sales and building our overall attendance figures so that this franchise can be financially successful once again. Having a winning team certainly makes things easier, but we can’t worry about what we can’t control.
Someone on MassLive made the comment, that if we don’t have the resources to sign players and make the team competitive, than we should sell to someone who can. All I can say to that is, if you know of someone who is interested please have them give me a call. Perhaps the best case scenario for hockey in Springfield would be to find an NHL team that is willing to own and operate the franchise.
Finally, for the one person who said I should demand that Edmonton makes changes, I assure you that Edmonton is well aware of our on ice problems over the past several weeks. I speak to Kevin Prendergast from Edmonton almost on a daily basis. They are disappointed about the position of the team. Kevin has spoken to every team in the NHL about a possible trade. Offers have been made. As they say, it takes two to tango. So far nothing has happened, but that does not mean they are not trying.
I work closely with Kevin in providing him with possible names of players who may be available, either for a PTO (pro try-out agreement) or an AHL contract. I do this through-out the summer when free agency begins and all season long. Kevin runs the names through his scouting department and then a decision is made as to whether or not the player is deemed worthy of an offer. However, all final decisions on players are made in Edmonton.
In 1994 when I put a group together to save professional hockey for the City of Springfield, I did it because I personally believed that we could be successful, even though there were many that thought I was crazy. We had a nice run from 1995-2001 at the gate and the team did well. In 2002 I could have walked away, but decided to put another investment group together to keep hockey here at the MassMutual Center. The past several years have not been much fun. Losing is difficult for the fans, but it also takes its toll on me, my staff and the ownership group. I won’t predict what the future holds for professional hockey in Springfield. All I will say is that we will continue to work hard and to do our very best at what we can control.
I sincerely appreciate your support. As I say all the time, please feel free to call or email me if you have any questions and I will be happy to respond.