Happy days for Sens fans are long gone

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

How satisfied are you, Ottawa Senators fan? Come on now -- tell the truth.

You must have experienced a degree of contentment after last year, right?

I know it's true, and now everyone else does as well, thanks to ESPN.com's annual Fan Satisfaction Rankings.

ESPN released its rankings this week -- this is the sixth year for the poll, and its publicity has grown exponentially in that time. After surveying more than 80,000 fans, the website tabulated which teams possessed the most satisfied fans within the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

Categories used to calculate the results include "Bang For The Buck" (a study of how efficiently clubs convert fan revenue into regular and post-season victories), Fan Relations (ease of access to players, coaches and management), Ownership, Affordability (tickets, concessions and parking), Stadium Experience, Players (effort and likability), Coach/Manager and "Title Track" (championship titles already won or perceived to be imminent).

After all this research, here's what ESPN.com discovered: Out of 122 franchises, the Senators placed 29th overall, ninth within all NHL clubs and first out of all Canadian NHL teams.

(In case you were curious, here are the overall ratings for the other five clubs in Canada: Calgary was 54th, Montreal was 73rd, Edmonton came in 80th, Vancouver garnered the 91st spot and bringing up the rear in 121st place, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Only the New York Knicks were considered worse.)

TOO ROSY

If this rosy outlook for the Sens seems a bit suspect at this point in time, there's a reason it may be a tad off the mark.

The survey was conducted at a fortuitous time for the Senators franchise. The polls were undertaken after last season's Cup final and Sens GM Bryan Murray had just locked up Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza to long-term contracts.

For the majority of fans, it seemed as if the franchise had asserted itself as a) a legitimate Cup contender and b) a place where some of the league's best players wanted to be.

Who would have thought things would change so much in just five months?

The website itself acknowledges Ottawa's tumble since the poll was taken. A view of the expanded analysis begins with, "(Ottawa's) ownership should enjoy this (rating) while it lasts."

It may exist online, but you will no longer find such warmth in the hearts of Sens observers these days after this season's early playoff exit.

After the 2007-08 season, does anyone really see Ottawa finishing 30th in the player category if voting had taken place in April instead of November?

And what about the middle-of-the-pack rating of 57th place for stadium experience (which includes game-day promotions)? Internet message board postings displayed a heavy dislike of the nonsense of the sword/Thunder Stick handout during playoff home games -- a disappointment exacerbated by the discovery that other teams were doling out towel and t-shirt combos.

FOOLISH

It would be foolish for the Senators to take this esteemed ranking at face value, because anyone will tell you it is no longer valid.

That being said, will the recent negativity bring a halt to rising ticket prices? Will it lower the amount of pay-per-view games in the future or alter the fact that Sensations wants to charge $36 for a nondescript t-shirt?

You tell me.

It doesn't matter if Ottawa fans are in low spirits right now, because the club knows they still have them wrapped around their finger.

And maybe that's the problem.

All teams, regardless of stature, should operate with the belief that their fans can turn on them at any time. You have to keep your supporters happy.

The Sens know their fans were content in the past, but things aren't looking that promising in the present.

Coincidentally, a certain website prepping for its next big survey will be waiting to document fans' unhappiness in the coming months -- a revelation the franchise will undoubtedly deem to be quite dissatisfying.


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