When it came out that the Ottawa Senators were going to produce an online mini-series of videos called Senate Reform, I was very, very excited. Not just because the term this very site had coined for the Senators' current rebuild had really taken hold, but because the thought of a program like HBO's 24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals as well as TSN's Oil Change about the Edmonton Oilers rebuild both made me jealous. I wanted to catch a glimpse inside my team's management team, and what better time than leading up to what might have been the biggest entry draft in franchise history?
I can't think of any better time.
Obviously, as a team-produced series, the access we'd see would be limited to that deemed acceptable by the team's media department. Fair enough, that's to be expected; we wouldn't be seeing the full picture, but at least we'd get an idea of the dynamics of the team's management and hopefully it's players, and see how decisions are made. It's something fans are becoming more interested in as off-ice decisions become as closely scrutinized as on-ice performance in the New NHL, so I applaud the organization for noticing that trend and reaching out to take advantage of it.
Although the videos were interesting, they did leave something to be desired. Each video ran less than 10 minutes, and sessions were so clipped that the ever-important context of discussions was missing. With few meaningful interviews with Senators management, the overall product suffered, and although it was a good first attempt at the possibility, it was, by many accounts, a swing and a miss.
Just this week, I came across a home run: The Minnesota Wild's Becoming Wild series, which was on Hockey Wilderness earlier this week, debuted. Even with just one full-length episode released so far, it shows how far an organization can go if they really want to reach out to their fanbase.
(Watch the first examples of each series and compare them after the jump... )
Exhibit A: The first episode of the Ottawa Senators' Senate Reform online mini-series:
Pretty cool, right? Sure, the narration is a little lame, and--with all due respect to Gord Wilson, which is plenty--the team would likely have done better had they gone out-of-house to find someone with a more epic, dramatic voice, but the music is appropriate and professionally done, and even if we're short on details, we get a little bit of an understanding of how the scouts and managers discuss potential prospects. It's not an in-depth look, but it's something.
But take that, and compare if to Exhibit B: The first episode of the Minnesota Wild's Becoming Wild online mini-series:
Epic, right? It's substantially different than Senate Reform in that the Wild's communications team decided to take an overall look at the system and the players within it, focussing on players currently in the system with some extremely impressive footage of the Houston Aeros playoff run (with some equally impressive filming in appropriate lighting and settings, something Senate Reform would have benefited from employing).
The Binghamton Senators won their first-ever Calder Cup trophy last season, and it was based largely on the contributions from a number of prospects who will be with the Ottawa Senators, either this upcoming season or the next. If Senate Reform is intended to take a look at the rebuilding of the organization, that extends well beyond one season's draft and needs to take a look at the overall standing of the team's prospect development system. Realistically, the four episodes of Senate Reform could very well have been assembled into one full-length episode, representing a part of a grander series looking at the players and personalities in the organization today.
The biggest difference between these two series is obviously their respective lengths. The first episode of Senate Reform runs at about seven and a half minutes; Becoming Wild clocks in at over 20 minutes. That length is a reflection of the commitment each team had to the project as a whole, and I think that if the Ottawa Senators decided that it was worthwhile to produce a mini-series chronicling the reconstruction of the organization, they might as well have gone all-in and left everything on the ice.
(Another two notable differences are that the Wild hosted the Entry Draft, and that Becoming Wild was sponsored by Toyota. But I can see no reason why hosting the draft would really affect the way you approach it, and I'm almost positive the Senators could have found sponsors for Senate Reform.)
Here's what would have been much more rewarding, much more ambitious, much more insightful, and much more expensive: A mini-series with four 20-25 minute episodes:
- Episode one: The end of the NHL regular season, plagued with disappointment, featuring a team which has finally decided to go in another direction. Start with the trades of longtime players and the firings of coaches, and use the episode to represent a turning of the page, from past to future.
- Episode two: Dramatic AHL success. Did the Senators know that their affiliate in Bingo would have made a strong run in the Calder Cup playoffs? Nope, not even close. But they should have been talking to players, anyway, and filming what happened just in case.
- Episode three: The NHL draft. The four episodes of Senate Reform actually released would basically have been condensed into this single episode. There was plenty of fat to trim.
- Episode four: At the development camp. This is the finale, so it's a look at the prospects and a look forward. Talk to Paul MacLean, the man picking up the reins to lead the way. We started the mini-series closing one chapter, and we end the mini-series opening another.
This is just an idea. There are dozens of other possibilities for formatting the show, and I'm sure you could come up with a better one. The point is that there was ample opportunity to really put something out there.
Would it have been a significant undertaking? Without a doubt. It would have taken a fairly massive investment of time and money. But it could have been a damn good mini-series, instead of just a pretty cool one. The Ottawa Senators are a franchise lacking in history and identity, and the Senate Reform mini-series was an opportunity to establish something on both counts, and although it was a good first step, it didn't quite go far enough.