LeBlanc was quick to establish his local credentials in both interviews, mentioning having been a Sens season ticket holder in the past, and having been in the building for the team’s one and only Stanley Cup Final win back in 2007.
When CFRA’s Bill Carroll asked about the fan perception of the owner and how it makes it difficult to fill the rink, LeBlanc largely talked about how the current roster is a good source of excitement, as well as the upcoming draft, but largely ignored the Melnyk angle of the question. He also mentioned the need to get back out into the community, but that has been a repeated refrain by a few previous hires.
Discussing the potential business impact on operations of COVID-19, including the possibility of next season starting without fans in the building. He hopes that the start of the season being pushed back could allow fans to be there and notes that other countries are starting to allow ticket sales. In both interviews, he mentioned using the extra time this gives before the team hits the ice again to come up with new plans for marketing and fan experience.
There are a few things notable for their absence. First, he joined two Bell Media stations but was not made available to sister station TSN1200. While Melnyk has shunned the only local dedicated sports station while occasionally speaking to other media outlets for some time, I’m hard pressed to remember any other Sens execs skipping them while doing the rounds of other stations.
Second, on the day of the Hockey Hall of Fame vote, he completely ignored the lay-up opportunity of publicly advocating for Daniel Alfredsson’s inclusion, or even Bryan Murray’s for that matter. While a last minute appeal on Ottawa radio and TV probably wouldn’t have had any real impact on the voting, it would have been an easy PR move — especially when claiming fan credentials like LeBlanc has.
Third, more positively, was the relative absence of spin. It lacked the frankness of Jim Little’s interviews (which may or may not have had a role in his firing, depending on who’s version of events you believe), and there was the now-traditional reference to “one goal away from the finals” in 2017 along with plenty of reassurances about how good his relationship with the Euge is. But he didn’t try to redirect things to the level that Tom Anselmi did and at no point did it feel like he was blowing smoke the way Nic Ruszkowski’s interviews came across.
Overall it was a fairly weak initial outing that avoided the pitfalls that some of his predecessors have fallen into, while also being light on anything to actually builds faith in the fan base. But in the end, it will take actions and not words for that to happen and only time will tell if LeBlanc can pull it off.