GUEST POST- JOY LINDSAY
Just to briefly introduce myself, I was the beat writer for the B-Sens during their 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns, and was fortunate enough to cover them several times for the Ottawa Citizen this season. I will try to answer questions in the comment section if anyone has any, but I did not have the daily access to the team that it takes to know every single detail.
The Binghamton Senators’ season came to a disappointing end last week with a first-round playoff loss to the rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the second straight year, but that doesn’t change some of the impressive work the team was able to do during the regular season. Binghamton finished with a 44-24-3-5 record and 96 standings points, good for first place in the East Division, graduated a couple of players to the NHL, and saw plenty of others post career years.
Ottawa got an extended look at four of Binghamton’s most productive players this season, but here are some notes about what they accomplished in the AHL for 2013-14:
Mike Hoffman: Led team in points per game (1.31), total points (67), power-play points (35), and shots on goal with Binghamton (189); T-1st in goals (30) and power-play assists (23); 2nd in power-play goals (12). … Ranked 3rd in league in points per game (among players with 20 games or more) and power-play points; T-6th in goals; T-7th in PP assists; 8th in total points; T-9th in power play goals. … Posted career highs in every offensive category. … Never went more than 2 games without a point. … Had 20 multi-point games. … Scored first pro hat trick in 6-3 win over the Worcester Sharks on Jan 29. Tied franchise records for goals in a game with 4 and points in a game with 5 that night. … His points-per-game average was the best by a B-Sens player since Brandon Bochenski averaged 1.39 (46 in 33) during 2005-06 season. … Had a goal and 2 assists in AHL All-Star Game and was named to season-ending First All-Star Team.
Mark Stone: Averaged 1.11 points per game with 41 (15-26) in 37. … Surpassed rookie total of 38 points despite playing 17 fewer games. … Had 12 multi-point games. … Scored a goal and added 3 assists for 4 points in a 4-3 overtime win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.
Stéphane Da Costa: Averaged 1.04 points per game with 58 (18-40) in 56. … Set career highs in points, goals, and assists. … Had 17 multi-point games. … Tied franchise record for points in a game with 5 (2-3) in 7-3 win over the Rochester Americans on Nov. 9. … Tied franchise record for assists in a game with 4 in a 6-2 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Jan. 17. … Named team MVP.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: Averaged 0.96 points per game with 44 in 46. … Had 16 multi-point games. … Tied franchise record for assists in a game with 4 twice: in a 4-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch on Nov. 2, only his second AHL game of the season, and in a 6-3 win over the Worcester on Jan. 29. … Scored first AHL hat trick in 5-4 win over the Penguins on April 18. … Named team’s Top Defensive Forward.
Fans in Ottawa also got a brief look at rookie goalie Andrew Hammond, who stopped all 11 shots he faced in 34:31 of relief during a 6-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 27. That was the NHL debut for Hammond, arguably the most improved player in Binghamton this season. After giving up 5 goals in each of his first 2 starts, facing only 9 shots in his pro debut, Hammond went through a lot of the ups and downs that can be expected for a first-year pro, especially struggling with rebound control.
Expected to back up and learn from veteran Nathan Lawson, Hammond was thrust into a starting role by Lawson’s recurring injuries and became a crucial part of the team’s regular-season success, finishing with a 25-19-3 record, 2.81 goals-against average, and .910 save percentage. His 25 wins ranked 3rd among rookie goalies in the league, and were the most for a rookie B-Sens goalie since Kelly Guard had 25 in 2005-06. Hammond also earned the team’s only shutout of the season, stopping all 29 shots he faced in an 8-0 win over the Worcester Sharks on Feb. 15. He was chosen by his teammates for this season’s 7th Man Award. Hammond looked a bit shaky again in the playoffs, but there were a few fluky bounces and defensive miscues in front of him. The No. 1 job in Binghamton is likely Hammond’s to lose next season, with Chris Driedger a potential backup.
Fredrik Claesson was one of the biggest bright spots on a team full of them, and it seemed coaches and management could not praise the second-year blue liner enough. Claesson played the most minutes, faced the toughest competition, and set a franchise record in plus/minus at +37. He also picked up 29 points (3-26) this season despite not getting any power-play time, and led the team’s defencemen in even-strength points (25) and assists (24). Claesson was willing to block shots, make hits, and do whatever it took to win, which makes the fact that he had only 39 penalty minutes this season even more impressive. Despite accounting for 16.5% (75/454) of the B-Sens’ man games on defence, Claesson was only responsible for 6.5% (39/598) of the penalty minutes assessed to the team’s d-men. He was also only responsible for 3% (11/356) of the times the team was shorthanded, and did not get called for a single interference penalty all season. To put Claesson’s penalties into perspective, Ben Blood had 61 PIM and 18 minors in 54 games, Chris Wideman had 101 PIM and 28 minors in 73 games, Mark Borowiecki had 158 PIM and 34 minors in 50 games, and Michael Sdao had 171 PIM and 28 minors in 61 games.
Penalties were a problem for the whole team, and the B-Sens found themselves shorthanded 356 times. Only the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (411), Toronto Marlies (380), and Lake Erie Monsters (361) were shorthanded more. Binghamton scored a league-leading 16 shorthanded goals, but was among the worst teams on the penalty kill with an 80.6% success rate. Opposing power-play goals accounted for 69 of the 232 goals they allowed (29.7%).
Matt Puempel picked up 94 penalty minutes in his first full pro season, but 67 were the result of fighting majors or misconducts, and another number he posted proved more significant. Puempel scored 30 goals, the most by a B-Sens rookie since Bochenski scored 34 during the 2004-05 lockout season. Bochenski and Antoine Vermette, who scored 34 goals in 2002-03, share the franchise record for goals scored by a rookie. Puempel probably could have gotten closer to that record, or even set a new one, if he had been playing on a scoring line all season. But the decision to play him on the third line and develop his defensive game for the first few months of the season should pay off down the line. His 30 goals tied Hoffman for the team lead, and his 15 power-play goals led Binghamton. Puempel was voted the team’s Rookie of the Year.
Cole Schneider, who signed as an undrafted and unheralded free agent, doesn’t get as much attention as some of his teammates, but was the B-Sens’ third-leading scorer for the second straight season with 54 points. One thing that really stood out was Schneider’s willingness to crash (and camp out in front of) the net. He had 15 power-play points, but was on the ice for 41 of Binghamton’s 73 power-play goals (56%), often factoring into the play by screening the opposing goalie. He never went more than 5 points without a game this season, and had the most total points and points per game (0.78) among players who spent the entire season with the B-Sens. Schneider also stayed pretty disciplined, taking only 11 minor penalties in 69 games.
Chris Wideman led Binghamton defencemen with 51 points in 73 games, good for 4th in the league among blue liners, and led the team in assists with 42. He was a force on the power play, scoring 7 goals and handing out 23 assists. Wideman had a few struggles on the defensive side, and they became more obvious when paired with another offense-minded d-man in Cody Ceci during the playoffs. The duo was on the ice for 6 goals against in 4 games. Just as a note, I did not mention Ceci with the other players who spent time in Ottawa only because he played more games in the NHL than AHL. His play in Binghamton was overall very impressive.
Shane Prince had an interesting season, sitting as a healthy scratch for a few games early on and eventually becoming rumoured trade bait, but put together a solid sophomore campaign. He finished with 48 points (21-27) in 69 games and led the team in even-strength points (38) and assists (24), as well as first goals (6). Prince was tied for the team lead in plus/minus for forwards at +23. He was also among the players to tie the franchise record for assists in a game this season with 4 in a 7-1 win over the Portland Pirates on Feb. 1. Here’s a look at even-strength, power-play, and shorthanded point production by Binghamton players this season:
FINAL SCORING BREAKDOWN
Buddy Robinson was the other forward at +23, and he had 31 points (15-16) in 69 games as a rookie. There are a lot of positives to Robinson’s game, but he likely needs some more time to develop them.
Derek Grant didn’t look out of place as a fourth liner and penalty killer in Ottawa early in the season, but didn’t get back into an offensive rhythm in Binghamton until the last couple months. He finished with 22 points (12-10), and 10 (6-4) came in the final 13 games. David Dziurzynski had a few hot and cold streaks this season, but was also a late bloomer as far as goal scoring. He finished with 25 points, and 8 of his 13 goals came in the final 20 games.
Corey Cowick has established himself as an energy player and fan favorite in Binghamton, and finished with 25 points (12-13) and 89 PIM in 72 games this season, also earning the team’s Man of the Year Award. You can donate to Cowick’s Fight for a Cure, raising money for the American Cancer Society, until the Relay for Life event in Binghamton June 6-7. Wacey Hamilton and Cowick have some chemistry on the fourth line, and Hamilton posted 20 points (4-16) in 63 games this season. Darren Kramer, also typically a fourth liner, led the team in PIM with 178 and fighting majors with 18.
Trade deadline acquisitions Alex Grant and Patrick Mullen seemed to fit in very well on the blue line, but time will tell if they were just a temporary late-season fix. Ryan Dzingel and Garrett Thompson were impressive in their first few pro games and should have plenty of opportunity to prove themselves next season. Jakub Culek and Ludwig Karlsson spent the majority of this season in the ECHL, but could be in the AHL next season if there are players who need replacing.
Jim O’Brien was injured for the final 15 games of the regular season, and absolutely not a healthy scratch. He had a tough start to the season after being sent down, but got himself together and became pretty important to the club. All signs point to him leaving the organization now, but he would have played those games if not for a lower-body injury. O’Brien had 29 points (11-18) in 51 games.
As you have probably seen, a lot of players who finished the season in Binghamton are pending free agents. UFAs: Tyler Eckford, A. Grant, Lawson, Mullen, and O’Brien. RFAs: Ben Blood, Cowick, Da Costa, Dziurzynski, D. Grant, Hamilton, Schneider, Sdao, and Wideman. Eckford left the team for personal reasons this spring and seems unlikely to return.
Note from SensChirp- I wanted to thank Joy for taking the time out of her schedule to provide us with such an in-depth look at what happened down in Binghamton this season. Here in Ottawa we get a good look at the players that get called up but rarely do we get this level of detail on how things are going with the BSens. It was a disappointing end to the season but it’s clear that there is still a ton of talent down there and it’s a team that is obviously in good hands with Head Coach Luke Richardson calling the shots. So thanks again to Joy and be sure to follower her on Twitter at @PuckJoy.