Monday, October 10, 2005

Update From The Farm #1

Mondays are typically slow days for hockey news and discussion, as there are rarely any Sunday games to dissect (the Sens play three this year, one later this month when Philly comes to town and two road games in March), so I figured I’d use this day to do a weekly recap of what’s happening down in Binghamton with the Baby Sens. If anyone who either watches the games on the Internet as part of the B2 Network (which I plan to do when time permits) or goes to them live wants to contribute, feel free to e-mail me.


1 G Kelly Guard
2 D Neil Komadokski
4 D Filip Novak
7 RW Patrick Eaves
8 D Jan Platil
9 C Joe Cullen
12 D Tomas Malec
14 C Gregg Johnson
15 RW Danny Bois
16 RW Jeff Heerema
17 LW Denis Hamel
18 LW Grant Poltuny
19 RW Brett Clouthier
21 RW Dominic Soucy
22 C Mac Faulkner
23 LW Greg Watson
24 D Lance Ward
27 C Steve Martins
29 D Neil Petruic
31 G Billy Thompson
37 C Charlie Stephans
44 D Brennan Evans

For an in-depth preview of the Baby Sens coming year, check out the team’s official website. As the article notes, they may be in for a rough year, as with no lockout and the NHLers they had last year up with Ottawa, they’ll be without nine of their top 10 scorers and 74% of their total offense from last season.


The B-Sens kicked off the 2005-06 season by visiting the defending AHL champions the Philadelphia Phantoms, and took them to the limit before losing in the extra frame. It looked like the Senators would get the W as they held the lead late into the third before John Slaney scored for Philly with 2.2 seconds remaining and their goalie pulled. As expected, the crowd of over 11,000 went into a frenzy, and the Phantoms were able to carry that momentum into overtime. Mark Murphy scored on a breakaway to give Philadelphia the win.

Blowing leads was nothing new to this group, because during their winless pre-season, they had a similar situation occur against the Syracuse Crunch.

Scoring for the Sens were Steve Martins, the newly acquired Filip Novak (which I’ll touch on in a minute), and toughguy Danny Bois.

Still, even in defeat, there were said to be positives. Goalie Billy Thompson was spectacular according to those who saw the game, stopping 15 of 17 shots in the first period to keep the Sens in the game. Thus, he can be forgiven for giving up what most considered a soft goal in the OT winner. Head coach Bob Cameron seemed pleased with their play as a team.

"I thought we played well in the second and third periods," B-Sens coach Dave Cameron said. "That's a tough way to lose."

It’s worth noting that apparently tons of penalties isn’t exclusive to the NHL, as the AHL is also cracking down on obstrction. On this night, it resulted in 10 penalties for Binghamton, including an astonishing eight for hooking.

The B-Sens have a relatively light schedule early on, as they don’t play again until this Saturday in their home opener against Bridgeport. In total, they only have seven games in the month of October. November gets much busier though, with 14 games in 30 days, which includes two instances of three games back-to-back-to-back.


Going into this season, the Baby Sens will be without their top three defencemen from last season as Christoph Schubert, Anton Volchenkov and Brian Pothier, and they attempted to make those losses easier by signing Tomas Malec and Lance Ward, both of whom are probably 6th or 7th defencemen on a lot of NHL teams and who each have significant pro experience, in the offseason. Last week they traded for defenceman Filip Novak, who came from the Florida Panthers for a 6th round pick in 2007, continuing the process of reforming the Binghamton defence.

Novak’s track record isn’t anything to sneer at. He put up 39, 67, and 58 points in his three years as part of the Regina Pats of the WHL, in the process being named to two all-star teams. He was drafted 64th overall in 2000 by the Rangers, but never played a game in their system, as he was a big part of the trade that saw Pavel Bure leave Miami and come to the Big Apple. Novak represented the Czech Republic in the ’02 World Juniors.

He collected 27 points in 57 games in his first year a as a pro while playing for Florida’s minor league affiliate the San Antonio Rampage, which got him on the AHL All-Rookie Team as well as an appearance on Planet USA in the AHL All-Star game, but suffered a major injury to his ankle that required surgery and forced him to miss the entire 2003-2004 year. He did play in 71 games for San Antonio last season, but was said to have struggled throughout the year.

The fact that he’s on his way to his third organization at only 23 years of age, and that Florida basically gave him up for nothing in a time when they seem like they could probably use all the good defencemen in the world, might give one the impression that Novak isn’t anything excited about, and while it’s true that he likely won’t ever be a major contributor in Ottawa, he does seem to have all the tools that would make him an effective member of the Baby Sens. He’s said to be an excellent puck rushing defenceman and especially great on the powerplay. In a time when the AHL is apparently following the NHL’s lead as far as cracking down on obstruction, a powerplay specialist will come in very handy.


With Chris Kelly up with the big club until at least the end of the month when Vaclav Varada will return (and maybe even longer, as he could very well play his way into a full-time job), there was a vacancy with the captaincy, and Hamel, a longtime veteran of the AHL, has been given the nod. Since being acquired from Buffalo two years ago, Hamel has torn it up in Bingo, with two seasons of 67 and 78 points. Last season, his best year as a pro, saw him put up a franchise record 38 goals. He will be their fourth captain in team history, as previously, Steve Martins and Brian Pothier split the duty in 2001-02 and Kelly had it for the next two seasons. Hamel did briefly where the C when Kelly was called up to Ottawa for a few games last season. Coach Cameron thinks “Hammer” is tailor made for the job.

“Denis is a good captain because he is our hardest worker, he is a proven veteran that knows what it takes to win at this level and he leads by example,” said Cameron.


The highly touted prospect goaltender Glass had been sent to Bingo last month after a good rookie camp, but with Kelly Guard and Billy Thompson ahead of him on the depth chart, and both having played pro already, it was doubtful the 19-year-old ‘tender would crack the AHL affiliate. The Sens are following the same path they took with Guard last year, as he played a year with the same Charlotte Checkers. Glass would’ve had one more year of junior eligibility, and could’ve went back to the Kootenay Ice of the WHL, but I guess they figured he's gone as far as he will in junior and needs some pro experience. Whether or not the quality of opposition in the ECHL is a step-up from the WHL could be debated, but it might just be about a change of scenario for Glass. He did get into two pre-season games for Binghamton and, statistically, looks to have struggled, racking up a 9.02 GAA and a .818 SV%.


Another promising youngster won’t be in Bingo this year. Wick, who was Ottawa’s 5th round pick (156th overall) in 2004, came into the rookie camp with a big reputation as a talented scorer, having put up 32 goals and 38 assists under Brent Sutter with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL last year, his first year of hockey in North America. However, despite showing spurts of brilliance, I was not overly impressed with Wick’s play in the rookie game I saw, as he seemed to be intimidated by the physical play and floated for most of the night. Word from those who saw the remaining tournament games was little changed as the tourney went on. Still, the talent is clearly there and he’s someone the Sens have on their radar as a part of their future. For his part, Wick is saying the right things.

”It was a very good experience, I learned like there's lots of work to do when I saw all those players. It's a level faster and I still have to work on that. … The coaches there told me, and I know too, that I have to get bigger, that I have to work on my physical game. I have to work on that and on my defence game. Those are two important points. You always can work on skating and skills . . . there are no limits. … I know that and I've got to improve here," he said. "I'll do my best to help out here offensively and defensively. Ottawa is still interested but that's just good to know for me. I still have to get better. … I'm very comfortable here and I felt like I need one more year of junior experience to get to play in the pro leagues."

Coach Sutter is also excited about getting back the skilled Swiss
”We're adding a guy who knows how to play the game, a player with skills," said Sutter. "I think it was a great experience for Roman to have the opportunity to play at the pro level with both Binghamton and Ottawa, that it's just going to add to his confidence. I talked to the Ottawa people today and they said they were very pleased with the camp he had. And yet he has to continue to work on his game to make himself a good pro."


At 4:05 PM, Blogger Tom L said...


Thanks for the note about Denis Hamel getting the "C" for Binghampton. Denis' a great guy, one a lot of us miss at the far end of the Thruway.



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