Monday, October 17, 2005

Update From The Farm #2


Despite playing in front of a near sellout crowd of 4,613 (98 people shy of a sellout), the Binghamton Senators were unable to chalk up their first W of the season against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Saturday night, losing 5-4.

That tends to happen when you give your opponent 11 powerplay opportunities. Bridgeport, the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, downed the Baby Sens in a high scoring, penalty filled affair that saw former Islander Justin Papineau, who many were surprised to see not make the NHL roster, score a natural hat trick.

After the loss, Sens head coach Dave Cameron had a message for those who take too many penalties:

"We're at the point where guys won't play," he said. "If a guy can't play without taking penalties, he won't play."

On the whole, the game seems to have been reminiscent of a lot of NHL contests of late: decided by special teams. The Sens were not without their highlights on that end either, as both new captain Denis Hamel and Steve Martins scored with the man advantage. Hamel knows this trend can’t continue though.

"We got too many penalties all game long," Senators captain Hamel said. "If we want to get more wins, we need to get a little more disciplined. With the new rules, I think it'll be like that every game. If we don't learn now, it'll be a long season."

The powerplay this season has also gotten a facelift. Last year, with no NHL, the Baby Sens could throw out Spezza, Vermette, Bochenski, etc. up front and Pothier and Volchenkov on the point. Now that the lockout has ended, it’s back to reality. Playing the point on the PP this year so far have been Tomas Malec and Filip Novak. Novak has impressed with his puck moving skills, and so far looks like he’ll be right at home in that role, but the same apparently can’t be said for Malec. If he continues to struggle, don’t be shocked if Cameron throws someone like Neil Komadoski, who quarterbacked the powerplay in Notre Dame, or Neil Petruic, who did the same at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, to be given a shot to shine.

Even though the game was not sold out, the atmosphere was said to be electric in the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. Fans gave the team standing ovations during the pre-game introductions, with Hamel and goalie Billy Thompson receiving the loudest receptions. But as the game went on, a new star emerged.

Jeff Hereema, a 25-year-old career minor leaguer who’s spent time in the Vancouver, Carolina, and St. Louis organizations, was signed in the offseason as a free agent by the Sens. A former first round pick, 11th overall, of the Hurricanes in 1998, he’s never panned out as a NHLer, but appears to have found a spot with the Senators. Having missed the season opener against Philadelphia with a shoulder strain, he bounced back and scored two of their four goals and most said he was their best forward on the night. Martins, who had two assists in addition to his PP goal, also had a strong game.

Observers of the team have noted that Martins, a small, speedy forward (his height listing of 5’9” is more than a little generous) seems to have benefited from the new crackdown on obstruction and the rule changes to speed up as much as anyone in the AHL.


So far this season, the Binghamton Senators have had it pretty easy. Having only played two games in eight games up this point, it’s been slow going, but it will get very busy very soon.

The team has the entire work week off, likely full of only practices, but next Friday will host the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals. I know, the Caps already look like an AHL team, so imagine what their farm team consists of, but they do have some promising youngsters. Among them, two former Sens prospects in Jakub Klepis (traded to Buffalo for Vaclav Varada during the 2002-03 season, and then to the Caps for Mike Grier last year) and Brooks Laich (traded for Peter Bondra near last season’s trade deadline). Both are former first round picks of the Sens, are were moved in a sign of the changing of the guard as far as how they go about team building. Previously, the team never would’ve mortgaged their future for today, but each are now gone. In addition, the Bears has some homegrown prospects as well, including Christopher Bourque (son of, well, ya know), Eric Fehr (their first round pick in 2003 who put up 59 goals and 111 points last year with Brandon of the WHL), and Tomas Fleischmann (former two-time 30 goal scorer in junior). The Bears have started the year 2-1 with a shootout loss.

The Sens get no rest, as the next night they travel to Wilkes Barre-Scranton to face the Penguins. Like the Bears, they’re an AHL affiliate of a team that has been embarrassingly bad in recent years, so lots of prospects will be present. Among them Ryan Whitney (the 5th overall pick in 2002), Michel Ouellet (their 4th round pick in 2000 and two-time 40-goal scorer in junior), Jonathan Filewich (40 goal scorer last year in the WHL), and Ryan Stone (2nd round pick in 2003 who put up 99 points last year in the WHL). In four games so far, the Baby Pens are 4-0, so that should be a big test for the Senators.

And finally, they wrap up their busy weekend with their third game in as many nights by heading to Hershey for a rematch with the Bears. Often times, when two teams play each other within a short period of time, animosity builds and a playoff like atmosphere develops. We’ll see if that will be the case here.

Winless thus far, the Sens will be in for a difficult weekend, and need to come up with some points to try and get some momentum going. Falling behind the eight ball early in the year is never a good situation to be in.


By now, I think Patrick Eaves has the route from Binghamton to Ottawa, and back, memorized. Having made it twice already, playing in Tuesday’s game in Montreal, traveling back to Binghamton to practice with the Baby Sens, and then being brought back to Ottawa Saturday for the home contest with the Bruins, Eaves has now played more games in an Ottawa uniform than with Bingo.

Because of waiver issues, Eaves can likely expect to make this trek often this season. Having been made captain, it’s doubtful the Sens will risk losing Denis Hamelfor nothing by calling him up and then sending him back down. The same goes for Steve Martins, who’s playing on the top line with Hamel and lighting it up so far this year.

Eaves does not have to clear waivers. So even though he’s less NHL ready than the other two, and maybe even a few other Baby Sens, the club has already established that he’ll be the farm hand used when the team is short forwards.

It’s interesting to note that Eaves was put on a top line when called up to Ottawa, playing on the left side with Bryan Smolinski and Daniel Alfredsson and faring pretty well in the spot. Even though he’s yet to suit up as a Binghamton Senator, he’s been slotted into that Hamel-Martin top line when he does. Obviously, what line he’s used on when called up depends on the injury and what the team needs, but the fact they put him on the #2 line shows what kind of confidence they have in the rookie. So it’s very possible that Eaves will get top minutes in both Ottawa and Bingo, a unique scenario, as most times call ups get put on the bottom lines.


At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curious as to where the quotes in this blog entry came from. Did you interview Cameron and Hamel? And if not, why aren't you citing your source(s)?


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