Binghamton Senators: 2011-12 Season Review

The Binghamton Senators finished 30th in the AHL with a 29-40-7 record for 65 points, which represents a 27-point (and 13 win) drop over last year’s Calder Cup winning season (when they were 12th in the league).  The team was 23rd in scoring (their 201 goals was 54 less than last year), 27th in goals against (their 243 goals 22 worse than last year).  The team featured 11 rookies, 7 of whom were regulars in the lineup.  Twelve players from the Calder Cup team remained (thirteen if you count Daugavins’ brief tenure with the team).  Back in August I predicted Binghamton would compete for a playoff spot and that their fate would hang on their goaltending.  Instead, the two things that troubled the team most were injuries to key players (especially Corey Locke) and their lack of depth on the blueline.  Tim Murray admitted the unexpected retirement of Lee Sweatt hurt the team a great deal (comparing him to Andre Benoit) and admitted the other veterans he signed (Parrish and Conboy) weren’t able to replace those lost from the previous season (Ryan Keller and David Hale are the most likely parallels, although Murray also mentioned Ryan Potulny who was acquired by trade).  It was a disappointing season for the team, although within that there was positive development of individual players.

Throughout the year I posted ten-game segments looking at how Binghamton performed, so here’s a brief recap of the season that was:
The first ten game segment Binghamton went 5-4-1 with Mark Parrish, Corey Locke, and Kaspars Daugavins leading the way offensively and Robin Lehner off to a good start; Daugavins was called up to Ottawa
The second ten game segment Binghamton went 2-7-1 with Nikita Filatov, Mark Parrish, and Andre Petersson leading the way offensively and the bottom falling out on the team in the absense of Corey Locke; Corey Cowick was -7; Shaun Heshka was traded and Mike Bartlett was added
The third ten game segment Binghamton went 3-7-0 with Stephane Da Costa, Pat Cannone, and Andre Petersson leading the way offensively; Craig Schira was -9; Da Costa was sent down, Filatov was loaned to the KHL, and Rob Klinkhammer was added
The fourth ten game segment Binghamton went 6-4-0 with Rob Klinkhammer, Corey Locke, and Andre Petersson leading the way offensively and Mike McKenna earning all the wins
The fifth ten game segment Binghamton went 4-5-1 with Corey Locke, Mike Hoffman, and Rob Klinkhammer leading the way offensively, but the goaltending numbers starting to balloon again; both Klinkhammer and Andre Petersson were -7; Cowick was sent to Elmira, O’Brien was called up to Ottawa, Dan Henningson was brought in, and Jack Downing was permanently added to the roster
The sixth ten game segment Binghamton went 4-5-1 with Corey Locke, Mike Hoffman, and Pat Cannone leading the way offensively and Robin Lehner beginning to get his game back; Craig Schira was +7; Raymond was sent to the ECHL; Klinkhammer was called up to Ottawa
The seventh ten game segment Binghamton went 3-5-2 with Pat Cannone, Andre Petersson, and Patrick Wiercioch leading the way offensively; Wacey Hamilton and Mark Parrish were -7; Cole Schneider and Matt Puempel were added to the roster
The final six games saw Binghamton go 2-3-1 with David Dziurzynski, Jack Downing, and Wacey Hamilton leading the way offensively; Mark Borowiecki was +7; Ben Blood was added to the roster

Here’s a look at how each player performed throughout the season with my analysis and a grade for each player (A=outstanding season, B=above expectations, C=expectations met, D=below expectations, F=well below expectations), for players who played in the NHL I’m only looking at how they did with Binghamton (the only ECHL call-ups included are those whose rights were owned by the organisation or they became regulars; INJ=games missed due to injury, SCR=scratched, FM=fighting majors):
Mike Hoffman 76-21-28-49 -18 Grade B
Lead the team in scoring and nearly doubled his point totals from his rookie season.  It’s a great leap forward that was rewarded with a one-game NHL call-up, but he still needs to work on his defensive game (he was tied for the team’s worst plus/minus)
Andre Petersson 60-23-21-44 -7 INJ 14 Grade A
A great rookie season for the diminutive forward; he took a physical pounding (missing 14 games due to injury), but was able to lead the team in goals, was fourth in points-per-game, and had one of the best plus/minuses among regular forwards
Pat Cannone 76-19-24-43 -7 Grade B
A solid rookie season for the NCAA grad whose production was among the most consistent on the team (validating a poster on this site who was adamant he would perform well); he was named the team’s best defensive forward
Corey Locke 38-10-31-41 -6 INJ 38 Grade C
The team was much better with him in the lineup (18-18-2), but he couldn’t stay healthy
Stephane Da Costa 46-13-23-36 -12 INJ 8 Grade C
Started with a bang and then faded badly down the stretch; needs to work on his conditioning and his defensive work, but he finished third on the team in points-per-game
Rob Klinkhammer 35-12-23-35 -5 Grade B
Acquired to help halt the teams downward spiral, he added much needed offense although he was fading before being called up to Ottawa
Mark Parrish 51-15-15-30 -15 INJ 25 Grade F
Missed a third of the season due to injury, but when healthy was not the offensive catalyst for the team he was signed to be
David Dziurzynski 72-11-17-28 -10 INJ 4 FM 6 Grade C
Enjoyed modest increases in all categories over his rookie season and is clearly someone the organisation is happy with as he was included among the black aces
Derek Grant 60-8-15-23 -7 INJ 13 SCR 3 Grade C
The rookie out of the NCAA was very inconsistent throughout the season, but showed flashes of what he could be
Mark Borowiecki 73-5-17-22 Even FM 11 Grade A
A fantastic rookie season for the Ottawa native (named rookie of the year), who lead the team in scoring from the blueline, was second among regulars in plus/minus, and was third on the team in fights
Eric Gryba 73-5-15-20 -13 INJ 3 FM 3 Grade B
He made a dramatic jump in his offensive totals, but seemed to lose some of his edge (only three fights); his coaches named him the top defenseman of the year
Patrick Wiercioch 57-4-16-20 -14 INJ 19 Grade C
Despite a horrific throat injury he improved his points-per-game but continued to struggle defensively
Jack Downing 47-9-8-17 Even SCR 4 FM 1 [ECHL 25-11-8-19 -5] Grade A
Signed to play in Elmira, he got better as the year went on; it will be interesting to see if the Sens decide to re-sign him
Jim O’Brien 27-7-7-14 +1 INJ 19 Grade B
In the final year of his ELC, he played so well that his call-up to Ottawa became permanent (largely based on his defensive acumen)
Craig Schira 73-4-9-13 -14 SCR 3 FM 1 Grade F
A tough third year in the AHL where he was expected to make a step forward; he struggled to be a regular top-four blueliner (finishing tied with the worst plus/minus among defensemen)
Nikita Filatov
15-7-5-12 +3 Grade C
He would have been a very useful player for Binghamton if he’d played all season, but that was not to be
Corey Cowick 53-5-6-11 -6 SCR 3 [ECHL 22-8-5-13 +3] Grade D
The expectation was that he would be a regular AHLer, but while his play improved his consistency is still a big issue
Wacey Hamilton 74-5-6-11 -18 INJ 2 [ECHL 2-0-2-2 +1] Grade C
One of the few young players who was never scratched despite limited production, his future is as a checking center and despite being tied for the team’s worst plus/minus Kleinendorst is clearly a fan
Tim Conboy 53-2-9-11 +1 INJ 23 FM 13 Grade C
Struggled to stay healthy, but was the only regular player to finish as a plus player and was second on the team in fighting majors
Dan Henningson 32-2-8-10 -3 INJ 2 Grade C
Became a fixture on the blueline in January when the team was desperately short on defenseman; despite solid play it’s hard to imagine he has a future with Binghamton
Josh Godfrey 38-2-6-8 -3 INJ 14 SCR 13 [ECHL 5-1-2-3 Even] Grade D
Signed primarily for Elmira, the team’s shortage of defenseman saw him play half the season with Binghamton; he was so little trusted defensively that in many games he only played on powerplays
Mike Bartlett 58-3-4-7 -6 INJ 1 SCR 1 Grade C
A useful depth player for the team’s bottom six, he’s not part of the solution going forward
Kaspars Daugavins 7-4-2-6 Even Grade A
Was called up early to Ottawa and never came back
Bobby Raymond 38-0-4-4 -1 SCR 12 Grade F
An Elmira signing who was pressed into playing half the season with Binghamton, his opportunity to be a full time AHLer did not work out
Francis Lessard 43-1-1-2 -3 INJ 5 SCR 28 FM 14 Grade C
A one-dimensional enforcer, he was scratched for more than a third of the season
Cole Schneider 11-1-1-2 -1 Grade incomplete
Ottawa’s free agent college signing, he was solid in limited action
Matt Puempel 9-1-0-1 +1 Grade incomplete
The only CHL player to join Binghamton before the end of the season, he played well in limited action
Shaun Heshka 10-0-1-1 -8 SCR 5 Grade F
A late signing after the retirement of Lee Sweatt, he couldn’t stay in the lineup and was traded a month into the season
Ben Blood 4-0-0-0 Even FM 1 Grade incomplete
Finished his collegiate career and showed his physical play (much like Gryba’s debut a few years ago) in limited action
Louie Caporusso 13-0-0-0 -2 INJ 8 SCR 2 [ECHL 29-16-16-32 +5] Grade D
Was excellent in Elmira, but as a four-year college player he was expected to play regularly for Binghamton; Kleinendorst was happy with his development
Max Gratchev 12-0-0-0 -7 INJ 8 SCR 5 [ECHL 19-7-7-14 -1] Grade F
Signed to help Elmira, he struggled at both levels before being traded
Robin Lehner 3.26 .907 13-21-2 INJ 9 Pulled 5 Grade D
His numbers took a pounding and he wasn’t able to establish himself as the starter until midway into the season; his numbers were much better in Ottawa
Mike McKenna 2.98 .918 14-18-5 Pulled 2 Grade B
Played very well, although he slumped towards the end of the season (finishing 1-6-3)
Ben Bishop 2.35 .944 2-1-0 Grade incomplete
Signed to help Ottawa he was spectacular in his brief time in Binghamton

It often sounds like an excuse, but injuries played a major role in Binghamton’s demise.  Corey Locke missed half the season, while Parrish missed 25 games, Conboy 23, O’Brien and Wiercioch 19, Petersson 14, Grant 13, and on and on.  The top players on the roster only played together in ten games during the season (going 6-4-0).  Even if just Locke had remained healthy they were on track to be a .500 team (extrapolating their record that’s 36-36-4, making them 26th overall).  Despite all their problems, the team did produce a few career highs (such as Hoffman, Dziurzynski, and Gryba in points) and excellent rookie seasons from Borowiecki and PeterssonConboy lead the team in plus/minus among regulars (he also lead in PIM’s), while Hoffman and Hamilton were at the bottom of that heap.  Hoffman lead powerplay scoring with 10, while O’Brien‘s lead the team in shorthanded tallies with 3.  Only Hoffman and Petersson had 20-goal seasons (eight players scored at least 10 goals) and the injured Corey Locke was the only player to hit 30-assists.  Borowiecki lead the blueline with only 22 points.  Conboy, Lessard, and Borowiecki were the only players with over 100 penalty-minutes (Gryba and Dziurzynski were in the 90s).


Senators News: April 16th

-As reported everywhere, Carl Hagelin was suspended for three games and Matt Carkner for one.  I was surprised by the length of the suspension for Hagelin, but it’s only really a “win” for Ottawa if Alfredsson can play.  The Rangers statement following the suspension was interesting: “we are thoroughly perplexed in the ruling’s inconsistency with other supplementary discipline decisions that have been made throughout this season and during the playoffs.”  It’s absolutely accurate, although that doesn’t mean the suspensions weren’t warranted.

Paul MacLean confirms none of the black aces are expected to play, as he’ll go to the scratches before them “We’ve considered everyone that is here, but we haven’t made any final decisions and we’ll wait to see what Alfredsson says tomorrow.”  I think the key word in that sentence is “here”, because I think Jakob Silfverberg would get the same consideration (if not more) as a Bobby Butler or Rob Klinkhammer if available.

-Speaking of Silfverberg, Brynas lost 4-3 in OT yesterday, meaning he has at least one more game to play before being available to the Sens.

John Henkelman writes about Ottawa’s NCAA and European prospects (suggesting Chris Wideman could play some games in Binghamton this season, which may prove difficult with their season completed).  There’s nothing new here, but for those looking for a refresher it’s succinct and to the point.

-The NHL seems to have achieved what it wanted with the Penguins antics yesterday.  The officials have the powers to prevent this kind of circus from developing (see below), but no effort was made to do so by Eric Furlatt and Francois St. Laurent.  It hasn’t been that long since the previous controversy about Crosby was raging and already some of the dialogue in the media has changed, with Hockey Night in Canada actually allowing unchallenged criticism of him (via P. J. Stock).  His petulant post-game comments won’t help his image.  Michael Grange looks at the whole phenomena of retribution in this year’s playoffs and points to the two incidents that seemed to spark it: the non-suspension of Shea Weber and the lack of penalisation of Brian Boyle.  Teams feel like the NHL won’t protect or punish them, so they have to police themselves (Pierre LeBrun puts as much emphasis on the officiating, although his suggestion that in the good old days enforcers kept this nonsense from happening is laughable–go back to Grange’s article to recall what that era was like).

-The officials in the Vancouver-Los Angeles game last night demonstrated how to keep a game from getting out of control, as after Brown‘s hit on Sedin the refs (Kevin Pollock and Kelly Sutherland) started calling a lot of penalties and the circus stopped almost immediately.

-On the random side of things, during one of the TSN broadcasts last week it was brought up how many coaches came out of the 88-89 Hartford Whalers and when you look at it, it’s on verge of ridiculous: Kevin Dineen (NHL, Florida), Ron Francis (NHL, Carolina), John Anderson (NHL, Phoenix), Ulf Samuelsson (SEL, MODO), Jody Hull (OHL, Peterborough), Dean Evason (NHL, Washington), Brent Peterson (NHL, Nashville), Mark Reeds (NHL, Ottawa), Dave Tippett (NHL, Phoenix), Terry Yake (former NLA), Randy Ladouceur (NHL, Montreal), Norm Maciver (NHL, Chicago), Joel Quenneville (NHL, Chicago), Allan Tuer (former WHL), Peter Sidorkiewicz (OHL); Brian Lawton was the GM of Tampa.  That’s 15 (16 with Lawton) guys from the team!