Binghamton Season Review

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It’s a bittersweet feeling to know this is the last season where I’ll be writing about Binghamton.  The fans I’ve met have been among the best people I’ve interacted with in hockey fandom.  It’s not easy saying goodbye, but I believe the franchise that is arriving is in better hands, so they have great hockey to look forward too.  The last few seasons have not been kind to the dedicated folk there, but that doesn’t mean we can’t squeeze out a few positives.  Let’s dig into the numbers, shall we?

Comparing this season to last season the decline that began in the Luke Richardson-era has continued, with the team finishing a disappointing 28-44-4.  Here’s how last season and this one compare (2015-16/2016-17):
31-38-7 (0.45)/28-44-4 (0.39) -3 wins, -9 points, remaining second worst in their conference
204 GF/190 GF -14 goals dropping to last in their conference
341 GA/266 GA +75 improvement, but dropping from third-worst to second-worst in the conference
PP 17.8%/15.0% -2.8% dropping from 9th to 26th overall
PK 81.8%/79.0% -2.8% dropping from 24th to 27th overall

Despite considerably less talent at his disposal, coach Kurt Kleinendorst was able to get his middling blueline to vastly improve, but had no magical solution to squeeze any more offense out of it, nor improve special teams (the PK in particular crashed and burned later in the season).  The problems for Binghamton involved depth–there just weren’t enough talented players to go around.  In terms of roster movement, the only positive additions came from Europe, with Jason Akeson arriving via the KHL and a failed attempt to get Patrick Mullen the same way.

The AHL season consists of 76 games (excluding the wonky-Pacific division), so the most convenient way to split it up is into four 19-game segments (notable streaks in brackets):
5-12-2 (0.31; Oct.15-Dec.2) 4 straight losses, front end of six straight losses
11-7-1 (0.60; Dec.3-Jan.15) back end of 6 straight losses, beginning of the 13-5-1 run that included a 4-game unbeaten streak and 4 straight wins
7-12-0 (0.36; Jan.20-Mar.3) end of 13-5-1 run, 4 straight losses, beginning of 7 straight losses
5-13-1 (0.28; Mar.4-Apr.15) end of 7 straight losses, 4 straight losses

I noted last year that Binghamton was streaky, but that was less the case this season (66% of Richardson’s losses last season were in streaks, while Kleinendorst’s make up for 56% of the total (25 of the 44)).  If you’re wondering what the primary lineup for the BSens hot streak was, here it is: Akeson, McCormick, Paul, Rodewald, Nehring, and Rumble played every game. Remaining Forwards: Gagne (13-4-1), Perron (12-3-1), Varone (11-5-0), Krushelnyski (11-5-0), Robinson (10-5-0), Flanagan (9-3-1), Blunden (9-4-1), Bailey (7-4-1), Loiselle (2-1-0), Stortini (0-1-1); defensemen: Sieloff (12-3-1), Lepine (12-3-1), Harpur (11-4-1), Kostka (11-5-0), Englund (10-5-1), Erkamps (3-0-1); and goaltenders: O’Connor 8-2-0 (almost two-thirds of his wins this season), Driedger 5-3-1

I tracked a variety of other numbers this season.  Here’s the impact of shots-on-goal for the team:
Outshot opponent: 9-17-2 (0.35)
Outshot by the opponent: 18-26-2 (0.41)
Even shots: 1-1-0 (0.50)
I don’t think there’s much to conclude here as both numbers are fairly close to the team average (0.395); maybe the higher shot games represent looser defense, but I think more digging would be required to confirm that.
Special teams:
Scored on the powerplay: 14-19-2 (0.42)
Scored against on the powerplay: 18-22-2 (0.45)
No powerplay goals in the game: 5-13-1 (0.28)
These are pretty strange numbers, but if they say anything I think it’s that Binghamton was such a weak team ultimately special teams weren’t significant enough to tilt wins and losses strongly one way or another.

Moving on to player performances (which are arranged by points-per-game, with those who played under 10 games listed at the bottom); players in italics are rookies while those in blue were 25 or older when the season began; traded players are crossed out while new arrivals are in green (I’ve included season totals for traded players in square brackets; ECHL numbers are in the Wichita discussion below):

Jason Akeson* 57-20-31-51 (0.89)
Phil Varone 65-15-36-51 (0.78)
Casey Bailey 62-21-16-37 (0.60)
Max McCormick 66-21-15-36 (0.55)
Nick Paul 72-15-22-37 (0.51)
Chris Rumble-D 56-6-21-27 (0.48)
Kyle Flanagan 68-9-20-29 (0.43)
Mike Blunden 67-14-15-29 (0.43)
Ben Harpur-D 63-2-25-27 (0.43)
Jack Rodewald 66-18-9-27 (0.41)
Francis Perron 68-6-20-26 (0.38)
Chad Nehring 50-5-13-18 (0.36)
Buddy Robinson 33-7-5-12 (0.36) [66-17-14-31 (0.46)]
Curtis Lazar 13-3-1-4 (0.31) [did not play in the AHL for Calgary]
Brandon Gormley-D 17-2-3-5 (0.29) [52-4-11-15 (0.29)]
Michael Kostka-D 46-1-11-12 (0.26) [61-3-21-24 (0.39)]
Patrick Sieloff-D 52-2-10-12 (0.23)
Chris Carlisle-D 74-3-13-16 (0.22)
Ryan Rupert 33-3-3-6 (0.18)
Macoy Erkamps-D 11-0-2-2 (0.18)
Alex Krushelnyski 43-3-4-7 (0.16)
Gabriel Gagne 41-2-4-6 (0.15)
Andreas Englund-D 69-3-7-10 (0.14)
Zack Stortini 22-2-1-3 (0.14) [48-3-1-4 (0.08)]
Marc Hagel 27-0-3-3 (0.11) [53-2-8-10 (0.19)]
Guillaume Lepine-D 54-1-2-3 (0.06)
Colin White 3-1-2-3
Zach O’Brien 1-1-0-1
Jordan Murray-D 5-1-1-2
Charles-David Beaudoin-D 6-0-2-2
Vincent Dunn# 8-0-2-2
Fredrik Claesson-D 9-0-1-1

Chris Driedger 12-19-2 3.22 .900
Matt O’Connor 14-18-2 3.23 .895
Andrew Hammond 2-3-0 3.24 .884
Marcus Hogberg 0-3-0 4.34 .865
Scott Greenham 0-1-0 7.09 .765

(I excluded ECHL call-ups and ATO/PTO’s Steve McParland, Greger Hanson, Mike Cazzola, Alexis Loiseau, Triston Grant, Kevin Lough, Jordan Boucher, Jamie Doornbosch, and Chris Leblanc, as none produced in any games they played)

*Akeson started the season in the KHL (Admiral Vladivostok 17-1-4-5)
#while it’s technically Dunn’s second year as a pro, he’s still considered an AHL-rookie

What about even-strength production?  The leaderboard doesn’t change much:
Akeson 33 (0.57)
Varone 32 (0.49)
Paul 31 (0.43)
McCormick 27 (0.40)
Bailey 24 (0.38)
Rumble 19 (0.33)
Blunden 22 (0.32)
Flanagan 21 (0.30)
Rodewald 20 (0.30)
Harpur 19 (0.30)
Perron 17 (0.25)
Nehring 12 (0.24)
Sieloff 10 (0.19)
Carlisle 12 (0.16)

Top powerplay performers:
Akeson 18
Varone 15
Bailey 13
Perron 9
Rumble 8
Rodewald, Harpur, Blunden, Kostka 7
Paul 6
McCormick, Flanagan 5

Shorthanded: McCormick/Varone 4, Flanagan 3, Nehring 2

What about goaltending?  What was the difference in how the team played depending on who was in net?  I think it’s best demonstrated with shot-support (which is to say, whether the team outshot their opponent depending on the goaltender):
Driedger 14-18-1
O’Connor 10-24-1
Hammond 3-2-0
Hogberg 0-3-0
Greenham 0-1-0

Plus/minus is a terrible stat at the best of times, but oddities sometimes are indicative, so here’s best-to-worst (with a minimum of 40 games played):
Harpur Even (63 GP)
Gagne -3 (41 GP)
Sieloff -5 (52 GP)
Rumble -7 (56 GP)
Nehring -8 (50 GP)
Krushelnyski -9 (43 GP)
Perron -11 (68 GP)
Rodewald -13 (66 GP)
Varone -14 (65 GP)
Bailey/McCormick/Flanagan -15 (62/66/68 GP)
Paul -17 (72 GP)
Englund -18 (69 GP)
Lepine -21 (54 GP)
Akeson -23 (57 GP)
Carlisle -29 (74 GP)
Blunden/Kostka -33 (67/46 GP)

Last year I took a look at the with-or-without-you numbers in terms of winning percentage (a rough way to gauge the impact of players being in & out of the lineup).  The team’s overall winning percentage is 0.395, which means anyone playing close to that total has their effect disguised by the overall ratio (so Carlisle, who played the most games of anyone (74), is essentially invisible here), but as you move away from 76 games played you can get an inkling of impact.  Here’s the list (excluding anyone who played 11 or fewer games):
Robinson 0.48
Gagne, Krushelnyski 0.46
Nehring 0.44
Kostka 0.43
Akeson, Sieloff, Harpur 0.41
Paul, McCormick, Carlisle, Rodewald 0.40
TEAM AVERAGE 0.395
Perron, Varone, Rumble 0.39
Blunden, Englund 0.38
Bailey 0.37
Flanagan, Lepine 0.36
Hagel 0.35
Lazar 0.34
Stortini 0.29
Gormley 0.26
There are a few things to note: as an inverse to last season, players who were with the team late suffered more than those who were around during earlier part of the season.  I wouldn’t get too excited about anyone within a couple of points off the average–it’s within the margin of error.  With that being said, I noted repeatedly last season that both Stortini and Lepine were drags on performance, but both played enough games to be hidden by the numbers–this year there was no hiding.  The high numbers for both Gagne and the now departed ECHLer Krushelnyski are less about their individual performance and more about how much worse their replacements were in the lineup (it’s worth noting both started with extremely high winning percentages that declined as the season went on–the latter’s number was saved by being returned to the ECHL, while Gagne missed early season struggles).  I’d also take Gormley‘s number with a grain of salt, as he played every game after he arrived–Binghamton was simply that bad, so his impact is difficult to discern.  As a footnote to this, Erkamps is at the 11-game cutoff (it’s imposed because of him)–the team is .500 when he’s in the lineup, but I don’t think you can conclude from the sample-size that he’s the reason for that.

There’s a lot to dig into when it comes to individual player performance:
Jason Akeson 57-20-31-51 (0.89) 33 ESP 18 PPP
The undrafted 26-year old played his fifth pro season this year, returning to the team in December after jumping to the KHL at the end of last season; he hit his usual AHL production numbers (his career average is 0.83) and while his arrival was a plus to the team it wasn’t enough to improve the team around him (for reference, among players with 30 or more games, he was 18th in the AHL in points-per-game)
Phil Varone 65-15-36-51 (0.78) 32 ESP 15 PPP 4 SHP
26-year old former San Jose pick (5-147/09) completed his sixth pro season; he was acquired from Buffalo last year and signed a one-year extension in the off-season; he hit his usual production numbers (his AHL career average is 0.76)–I mentioned in last years review that the gaudy numbers he, Akeson, and Bailey put up when they arrived from Toronto would regress to the mean this season, as indeed they have
Casey Bailey 62-21-16-37 (0.60) 24 ESP 13 PPP
Undrafted 25-year old finished his second pro season after being acquired from the Leafs last year and signing an extension in the off-season; his numbers are similar to his rookie season (0.57)
Max McCormick 66-21-15-36 (0.55) 27 ESP 5 PPP 4 SHP
24-year old Sens draft pick (6-171/11) is an organisational favourite finishing his third pro season; his production is similar to last season (0.52), but he made a significant cut in his penalty minutes (as, indeed, the entire roster did under Kleinendorst); I’m not sure there’s another gear for Max, but right now he’s a borderline top-six AHL forward who might be able to make the jump as a depth NHL forward
Nick Paul 72-15-22-37 (0.51) 31 ESP 6 PPP
The sophomore season for the 22-year old former Dallas draft pick (4-101/13), who improved over last season (0.37)–his production at even strength is particularly notable (beating out McCormick both in total and percentage)
Chris Rumble 56-6-21-27 (0.48) 19 ESP 8 PPP
Undrafted son of former NHLer Darren, the 27-year old was discovered by Evansville Iceman GM Jim Riggs last year and he signed an AHL contract with the BSens over the summer; after a brief stint in Wichita (3 games) he spent the rest of the year in Binghamton; he was the most consistently productive defenseman on the team
Kyle Flanagan 68-9-20-29 (0.43) 21 ESP 5PPP 3 SHP
The undrafted 28-year old completed his fourth pro season; he became a Binghamton regular last season when he was loaned to the team from ECHL Adirondack (having bounced out of the SEL the year before); he produced around his AHL-average (0.41) and surprisingly has another year on his AHL-deal
Mike Blunden 67-14-15-29 (0.43) 22 ESP 7 PPP
30-year old former Chicago pick (2-43/05) finished his 11th pro season; he’s a classic org signing–favouring “character” over skill; it was a below-average season for him (career average is 0.52), as he needs skilled players around him to be effective; he was a team worst -33
Ben Harpur 63-2-25-27 (0.43) 19 ESP 7 PPP 1 SHP
Sophomore season for the 22-year old Sens draft pick (4-108/13); a lot of people (myself included) thought there was no hope for him after his disastrous rookie season, but under a real coach there were positive signs of growth as his production is well-above his CHL norm (0.29; approaching his career high there) and after a slow start he was fairly consistent (plus/minus is a terrible stat, but he was well ahead of most of his teammates); his progression is encouraging, but it isn’t time to spit-shin a Norris trophy just yet
Jack Rodewald 66-18-9-27 (0.41) 20 ESP 7 PPP
The undrafted 23-year old completed his second pro season after spending the last buried in the Toronto Marlie depth chart; he began the season in Wichita but was signed to an AHL-deal after a hot-start when he was recalled; his numbers dipped strongly in the second half (37-6-2-8), making it an open question about what kind of AHL-player he is
Francis Perron 68-6-20-26 (0.38) 17 ESP 9 PPP
The rookie season for the 20-year old Sens pick (7-190/14), who was consistent if not overwhelming in his debut; no warning signs yet and plenty of room for growth
Chad Nehring 50-5-13-18 (0.36) 12 ESP 4 PPP 2 SHP
Undrafted 29-year old finished his sixth pro season; the Sens signed him after a career year in Hartford (0.63), but he reverted back towards his career average (0.44) and was a huge disappointment (something I warned was likely when he was signed)
Buddy Robinson 33-7-5-12 (0.36) 12 ESP
Yet another hyped NCAA FA signing by the Sens (from 2013); after four seasons with the org the team finally gave up on the 25-year old, sending him to San Jose; I think Buddy is an excellent support player at the AHL-level, but there’s no evidence he’ll ever be more than that
Curtis Lazar 13-3-1-4 (0.31) 2 ESP 2 PPP
Sens first-rounder (1-17/13–picked ahead of so many better options), the 22-year old was finally jettisoned to Calgary; his limited time in Binghamton was just as unimpressive as his time in Ottawa (his primary impact is how low the team’s winning percentage was when he was in the lineup)
Brandon Gormley 17-2-3-5 (0.29) 3 ESP 2 PPP
Speaking of poorly thought out first-round picks, the 25-year old former Coyote pick (1-13/10) completed his fourth pro season, acquired late in the season from New Jersey for future considerations, his production was unchanged from Albany, although it’s below his AHL-average (0.40)
Michael Kostka 46-1-11-12 (0.26) 4 ESP 7 PPP 1 SHP
Undrafted 31-year old was traded in his ninth pro season amidst a subpar year in Binghamton (perhaps the weight of carrying around Lepine finally got to him); he went beyond his traditional numbers (0.52) once he arrived in Stockton (0.80)
Patrick Sieloff 52-2-10-12 (0.23) 10 ESP 1 PPP 1 SHP
The reward for dumping Alex Chaisson, the 22-year old former Calgary pick (2-42/12) wrapped up his third pro season with virtually identical numbers to his second (52-2-9-11); expectations weren’t high for him and if the Belleville Sens want some depth on defense he isn’t a bad option
Chris Carlisle 74-3-13-16 (0.22) 12 ESP 4 PPP
Undrafted 22-year old was signed to an AHL contract two seasons ago; he had similar numbers to his rookie season (0.18) and clearly the coach was a fan as he played virtually the entire season
Ryan Rupert 33-3-3-6 (0.18) 5 ESP 1 PPP
22-year old former Leaf pick (6-157/12) was part of the general detritus forced upon Binghamton as part of the Phaneuf deal; finishing his third pro season he was well below his AHL-average production (0.39), spending much of the year banished to Wichita
Macoy Erkamps 11-0-2-2 (0.18) 1 ESP 1 PPP
22-year old undrafted CHL FA signing’s rookie year, which was mostly spent in Wichita; his time in Binghamton was far too short to properly assess him (although as a quirk of his call-ups the team was .500 when he was in the lineup)
Alex Krushelnyski 43-3-4-7 (0.16) 7 ESP
26-year old undrafted son of former NHLer Mike, this was his third pro season; the BSens signed him to an AHL-contract in the summer and after starting in Wichita he spent four months with the team before being loaned to the Allen Americans (ECHL); he’s excellent at the East Coast level, but AHL-consistency alludes him
Gabriel Gagne 41-2-4-6 (0.15) 4 ESP 2 PPP
20-year old Sens pick (2-36/15) and org favourite struggled in his rookie season, with middling ECHL numbers and non-existent production in the AHL; there’s still plenty of time for him and he was responsible defensively, so I wouldn’t let the numbers be too discouraging
Andreas Englund 69-3-7-10 (0.14) 10 ESP
21-year old Sens pick’s (2-40/14) rookie season; he’s not expected to score and as these things go it was a solid year for him
Zack Stortini 22-2-1-3 (0.14) 2 ESP 1 PPP
31-year old former Oiler pick (3-94/03) was finally moved in his 12th pro season; without Richardson protecting him his minutes were cut and then he was benched altogether until he was moved to San Jose; how anyone in the org thought he was worth an expensive two-year AHL deal is beyond me
Marc Hagel 27-0-3-3 (0.11) 3 ESP
I have no idea who in the org knows the undrafted 28-year old veteran, but clearly he has a connection with someone or he wouldn’t have been acquired from Iowa; I’m not sure he’ll get a fifth AHL season after this one as he completely tanked in Binghamton (well below his 0.35 production average)
Guillaume Lepine 54-1-2-3 (0.06) 3 ESP
Undrafted 30-year old org favourite arrived via Evansville three seasons ago and until this season coasted along via favourable partners; exposed this year, hopefully this ninth pro season with Binghamton will be his last with the org
Chris Driedger 12-19-2 3.22 .900 SO% .750 pulled 3 times
22-year old Sens pick’s (3-76/12) third pro season, which came off the rails the last month of the season (2-6-0 3.97 .878); 18 of his 33 games had a save percentage of .900 or more and while I like Driedger I’d hoped for more consistency; both he and O’Connor were abysmal in brief ECHL duty
Matt O’Connor 14-18-2 3.23 .895 SO% .667 pulled 3 times
25-year old NCAA FA signing finished his second pro season with mirror image numbers (0.895 last year as well); he was erratic all season, just as he was in his rookie year; 18 of his 34 games had a save percentage of .900 or more; he was awful in his brief Wichita stint; what do you do with him at this point?  Goaltenders can develop late, but being a few years older than Driedger and with Hogberg in the fold I think you have to let him walk
Marcus Hogberg 0-3-0 4.34 .865
The 22-year old signed an ATO in order to come over and play after Linkoping lost in the first round of the SHL playoffs; he got shelled in his three starts, but in fairness to him he received little support (just three goals for) and was behind a terrible defensecorps; there were signs of improvement in his last start, but this isn’t the time to judge him

Conclusions: while this was a bad season for Binghamton, there are positives to take away from it.  Whatever you think of the job Kleinendorst did, prospects did improve–there was growth across the board with younger players, along with accountability, something absent under Richardson’s regime.  Being a veteran did not make you invulnerable to scrutiny, and the dead weight that carried over from the previous season was moved, benched, or saw their playing time limited.  On the flipside the org did little to help the team–callups, after the very first wave, were unwhelming, roster moves hurt more than they helped, and the veterans on the team were disappointing to average–Stortini failed and was moved, Kostka struggled and was moved, Nehring and Blunden disappointed, so only Varone (and Akeson when reacquired) performed as expected.  As I said last year, the best thing for the future of Ottawa’s AHL franchise is to remove Randy Lee from his GM position, but I don’t expect that to happen.

wichita-thunder-logo

Last season the Sens affiliate was in Evansville (whose franchise subsequently moved), and they finished 29-33-10.  Wichita became the new affiliate, coming off an atrocious 18-41-13 year, and they finished essentially the same this season (21-44-7, three more wins, but the exact same number of points).  It’s a terrible result by any measure (second worst in the league, with the second fewest goals for and third most goals against; they were also among the most penalized teams), and I don’t expect the Sens to maintain the affiliation next season.  I’ll list the numbers for the players with a BSens connection.

Ryan Rupert 29-9-12-21 (0.72)
Probably should have spent the entire season here, he was adequate offensively and will likely return to the ECHL next year once the Sens let his ELC expire
Gabriel Gagne 19-6-5-11 (0.58)
The rookie was less productive than expected with a long cold streak in November (he had three separate stints in Wichita: 14-3-4-7, 1-2-0-2, and 4-1-1-2)
Macoy Erkamps 56-6-19-25 (0.43)
Rookie finished second on the roster in points by a blueliner (behind brief BSen call-up Jamie Doornbosch); while I don’t put much stock in plus/minus he had the best among players who spent 40+ games with the Thunder (-8)
Vincent Dunn 47-4-8-12 (0.26)
Was worse in his second season in the ECHL and the Sens really need to get him out of the organisation
Scott Greenham 10-13-4 3.59 .898
Had a terrible back-half to his season, slipping behind goaltending partner Drew Owsley in both stats categories (but not wins)

Jack Rodewald (6-5-3-8), Darren Rumble (3-2-1-3), and Alex Krushelnyski (6-2-5-7) all started the season here, while BSens ATO and Sens pick (6-161/13) Chris Leblanc (7-0-5-5) finished the season with the Thunder.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens