Howdy casual fans. As Silver Seven's brand-new minor-league correspondent, I am going to be covering the Ottawa Senators minor league teams from now on. I'll try and keep you posted on how the Binghamton Senators (AHL) and Elmira Jackals (ECHL) are doing leading up to and on our way through the upcoming season, but before I get started on that, let’s get to know Bingo, the team.
City: Binghamton, New York
League: American Hockey League, Eastern Conference, East Division
Arena: Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena
General Manager: Tim Murray
Head Coach: Don Nachbaur
Championships: Two Divisional (2002-03, 2004-05)
The Before Times
The city of Binghamton has, technically, had a hockey team since 1973. The Broome Dusters in the North American Hockey League, which lasted from 1973 to 1977, when the NAHL folded. After the death of the NAHL, The Broome Dusters would acquire an AHL team, the Providence Reds, and relocate them to Binghamton and change their name to the Binghamton Dusters, until renaming them the Whalers in 1980.
The Binghamton Whalers would go on to be a pretty successful team, until they were bought by the New York Rangers after back-to-back 7th place finishes (winning only 39 games during those two years). They would be named the Binghamton Rangers from 1990 to 1997, enjoying 4 division champions and one regular season title.
But in 1997, the owners of the team sold the franchise to the New York Rangers; and the team was replaced with the B.C. Icemen (Broome County), in the United Hockey League. The Icemen would play five seasons before being sold to owners who planed on moving the team back to AHL, and Binghamton would return to the AHL in 2002.
The Successful Years
Ottawa’s AHL club was the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2001-02. After joining the AHL after demise of the International Hockey League, the Griffins went on to win the West Division. In the first season back, Binghamton went 43-26-9-2 with 97 points, and had a good playoff run: They swept the Worcester IceCats and then beat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 6 games. But sadly failed to advance to the Calder Cup, losing the semi-finals to the Hamilton Bulldogs in 5 games.
After losing top players Antoine Vermette and Jason Spezza, Bingo would fall to 34-34-9-3, and lose to the Norfolk Admirals in the preliminary round of the 2004 playoffs. However, Bingo would have one last great season during the lockout year. Many players from Ottawa would play a season in Bingo including Spezza, Vermette, Josh Langfeld, Chris Neil, Brian Pothier, and Anton Volchenkov. Spezza would go on to win MVP honors with his 117-point season, and Bingo would go on to finish 47-21-7-5, with 106 points, tied with the fewest regulation losses in the AHL. They easily took the division title, and ended the season winning 11 of 13. But the playoffs ended in nothing but disappointment. After scoring 9 goals in the first two games of the first round against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the team fell flat. Scoring only five goals in the final four games, lost all of those four, and then dropped the series in six games.
The B-Sens have not had another playoff season since 2004-05 (much like the Maple Leafs). After making an unsuccessful run in 2005-06, they finished seventh in 2006-07 and sixth the following season. But with the hiring of Tim Murray, the team's play improved. Bingo made good runs at the playoffs in 2008-09 and 2009-10, but finished fifth both years--just on the outside of the playoffs, looking in. A lot of credit goes to the signings many fan favorites, including Captain Denis Hamel, Jeremy Yablonski (a six-time Golden Gloves boxing champion), Martin St. Pierre [who, after last season, signed to play in Europe], Ryan Keller, and Matt Carkner, and a number of prospects finally coming over from other leagues (including Peter Regin, Mattias Karlsson [who, like St. Pierre, has since gone back to Europe], Kaspars Daugavins, Jim O'Brien, and Cody Bass). Bingo was able to rebound, as well as give Ottawa depth in case of injuries, and with Tim and Bryan Murray re-committing to building Ottawa's prospect stable, the future looks bright for the B-Sens.
So what can you except from Bingo next year? Another strong season, a Calder Cup playoff run, or even the Calder Cup itself? Perhaps, depending on how the prospects develop, Bingo could just be a team to a watch in the East. They'll have to keep an eye out for the always-great Hershey Bears, though.