Matt Carkner is one of a few recent graduates from the Binghamton Senators to step up to the NHL. Hopefully, with the newfound commitment to rebuilding Ottawa's farm system, there will be many more like him in the near future.
In 2007, the Binghamton Senators organization hit rock bottom, finishing the year with 55 points and a seventh-place finish. It was just two years after their franchise-record 2005 106-point season, where they ran into playoffs with a first-place finish. But in July of 2007, Tim Murray was hired as the assistant general manager and became the general manager of the Binghamton Senators. And since then, Binghamton has seen steady, if inconsistent, improvements: 82 points in 2008, 91 points in 2009, and 81 points in 2010. Murray's philosophy has been a simple one: Veteran leadership mixed in with talented prospects. But next season in Binghamton is going to be a different story.
Not returning to the Binghamton Senators next season will be captain and fan favorite Denis Hamel (update: he's been told the B-Sens have a full roster), and alternative captains Jeremy Yablonski (update: Yabo signed with the New York Islanders) and Martin St. Pierre (Binghamton's leading scorer in 2009-2010, and tenth in the AHL). Former core members of the team, including forward Josh Hennessy, defensemen Drew Bannister and Tomas Kudelka, and goalies Andy Chiodo and Chris Holt are all moving on, too. And head coach Don Nachbaur resigned to be to take a coaching gig with the Spokane Chiefs.
While there isn't much news yet on who will be replacing Don Nachbaur, we've been hearing about many prospect signings through the end of last season, and into much of the off-season: Forwards Corey Cowick, Colin Greening, Bobby Butler, and Roman Wick all have two-way deals, but will be in tough to make the NHL roster (same with Mike Hoffman, who's rumoured to be very close to signing an entry-level deal). Joining re-signed veterans Derek Smith and Geoff Kinrade on the blue line might be Eric Gryba and Patrick Wiercioch, again depending on what happens in training camp; those two offer some serious size, and Wiercioch's puck-handling skills will bring good mobility to the back-end. Finally, Ottawa's great goaltending hope, Robin Lehner, is hoping to push both Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott for spots in the NHL--to say nothing of the competition he'll give.
For now, a tentative roster (assuming the Hoffman contract is in the works, or just about finalized) might look something like this:
- Roman Wick - Corey Locke - Ryan Keller
- Kaspars Daugavins - Mike Hoffman - Bobby Butler
- David Dziurzynski - Cody Bass - Jason Bailey
- Jim O'Brien - Colin Greening - Erik Condra
- Corey Cowick - Tim Spencer
- Derek Smith - Patrick Wiercioch
- Eric Gryba - Craig Schira
- Geoff Kinrade - someone
- Robin Lehner
- Mike Brodeur
The roster isn't finished yet, but with many off Ottawa's top prospects knocking on the door to the NHL, it's going to be hard to not be excited about the Binghamton Senators. And not just for next season, but for the next few years, as the players Bryan and Tim Murray have drafted join the organization's development system.