Mark Stone is about to become a very important man.... - Mike Stobe
Bobby and Mark take a moment to chillax and talk about Binghamton, and how Ottawa's decisions could affect its farm team--and prospect development.
Mark: Bobby, we now know the names of the players Binghamton is losing to the Ottawa Senators training camp. For the most part, the names aren't a surprise to anyone who's been following Bingo closely, but Mike Hoffman does jump out at me. I know he's third on the team in scoring, but I don't feel he's the second-best forward on the team behind Silfverberg. For my tastes, Stephane Da Costa has played better, even if his point totals don't reflect it. And Mark Stone was good enough to get a look in the playoffs last year, but now he's not good enough to get a look in training camp this year? I really don't mean to knock Hoffman, but I can't pretend I'm not surprised that guys who have more of a future with the team didn't get the call instead. Are you surprised with the move? Do you think it's just a matter of taking the best player right now?
Bobby: Funny you say that, because I was actually pulling for Hoffman to get the call and occasionally tweet about my fondness for his game. He strikes me as having good vision, slick hands and a decent two-way game. I think Hoffman is a better player right now (although if Da Costa had been playing the whole year, I might not feel that way), but I also feel his window is pretty small. The organization obviously has a lot invested in the success of guys like Noesen/Puempel/Z-Bad vying for important roles. Stone is also going to get his looks. Of the group, I think Hoffman and Da Costa will get the smallest opportunity to earn a spot. Shame it's not a full camp, though. I would've liked to see both of them up and in some preseason games.
I can't say there's too much surprising in the list, but if I was going to branch off a bit, I'd give an invite to Derek Grant. Give a push to the Jim O'Brien and Erik Condra's of the team. Grant's two way game is very solid and his offense has really picked up. Frankly, I end up asking myself "why not?"
Before we get into a conversation about what kinda trouble the B-Sens might face if they lose Silfverberg, Benoit et al, anyone else you thought potentially deserving of a call?
Mark: For the most part, I think they got it right. I think it's pretty obvious who Binghamton's best players are at this point in the season. There is one name I think they made a mistake on, though: Mika Zibanejad. Now, he wouldn't make the team--he's already shown he needs more time--but neither would Stefan Noesen or Cody Ceci, and they got invites. Especially considering that Zibanejad is just now returning from an injury, why not give him six days with the big club to whet his appetite? He's got to be frustrated with how his season has gone so far. Some time running around with the big boys could have done a lot for his spirits, I think. That was a whiff, in my opinion.
Moving on to the B-Sens' upcoming trouble. What are you feeling is going to be Binghamton's biggest hole while all of these players are up in Ottawa? It has to be goaltending, right? I can't see the Baby Sens winning a single game if Nathan Lawson turns in performances like the one in his only appearance so far--giving up 6 goals in a 6-5 OT loss after Robin Lehner had helped the team stake a 5-0 lead.
Bobby: I think the D is going to be awful. Don't get me wrong, goaltending will hurt, but they're likely to lean on Lehner once training camp's said and done. But I'm with those who think management/Team Murray believe we can fix our wounded corps in Ottawa with reinforcements from Binghamton. If that's the case...yeesh. Andre Benoit has been a real stud, and the guy is a major part of the turnaround. If Ottawa poaches him and/or Borowiecki and Wiercioch for the big club, we shouldn't expect that negative shot differential to go anywhere. And, at this rate, even the best goalies would lose what's amounting to a war of attrition. I haven't seen enough from some of the other defencemen down there to trust just yet that they can make up the difference. Sure, Gryba is a fine, serviceable defender, but he was around last year when the team struggled on the back end. And it almost goes without saying that the losing Silfverberg is going to be a real shot in the arm.
The positive I see in this mini-exodus of talent to Ottawa is that there will be ice time and opportunities aplenty for someone who's ready to step up. Got anybody in mind?
Mark: Objection! Leading the witness!
After all, you just want me to say Mika Zibanejad. And I will. I don't think they can name him captain if Benoit stays in the NHL, but considering the way Luke Richardson was playing him in every possible situation before his injury, you have to think he's the guy they're going to lean on to replace Silfverberg. And I think he'll be up to the task. It could be a blessing in disguise, in fact, because the best thing for Zibanejad is pretty much to play until he drops, and now he's going to get that opportunity.
But if I were going to pick a dark horse, I'd go with Jean-Gabriel Pageau. I feel like every time I watch him, he's doing something smooth, and that's usually a sign that things are coming naturally. I could see him doing some damage with some more ice time. Oh, and Da Costa. He's played very well since he got healthy.
Here's what I'm wondering: Is there anyone on defense who can actually step up to seize the opportunity if the team does lose two defensemen to Ottawa?
Bobby: Depending on who Ottawa takes, the top-four in Bingo is going to look a whole lot different. Let's say that MacLean likes what he sees out of Borowiecki for a reliable 5/6 spot and Benoit for more of a two-way threat, who's left?
Obviously, Patrick Wiercioch would be a guy to depend on, but I wouldn't say he needs to "step up" much, since he's been one of the key guys so far this year. Tyler Eckford and Eric Gryba would stick around in fairly similar roles. How about Chris Wideman and Ben Blood? Neither of those two guys have had great starts to their pro careers, but someone has to step up. Either way, that blueline is thinner than, uh, Ottawa's.
Just to jump back up to the scoring side, though, I really like what you said about JGP. I always feel the same way: when I notice him, it's me noticing that he's doing good things. Then I find myself wondering "so why don't I notice him more often?" I agree on the Da Costa and Zibanejad front and think there's room for a healthy Andre Petersson and maybe for Pat Cannone to re-establish himself as a legitimate prospect on this team. The latter two guys had really solid seasons last year, but have all but disappeared this season. And hey, let's jump back to Mark Stone. He's been quiet, but has made some pretty sweet passes. Think Sens fans need a little more patience there or have you seen other signs of promise from his statistically underwhelming year?
Mark: I'm not the best person to ask, because I've never believed Stone's star shined as brightly as some other Sens fans. I know his numbers are deflated because he's playing in a checking role, but I can't help but wonder why that is? If he's a prototypical power forward, why isn't being used in that role instead? I won't buy the argument that head coach Luke Richards on is somehow "using him wrong"--Richardson knows what he's got in his players, and when you consider that two of Binghamton's top scorers are defensemen, it should be obvious there's ample opportunity for more scoring from the team's forwards. With that in mind, Richardson would be playing the guys he thinks are most likely to score, right? Knowing that, Stone is still being used to shut down opposing forwards. I think that says a lot. AND... he hasn't been great at it, considering Binghamton has been out-shot with regularity. I think Sens fans need a lot more patience with the guy, and may need to adjust their expectations of him.
Obviously I've neglected your mind, so I'm going to bounce this back to you. Anything else bugging you about this post-lockout team before we try to wrap this up?
Bobby: After last season, it's tough to complain about this team. They compete, even if they get blanketed in shots, and they've been winning a lot of games. Things may drift or even veer south from here, but Bingo has done its job of being a good development environment for the big club while the league resolved its little labor tiff.
I think guys like Benoit, Wiercioch, Silfverberg and Hoffman have been such a significant part of the team's success, that there's going to be a big drop-off when some or most of those guys vacate up north. And, on a certain level, that will undermine Bingo as a good development environment. Remains to be seen, I guess, but I admit to being a little concerned about where things are headed.
Mark: As am I. This team has relied on goaltending so much to keep them in games. I don't know how much more they can ask of the guys in net. Still, I do think it's encouraging that they've repeatedly found a way to win games. I'm not quite ready to write them off just yet, but I imagine wins aren't coming as frequently anymore.
All right, Bobby. You're the B-Sens expert, so I'll leave you with a question and the final word. Assuming you can't pick Lehner, who are you tabbing as the team MVP from this point out? Take us home!
Bobby: Stephane Da Costa. I'm not sure if he has much of an NHL future, but he's been playing good hockey in a small sample size and we all know he has slick hands and great vision. He doesn't have long to play himself back into the conversation, but I see him doing it in the second half.
If Zibanejad stays healthy, he'll be up there. But I think Da Costa has the tools and experience. Get it done, Steph, and don't make me look like a knob.