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Bingo Bites ‘Special Edition’; Is There A Goalie Controversy In Binghamton?

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This one concerning Matt O’Connor and Chris Driedger. What’s really going on in Binghamton

Binghamton, N.Y. Senators goaltender Matt O’Connor (29) in net during a recent game with the Rochester Americans at The Floyd.
Photo by Alicia Strauch - S7S

My time has been limited as of late with real life duties, but the Bingo Bites will prevail and surface here and there this season. I hope you enjoy the latest edition.

There seems to be a goalie controversy that is taking place in Binghamton and it’s a little confusing on what’s in store between the two tenders in Matt O’Connor (6-9-1-0, 2.89 GAA, 0.894 SV%) and Chris Driedger (3-3-2-1, 2.97 GAA, 0.882 SV%) and their developments’ this season, including their current records for the BSens.

My hot button has been, and will always remain, on what is perceived from the player’s aspect that have revolved around here and how it effects the club. Team chemistry is really important as most sports fans know, as it’s no different here at the minor leagues. Most prospects form a bond that carries with them at the pro level and it starts relationships that also lasts throughout their careers.

If there is a disruption effect on what the majority of is in the locker-room in trying to accomplish a winning atmosphere, and/or continuing their climb up the ladder to the next level, then it’s dealt with either by A.) a team meeting of sorts, or most likely, B.) a trade. It’s rare that a bunch of players that are 100% genuine to the ultimate cause of winning a championship, but more importantly these days, making big money in the NHL and all it’s glory it has to offer. That’s the way the minors are programmed for some. A stepping stone.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the case when talking about O’C and Dreegs. Both are great guys with good attitudes. Team players you might add, so let’s rule that above paragraph out.

In establishing that there are no attitude problems on the surface, onto the next theory that questions why Driedger is currently playing for the Wichita Thunder of the ECHL, and how O’Connor is getting the majority of starts in Binghamton. First up, Driedger.

The 22-year-old has done just about everything he has been told to do that included playing nearly the entire season in the ECHL for the Evansville IceMen (remember them?) in his first full season in the pros in 2014. Perhaps in part was a clash with then goalie coach Rick Wamsley and his off ice conditioning requirements that may or may not have played a role that caused an on going riff between the two, as so the rumor mill spun at the time.

When Driedger was finally added to the BSens’ line-up late in 2015, he tore it up with a 6-0-0-2, 2.55 GAA, 0.923 SV% record. The following season he shared time with a newly acquired free agent goaltender out of BU in O’Connor. Driedger’s numbers were respectable that season at 18-15-4-2, 2.83 GAA, 0.912 SV% while O’Connor’s was not, 10-20-3-1, 3.31 GAA, 0.895 SV%.

O’C struggled mightily in his rookie season and was often ignored by the one guy with the most influence for his signing with the Senators, Mr. Wamsley. But you see, the problem was Rick wasn’t around enough to coddle and nurture Matt and it set him back. So much that he should've spent some time developing in the ECHL and that never transpired. It should have, but it didn’t. Odd.

Netminder Chris Driedger (33) has seen his role deteriorate as of late for the Binghamton Senators.
Photo by Alicia Strauch - S7S

It didn’t seem fair to many, including myself. Wamsley later stated, in his infamous radio interview with the voice of the BSens Grady Whittenburg midway through last season, that ultimately, in my mind, played a part in his dismal with his “I’m part of the problem, but I’m also part of the solution” pitch during intermission of a game.

So why is it that one player that has all the tools and could possibly play a huge role in the future for the organization, however, is stuck playing to a lesser degree in the ECHL, and the other is forced in the opposite direction and continues to struggle in his new role in the AHL?

One theory might be that O’Connor is in a contract year and Ottawa needs to see if, or what potential he may bring to the table and decide on whether or not to offer a new contract. But so can be said concerning Driedger, as both are set to be RFA’s at the end of the season.

I don’t have an answer. I wish I did.

The move to start O’Connor has forced Driedger to take a stool and observe, versus getting several spot starts, which didn’t go over very well, hence the call to Wichita. The problem though is this. The confidence level and how it effects both players.

O’Connor was in net in back-to-back games this past weekend and he didn’t play very well. He lost on Friday 3-1 in Springfield, and was down 3-0 on Saturday to Utica. It took a tremendous effort for a comeback win in OT against the Comets, but he has GOT to come though once in a while to bail out his teammates when in need. That hasn’t happened as much as it should. Granted the defense surrounding him is leaning towards the weak side, he has shown some improvement, but time is not on his side for the soon to be 25-year-old.

A look back, Driedger was playing great in the beginning of the season and had an uncanny edge to his game, a swag if you may. He was in the top five in the league in all categories before his call-up to Ottawa and soon after, it all fell apart. He was rocked in his first game for the Thunder this past Friday night as he let in six goals on 45 shots in a loss to the Allen Americans. Not exactly what you want to hear from your 3rd round draft pick of 2012 despite a thin line-up in Wichita.

And we haven’t even mentioned what effect it has brought upon Scotty Greenham. He currently is the back-up to O’Connor and was shelled in his only performance of the season for Binghamton giving up seven goals against the Hershey Bears in a late October contest. And don’t get me started on Andrew Hammond and is adoring love for this city. Nope, not going there.

I don’t know how this is going to play out and for how long. The one thing this organization does is pull the heart strings of fans concerning their netminders. The list is too long and cumbersome on what was, and is, in the 15 years of co-existence between the two cities.

I will always look back and remember how the screw-up went down in the ‘Brian Elliott fiasco’ to omit him from the playoff roster not too long ago and how “someone messed up the paperwork” that robbed this fan base blindly of a promising post-season run in 2008-’09. We all remember and it still burns today. (But hey, at least we have a Calder Cup to ease some of the burden.)

Binghamton is losing the Senators’ franchise after the season has expired. A fresh beginning will take place with a new team arriving. I can assure you it’s going to be a tough adjustment, but I can only pray the process will be different in accessing talent.

One can only hope.