There's been some recent talk with some BSens fans in a group discussion on Twitter that Matt O'Connor has not lived up to his off-season hype and wondering if he should spend some time in the ECHL playing for the Evansville IceMen. It's only been eight games, but the Senators are in last place in the North Division and O'Connor is still searching for his first professional win after four attempts, and at times looking rather shaky in trying.
If such a move would occur, it would bring up veteran Scott Greenham filling in as a back-up to Chris Driedger while O'C gets acquainted to the pros at a different level, but playing every game. Driedger has posted some decent numbers so far this season, (3-1-0, 2.50 GAA, 0.916 SV%) and at 21 years old, he is ahead of the learning curve on O'Connor (0-4-0, 3.80 GAA, 0.867 SV%). Driedger is returning as a second year pro after playing just about all of last season for Evansville. It would also allow for Driedger to blossom and string some games together instead of the platoon rotation that is currently taking place.
This may or may not happen as part of the reason might be O'Connor signed with the Ottawa Senators in the first place with an agreement that the 23 year old would be assigned to Binghamton and not Evansville, forcing Luke Richardson to play him while he's adjusting to the pros from the college level.
I turned to that BSens discussion group for some of their thoughts on O'C as I always like to include a fan's point of view whenever possible and this is what some of them had to say:
Matt and Ben think he'll be fine while Erin adds a comparison to Driedger from last season -
I think his reflexes are good but his skating in the crease need a lot of work. I also think the team seems to play a little less confident in front of him. We've seen tall goalies succeed with time, a la Ben Bishop. Perhaps it really is too soon. But for such a touted prospect, this doesn't look good on him. I think he has it in him though.
I think most of us felt the same about Lehner as we do about O'Connor in the beginning, and look what he ended up doing for us. I think it's important for the team to find ways to win until he gets the ship straightened, even if that means being the backup and only playing a few games here or there ~ Matt Merritt
..Driedger for the record was pretty shaky when he started playing here last year - people had the similar response oh wait, we thought he was good? But look at him now after some experience. I think OC will be fine too. Even though we prefer that he gets there sooner than later, we have to remember that AHL hockey is not a crap league, it's damn close to the NHL competition level and that's a big jump from college hockey. ~
Then Mike and Alicia think the ECHL should be a bridge between college and the AHL -
It's too early to say OC is a bust but we can't keep rotating goalies like this. We need a number 1 - Driedger and a backup. If OC is that backup, ok. But I'd also not argue against him going to ECHL for a couple of weeks. If he could get a win or 2 under his belt it's do a lot of his confidence level. ~
I had said that coming into it, I though Dreidger should be the starter here and O'Connor should start for Evansville and OTT should have signed a vet to backup Driedger..I find it very hard to believe that if Anderson were to get hurt long term OTT would be comfortable turning the keys over to Hammond and O'Connor..Rick Wamsley needs to come down and work with him. That turned Hammond around for a while. ~ Mike Van Kleeck
While Tom and Emily say wait it out in getting a win and that it's a process -
I agree that if he could get a win or two it would do a lot for his confidence but continued losses would only be detrimental. I know he is young and he definitely has talent but I would hate to see him keep getting forced into starts when he's just not ready ~
..I would have to wonder what people consider as "ready"? Trial by fire can be a good teaching lesson. Let us not forget that he's playing on a totally different level than what he's used to. Much to the displeasure of many, he's not going to be great at first. That's just the nature of the beast. Jump and build your wings on the way down. I def agree that he's not a starter yet and the alternating goalies is not the greatest idea. Give the guy time! It's a process. ~
Outside the realm, Ben notices something about Driedger that's quite out of the ordinary, which has happened before but nonetheless, it's a rare occurrence -
..One particular thing I noticed about him as well is that he leaves the crease to be the last bump to his teammates on a goal by the bench. I've never seen a goalie do that, myself. I find it speaks to a possible leadership quality for him too. Driegs clearly knows who he is and how he plays with a year under his belt. I think O'C is probably adjusting now and finding his niche out of college with an extra burden of expectation. ~
My thoughts on this is he'll also be fine given some time, but the rotation has to go as it's not panic mode yet, but it'll surely be on the horizon if the next eight games follow the same suit as the first eight. Then we have a problem, as the team currently sits at the bottom of the seven team division and can't afford to sink any further out from the other clubs.
Goaltending coach Rick Wamsley has been a key component to O'C's signing with the organization and when given the opportunity, he will do his magic trying to correct a few things to get Matt in line. After all, he has succeeded in the past with the likes of Robin Lehner, Andrew Hammond and Driedger.
However, this weekend will be a challenge coming up for both goaltenders being it's a three in three, and the team as a whole is searching for a .500 record or better. Let's see how it plays out and hope for the best before reaching for that panic button. I would hope Driedger plays Friday and Sunday while O'Connor's in for Saturday.
There was one game on tap for the BSens last weekend as they came out on the losing end by a score of 7-5 to the Utica Comets on home ice last Friday evening. You can find my re-cap here. The two clubs were involved in a wild shootout combined with 12 goals in a back and forth affair highlighted with rookie Tobias Lindberg scoring his first professional goal.
This weekend the Senators (3-5-0) take on two division foes among the three teams they play. First the Amerks (5-5-0) on Friday in Rochester, then they return home on Saturday to face the Toronto Marlies (7-3-0), and conclude on the road at Lehigh Valley (4-5-0) on late Sunday afternoon. It'll be fun to watch Zack Stortini returning home to face his former team for the first time and see some of the fans' reactions, as he was a crowd favorite playing for the Phantoms last season. Look for Max McCormick being back for Binghamton, along with Michael Kostka and Stortini.
Let's Go Sens!
*Cover Pic Courtesy of Alicia Strauch.