Bingo Bites: Free Agent Frenzy, Buddy's Dilemma & Pierre Groulx's Challenge
Fresh off last Friday's signings, we also catch up with Buddy Robinson and a new goalie coach
Ottawa Senators signed six players on last Friday's free agency frenzy with five forwards and a defenseman as the move was much needed to help "re-stock the farm" , or so they say. Somewhere lost in the rhetoric's was Buddy Robinson coming to terms for his return, and what effect will new goaltending coach Pierre Groulx have on two important cornerstone pieces in Chris Driedger and Matt O'Connor.
But first, here’s a quick summary of the six recently signed with many (if all) that are expected to see time in Binghamton
Six-Pack For The (B)Sens
Mike Blunden, 29-year-old forward
Blunden was a second round draft pick (43rd overall) in 2005 and was the only player penned for two years at $737,500/$275,000 per season. Had 21 goals and 17 assists in 49 games for the Crunch last season along with 3 goals and 2 assists in 20 games for Tampa Bay.
A big guy listed at 6'4" with 124 NHL games behind him and is no stranger when it comes to BSens' fans. Look forward to seeing what he can do for us.
Chad Nehring, 29-year-old forward
Hehring inked for $600,000/$125,000 for the undrafted free agent.
Had a break-out season last year for Hartford in goals 22 and assists 26 in 79 games for the Wolf Pack. Previous season he scored only 4 goals and 8 assists in 53 games. Perhaps he's hitting his stride as he enters the 2016-'17 campaign.
Max McCormick, 24-year-old forward
McCormick enters his third season with the Senators Organization and is arguably the hardest worker in the organization. Had 15 goals and 15 helpers in 57 games for Binghamton, both pro career highs.
Spicy saw some action in Ottawa last season appearing in 20 games, as he had 2 goals and a pair of assists, but he needs to bring his energy up another notch to get a second chance for Ottawa as he looks around to all these new two-way contracts that were handed out.
Casey Bailey, 24-year-old forward
Bailey returns for his second pro year after being involved in the trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Had a combined 11 goals along with 28 assists in 68 contests for the Marlies and BSens in his first full season in the pros after finishing his college career at Penn State.
A native of Anchorage Alaska, Bailey agreed to a $874,125/$70,000 salary as he has high aspirations on being an offensive threat, as well as a team leader both on and off the ice. Well on his way to a successful hockey career as his develop continues. Should get a peek at some point for the big club next season.
Phil Varone, 25-year-old forward
Varone was acquired with the trade from Buffalo to Ottawa along with Jason Akeson for Eric O'Dell and Cole Schneider, (Alex Guptill, Mike Sdao and Jerome Leduc the other three involved). Akeson remains unsigned, Schneider re-upped with the Sabres and O'Dell basically gave the middle finger to Buffalo, and as a result remains un-signed.
Back to Varone. His intensity is sky high for the hard-nose winger as witnessed during games trying to rally the troops on the bench. Don't be surprised if he is sporting the 'A' come October. Kinda guy you want on your team serving a somewhat of a pest role with the ability to put up some numbers. Had a combined 19 goals and 36 assists in 65 games between Rochester and Binghamton, along with five games in Buffalo and one in Ottawa.
Michael Kostka, 30-year-old defenseman
Kostka, the savvy, undrafted veteran was an AHL All-Star last season returns to the blueline with 85 NHL games to his credit, as he finished the season for Ottawa.
His veteran leadership will be a plus that will otherwise aid an already thin defense for Binghamton. He will replace Fredrik Claesson as the team's leader, as I don't see Freddy returning at least to the AHL. Kostka, always supporting a smile, should be a big addition to the PP and serve as the team's Captain next season. Glad to have him back. Finished with 5 goals and 24 assists in 50 appearances in his first season for the BSens.
Buddy Robinson Needs To Dig Deeper
Robinson was recently re-signed to a one-year, two way contract worth $750,000/$75,000. The announcement is a safe bet I suppose, with one thing in mind, his PK abilities. But the big man has trouble finishing his offensive breakaways for a shitty shorty. (Inside joke)
Excited to be back with Ottawa for another year! Thanks to the @Senators for this opportunity! #GoSensGo— Buddy Robinson (@B_Robinson91) June 27, 2016
It's a good signing with little risk involved as Robinson would be entering his fourth full season playing in Binghamton. Great PK specialist using his long stretch while utilizing the stick that continued to create an offensive opportunity on a break out, only to crash and burn in the end.
But what lacks in Robinson is the inability to use his size at 6' 6" on the physical aspect. He also is not the most gifted puck handler but managed 13 goals and a pro career low of only 10 assists in 62 games for Binghamton last season. He also was called up for Ottawa and made three appearances with a goal and an assist.
Perhaps with coach Kurt Kleinendorst behind the bench he can get more out of him with some assertiveness.
Pierre Groulx's Challenge/Rick Wamsley's Misfortunes
With the departed goaltender coach Rick Wamsley relieved of his duties after seven seasons, in enters Pierre Groulx. The news was somewhat received as a eye-opener for some, but I'm excited to see someone new after what I thought was a disappointing effort last season from a guy I once respected.
Groulx returns to the where it all started as a video coach for the Senators. He spent four season with the Florida Panthers (2005-'09) and another four with the Montreal Canadians as their goaltender coach (2009-'13). He will inherit O'Connor who finished with a record of 10-20-3, 3.31 GAA, 0.895 SV% and Driedger (18-15-4, 2.83 GAA, 0.912 SV%). The challenge ahead for him will be to get more consistency out of Driedger, and better preparation for O'Connor.
With O'Connor, he's got to have a fresh slate and start over as Matt was all over the place in his rookie season. Of course, the defense was suspect at times, (okay alot), and it doesn't appear it will change much for next season either. Somehow Groulx has got to get these two mentally ready when the puck drops in the fall.
Back to Wamsley for a bit.
Wamsley is so good at what he does you can see his work on display with immediate results with some netminders. That is where the frustrations mounted last season as he was not around as much as in the past when, let's say Andrew Hammond needed help.
We are all familiar with the battles he had in the past with Robin Lehner and some recent in-differences with Chris Driedger. I'm only focusing on last season.
The sweepstakes of goaltender prospect Matt O'Connor and where was he going to land after his playing days were over at Boston University. O'C selected the Ottawa Senators with the main reason was Wamsley and his comfort level. This was a college graduate that relied on him before signing a new contract but Wamsley ignored O'Connor in his early season struggles while adjusting to the pro level and the fast pace tag it carried with it, which quite frankly, was totally inexcusable. Instead, he later related by saying,
"I know I was part of the problem, but I also know I'm part of the solution." as Wamsley stated to BSens' radio voice Grady Whittenberg in an interview during intermission last season.
To be fair Wamsley did own up to his own stubbornness, or misfortunes have you, but the bottom line was he didn't react in time. Hopefully Groulx has a different agenda coming in to make up for some of Wamsley's errs.
And contrary what others outside the circle might think, Binghamton does not have a goaltender coach. Groulx's priority is obviously up top for Ottawa, but the Sens Organization has got to remember that there are two potential quality netminders in Binghamton that shouldn't be dismissed. I just hope he can contribute here and not turn the other cheek like the aforementioned did.