A familiar face will be milling around the surroundings of 1 Stuart Place once again in the downtown area of Binghamton as newly appointed head coach Kurt Kleinendorst returns for his second stint representing the Binghamton Senators for the upcoming 2016-’17 campaign.
The 55 year-old Grand Rapids, MN native agreed to a two-year contract during the off-season, but also experienced several regrets after leaving the first time around, as demonstrated a few days removed from a presser held before Ottawa’s training camp;
"The one thing I've said all along was this was my biggest regret was that in my mind I wish I had never left Binghamton. And so for me to be back, I'm very excited, and I'm looking forward to it. The trip in yesterday was exciting for me, and to walk around downtown, it brought back a lot of good memories.”
Regardless, the no-nonsense style of coach will be entering his 18th year behind the bench at the pro level. A no facial hair allowed during the regular season demonstrates his take, (with the exception of (M)ovember in support of men’s health, along with any post-season action) and sets the tone in what is expected. A far cry from the previous administration.
Besides a short stint as an assistant for the New Jersey Devils back in 2001, along with the U.S. National Under-18 Team in 2010 leading his club to a Gold Medal at the IIHF World U18 Championships behind him, Kleinendorst will always be remembered, at least in these parts, of his role in bringing the City of Binghamton their first and only hockey Championship in the spring of 2011. That team ended up with a regular season record of 42-30-3-5 and snuck into the playoffs slated in the seventh position before winning the ultimate prize.
However, the following season was a bit of a struggle for everyone involved, and one to forget as that club posted a 29-40-5-2 record which resulted in a last place finish in the league. With a handful of players that previously graduated to Ottawa and several left for other NHL adventures, coach KK tried to pick up the pieces but ended up with a poor record instead.
And to be honest, it was an inevitable outcome. There was zero talent on that year’s squad. An epic fall-out of sorts that Ottawa wasn’t prepared for when you take a look around the league that other teams earn a spot repeatedly in the post-season.
After a brief coaching stint at the U. of Alabama-Huntsville the next season, Kleinendorst returned to the AHL in Iowa in where he massed a 27-36-7-6 for the Wild. But he was soon let go after only 12 games into season #2 with just 2 wins to show for. Kleinendorst then coached in Germany for the ERC Ingolstadt soon after.
Coach KK replaces Luke Richardson after his four-year reign ended, as he was not offered a renewal from Ottawa. Richardson led his club to identical 88-48-4-12 records in his first two seasons which drew rave reviews from the outside, including a division title in 2013-’14, but failed to get by rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the second straight season in another first round defeat in the playoffs.
In Richardson’s final two years at the helm, the BSens failed to earn a spot in the post-season. Missed opportunities would again be the result that ultimately lead to his shortcomings on a team otherwise loaded with talent as Richardson didn’t deliver, and neither did his players.
It was a great run for the ex-NHL defenseman and one that’ll be etched in many fans in the Triple Cities forever. Good luck Luke!
Turning the page, Kleinendorst will once again be alongside his former sidekick Steve Stirling, as Stirls returns for his 7th straight season for the BSens filling in as Assistant Coach. The one thing for sure you can’t ignore is the communication level between the two, combined with the willingness and know how to win it all once again.
Dylan Crawford will be the new Video Coach, as the club is one of the very few in the league to have a Goaltending Coach, which will be in the hands of Kory Cooper. Crawford is the son of new Ottawa assistant coach Marc Crawford and worked recently for the NHL Network in the video and television department. Meanwhile, Cooper recently spent the last three seasons as the goaltending coach for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL.
I feel confident the coaching staff will be up to the challenge and if the goaltending is consistent enough behind the blueline, just getting to the post-season will not only be a pipe-dream, but a reality.
And who knows where it will take them from there if the team would make it. Just refer back to that magical season in the spring of 2011 if you need further proof.
Next Up; A peek at the goaltending and what’s ahead in-between the pipes on Friday.