Yesterday was Tuesday, which means Binghamton Senators head coach, Luke Richardson made his weekly appearance on the Team 1200's The Drive program. The full interview was not transcribed by me, but if you would prefer to listen to it, you can do here.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
On the lack of scoring and an update on Mark Stone and Jared Cowen’s health…
“Jared is just status quo. We want to make sure we’re careful with a big guy with a bit of a pulled muscle in his lower body, so the same thing with him. He probably won’t be available this weekend, for sure. Mark Stone skated more this morning and he’s practicing with us tomorrow morning. He’s going to come with us to the game tomorrow night to get back into the game day headframe, but he won’t be playing tomorrow night. We’re hopeful for Saturday which will be a huge boost for us. Like you said offensively, to help us because he’s a very smart player and a really good playmaker and (there is) his ability to be offensive but he’s so smart defensively on the penalty kill. It will be a big help to get him back.”
On the positive side, it is nice to see that the organization is in no rush to bring Jared Cowen back into the lineup to give the farm team a better chance to win. As much as we want to emphasize the importance of a winning culture, the Senators are putting the health and personal development ahead of its success.
This also marks the first instance that I have ever heard someone describe and compliment Mark Stone's defensive acumen. I never knew that he was a significant member of the penalty kill. Mind you, as you'll see later in this interview, apparently everyone on the Binghamton Senators plays a vital role on the penalty kill.
On Mika Zibanejad’s lack of production and questioning whether he has been an effective player…
“Oh, he’s been… other than maybe two out of the games that we have played – and those are both probably at the end of the weekend where I saw a little fatigue in his game – he has been really explosive and he has had chances. He has had great chances. He has been dangerous, even on goals that have been scored by other people, he has started the plays and is very explosive. I’m not worried about him because his chances are still coming. It’s just (he’s) a little snake bit and the same with Silfverberg; even though Silfverberg has a couple (of goals). They have had their chances to really pop a few in and I really get worried when those chances stop coming. I have talked to them about just being patient; playing the same… going after it and really trying to be a little bit simpler on those Sunday afternoon games or the second games in two nights or third game in three nights to make sure that they don’t try to do a little too much – and then they don’t get the opportunity to score. (They) just make sure they to let it come to them. They have been really good. They have been working hard and they are smart players. I have been using them a lot on the penalty kill; that takes a little bit of the energy out of them also but they have been dangerous and effective thus far, so I can’t complain.”
I'm just going to start copying-and-pasting Richardson's response to the questions surrounding "when are the Swedes going to produce?" questions, he keeps reiterating the same things over-and-over again. We're only nine games in and already it's stale. An important consideration to make, even though Richardson didn't allude to it, is that that it's early in the season and there's no NHL hockey. Without it, these prospects are under more scrutiny and are being micro-analyzed more than they probably deserve. Of course it doesn't help that they are probably suffering from being overhyped; but we're living in a Canadian city and it goes with the territory.
It's interesting to note that Richardson acknowledges that the PK duties assigned to Silf and Zibanejad could potentially be affecting their energy levels at even-strenth. One has to believe that this is another instance of the coaching staff putting the development of the prospects, by making them better all-around prospects who get defensive responsibilities, rather than insulating them and putting them in the best position to succeed offensively.
On former 67s Corey Cowick and Shane Prince…
“Both of them had a great weekend. Corey is doing a lot of grunt work for us. Trying to be a physical presence playing on what we call a fourth line. But in this league, you have to play four lines. You have to have four good lines. He has been really strong up and down the wing; getting to the net. He has taken on a really big role on the penalty kill for us and he has done a great job in that respect – he is a big body that can block shots and he can skate. He’s been doing really good. He has got a great attitude. He has worked hard. He has made the steps the last few years progressively from junior hockey – being a real big force to a kind of a guy up and down from the East Coast (Hockey League) to the American (Hockey) League, to now a guy who is becoming a more steady (professional) in the AHL with a key role, so that’s been great for us to have; but more importantly, (it’s great) for him to build his confidence.
Shane Prince played his first two games. He hasn’t been in a game really – in his first scrimmage, he got hurt, so he hasn’t really had very much scrimmage time in training camp. (He’s had) no exhibition games. He’s already a couple weeks behind everybody in the league and he looked great out there. He has kept himself in great shape and I think that was a key for him coming to camp in great shape. It gave him that extra chance – when you come back from an injury, you come back a little quicker that way. He had a lot of energy. When he had the puck, you could see that determination he wanted to get it to the the net and that is what we need right now. Defensively, he was great. He got back into the middle and disrupted a couple neutral zone plays with a good stick because he has great hand-eye coordination. He drove the net, so I was really happy with him and I just think he was ecstatic to get back into a game. It is a lot of hard work when you’re injured and you have to take the long road back of doing the hard skates before and after practice and doing extra workouts. But that’s what you have got to do and that’s what it takes. He did a great job of getting himself back to this position.
We did juggle the lines, to answer your question from earlier. We are probably going to try Mika Zibanejad at center, because we have been trying to use him on the off-wing to use his strength to drive the net on his off-side. But with Da Costa banging his knee up just a little bit the other day -- nothing structurally, just kind of banged it so it’s bruised up and sore – so he probably won’t play tomorrow. So we need another centerman so that’s key with (Zibanejad), we could use him on the wing and at center, so that lets us try and use Shane Prince in a scoring role and try and get him going like he was in junior.”
By next weekend, Shane Prince will also become an important part of Binghamton's penalty kill. Kidding aside, with the imminent return of Stone to the lineup, Prince will have an opportunity to produce and hopefully preserve a spot in the top six playing with some of his more offensively inclined teammates. Very curious to see what Prince can do in the AHL, and was glad to see him pick up an assist in his second game.
On Andre Benoit having a chance to play in the NHL…
“He’s been great. He’s our captain and on and off the ice, he’s a leader. He’s in the weight room every day working hard. He plays every shift like it’s his last – he’s up the ice and he’s back; he battles. We were having an awful game, and I came into the room and I was going to be upset at the guys in Manchester a couple of weekends ago and I didn’t even get a chance to say anything; he was already screaming at them. He’s not the biggest guy, but he has got a big heart. He’s the first guy in on a scrap on the ice. He battles every shift and he has talent to play on the power play and he is fearless enough to block shots on the penalty kill. He does everything right. He is not the biggest guy. He’s not the typical prototype defenceman nowadays – whether you’re either the slick, fast puck-moving guy like an Erik Karlsson or just a big, solid ‘D’ like a Jared Cowen – he’s his own brand and he’s great at everything he does. You’re right, he’s a guy who is probably in the prime of his physical career at age 28 or 29 and when the lockout ends, he’s going to be a step ahead of some guys that are especially late in their career or guys who are just on the fringe of the AHL/NHL and are locked out. He’s a guy who could probably do something for a team and probably really put them over the edge; especially at the beginning of a shortened season.”
The point about the lingering effects that the lockout could potentially have on some of Ottawa's veteran players who aren't playing overseas is a great one. Chris Phillips, I'm looking at you.
On the presence of management types and scouts in the stands watching the highest level of play in North America…
“I know last weekend when we were all the way down in Norfolk, Virginia, our scout, we had a scout there… He mentioned that a lot of other scouts were going to be down there because they wanted to see how guys play back-to-back. And it’s not just the one game and they go out, and (the scouts) catch them on a really good game or an off game; they want to see… and we had a great game Friday and unfortunately, we didn’t have a great start on Saturday. But we did rally to have a good second and third but a strong Norfolk team… we just played even the rest of the game. It shows those players that you have got to play every night. If you want to be a pro at the top level, you have got to be a pro every night. It’s good for them to know and see that those scouts are there because that does keep a little reminder and they don’t have any setbacks. They don’t have fallbacks. It keeps them driven and ready to go every night.”
Which would otherwise be great to hear, if he had not acknowledged previously that Mika Zibanejad's poor performances have come on the back end of a back-to-back games...
On having such a young team and whether the team underestimated the talent in the AHL…
“I’m sure there are some people that did or some guys that did, but they don’t now. It’s a battle every night and it’s a really, really tight league. As much as the parity in the NHL has come together even tighter, it’s even more so at this level. When you condense games on the weekend, it makes it even tighter. You might get a team that is a little lower on the depth chart and in the standings that is a little fresher on Sunday because they only play one or two games and the older team or the better team has three games in and is a little more tired. It just makes it evened out a little more. If anyone came in thinking that, they are not thinking that now.”
Something we're likely going to see in Ottawa as I suspect NHL and NHLPA are hell-bent on shoe-horning in as many games as possible, if/when they come to an agreement.