Another weekly radio appearance by Binghamton Senators head coach Luke Richardson and another weekly transcription for you here at The 6th Sens. Richardson touched upon a number of points that I couldn’t be bothered writing about – Hugh Jessiman, Tyler Eckford, the non-existent Toronto/Ottawa rivalry at the AHL-level (caused by the fact that Toronto and Bingo are not divisional rivals) – but I did snag some quotes others may find useful.
For those of you who want to listen to the full interview, you can do so here, or you can listen on the embed below.
As always, my thoughts will be in bold.
On discussing Mika Zibanejad snapping his goalless drought and whether he was struggling with his game.
“Yeah, I have (been happy with his game) and even Saturday, following up (Mika and I) talked a little bit at the morning skate on Friday about (going) straight down the wall, straight lines and shooting the puck and going to the net. He’s a big body and is hard to control (as a defensive player) with his size and speed. To his credit, their line went to the net and he got his own rebound on Friday and Saturday, in the first period, he went racing down the right wing on a two-on-one and shot one right off the post. He’s still getting his chances, so we’re still liking the way he’s playing. He is tracking defensively very well and he is starting to gauge his body a little more and getting used to that and this style of hockey over hear. We’re happy with him and I’m sure he’s probably frustrated and wants to get a few more points on the board; especially on the power play. (His unit) is really is creating lots of chances. I think Friday, we had 10 out of 19 (scoring) of our chances on the power play. So we’re doing some good things, we just have to really get that killer instinct out there and finish them off.”
As frequently as Zibanejad’s stagnant offensive numbers have been mentioned in conversation, Richardson is doing an excellent PR job smattering the organization’s Swedish prospects with verbal fellatio - lauding their defensive awareness and complimenting their abilitity to play a well-rounded game. Although it may seem like a hollow comfort until said prospects start lighting the lamp with more regularity, for other highly-regarded prospects, usually it’s the exact opposite.
We should all be able to recall the infamous ‘the NHL is a man’s league and he’s is just a boy,’ bomb that Jacques Martin dropped on Jason Spezza during the center’s first NHL training camp. Like many other dynamic offensive talents, it took time for Spezza to round out his game and shake the stigma that he was not a capable defensive player. In some circles, it’s a battle that he is still fighting.
At least in Zibanejad’s case, he has already earned the trust of his coaching staff. He’s playing in all situations, taking key faceoffs and playing with some of the team's best offensive players. His offensive output is likely gonna come in fits and starts at this stage of his career. Take Milan Lucic as an example (note: I am not comparing Lucic’s game/style with Zibanejad’s, I’m merely stating a point): he did not become the 25 to 30 goal scorer that we see today overnight. In his first three seasons in the NHL, he only cracked the 10 goal mark once before his breakout 30 goal season in 2010/11.
On Silfverberg’s adjustment…
“Great. He’s so smart. He came into the coaches’ room after the first period to see some video on a penalty kill and he asked a question, and he basically answered the question by asking it; that’s how smart of a player he is."
Okay, I have to cut in here: Silfverberg answers questions by asking questions? Good god, he is a regular Ken Jennings. Go ahead Luke, carry on.
“(We told him), ‘You did what you needed to do there, it’s just kind of playing hockey and adjusting as it goes.’ We have our systems but those guys are out there and they are the ones who have to adjust as it goes. He is that smart. He talks to other players and he is vocal. He has played pro for a couple of years so he is not really a rookie but he is over here and getting used to his confinements in that small rink and I think he is. The other night, a guy took a big run at him and I don’t think he was too happy, so he went right back at the guy in his own way. Obviously his stature wasn’t as big as the other guy, but he went right after him so I thought that was a good response from him – to show players that he is not going to back off physically. He is a big enough and strong enough guy, but he is so smart out there. He makes things happen with and without the puck; which is just as important.”
On the loss of Jared Cowen…
“Yeah, it’s a tough blow for the whole organization and I think for Jared, I feel really bad because he was familiar being down here the year of the Calder Cup Champion and that run after his playoffs ended in junior. I think it was an easy place for him to come and play and get some great ice-time to work on his game. He would have been a step above probably a lot of the guys coming out of the lockout but unfortunately, he won’t be probably playing this year. It’s frustrating for him and you feel bad for him because he put the work in to get ready and go through the training the camp and really start off the season well for us. So we feel bad for him, but the best thing was to get (the hip) corrected and do it quickly. He’s a young guy. He can respond well from surgery compared to an older guy that would have a tougher time. We just wish him the best and the quickest recovery. He is in great hands with the training staff and doctors in Ottawa so they can get him back on his feet and ready to go hopefully for the start of the next year.”
Well, that’s just swell. We have more confirmation from someone within the organization that Cowen is done for the season. As an organization that had so many things go right last season – career years or very productive years from star players (ie. Michalek, Spezza, Karlsson, Alfie and etc.) who stayed relatively healthy – the loss of Cowen is a blow that could push a bubble team like the Senators out of the playoff picture altogether. Assuming that a season actually occurs, it will be interesting to see how much resiliency this team, and especially the backend, can muster.