The GM also made a call into the Team 1200 this morning guesting on Steve Lloyd and Jason York's new show In The Box. You can check out the audio right here.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
Q: Binghamton’s camp opens tomorrow, it must be nice for you and your staff to get a sense of normalcy with this NHL lockout. You’re getting back into some real hockey here.
A: And some good young players, Steve. That’s the thing that I like about it. The (AHL) will be real good this year obviously and we have some young players who are ready to start their pro careers. I’m real excited for the whole group of them because they’re going to get into an age group where we won’t have a lot of older guys. We’ll have a real competitive team, I believe. Luke (Richardson) will get a chance to start his coaching career down there, so I think there are a lot of things to look forward to and that we’re excited about.
Over the past season and a half, the quote “real competitive team” angle has been a staple of any interview that Bryan or Tim Murray has given. It’s to the point that when the NHL lockout ends, I fully expect the team’s marketing department to embrace it and use it as the organization’s 2012/13 slogan.
Q: It’s going to be very competitive for premium ice-time down there for Luke and his staff with so many great, young prospects getting a chance. And some of your returning prospects, guys like Hoffman and Da Costa coming back for another season, in a way, for many of these players, they’re going to be competing against each other to show themselves to the organization for whenever a NHL camp starts because there’s going to be opportunity.
A: Yeah, there is. I believe we have 18 forwards competing down there in the first while competing for a spot on the team, so we’re going to have to find a place for some of our pretty good players to play for a period of time. But, very definitely, it will be a competitive camp. It is an opportunity for us to introduce some of the (Europeans) to the organization in the American (Hockey) League and North American hockey. Zibanejad and Silfverberg and Claussen… Claesson, people of that nature will get a chance to play and that’s real important to play in a good environment.
Internal competition is a beautiful thing. Thank god this 2012/13 Binghamton Senators team is far removed from its days when Josh Hennessey was the closest thing that the team had to an NHL prospect.
Q: I know you have said that it’s a good thing for a player to develop in the minors. If there is any silver lining to the lockout, it’s that it gives some of these players like Silfverberg more time to get used to the (size of the) ice surface over here.
A: There’s no question. Even the (AHL) is very competitive and very physical in a lot of games. Night after night, you get used to playing – in some cases, you have four games in four nights. So there are a lot of things to adjust to like the bus trips. I agree, playing in the (AHL) is a good step. It’s good preparation. It teaches you discipline. Knowing Luke and talking to Luke, it’ll be a hard with lots of skating. When they get to (Ottawa), if we get playing, they’ll be in good condition and I believe (they’ll be well prepared).
With the well-documented or rumored despondencies of the organization’s other highly regarded Swedish prospects (cough) Robin Lehner and Andre Petersson (cough) (cough), this influx of Swedes will hopefully do wonders to keep each other in a good frame of mind while they're biding their time on the farm.
Q: Of your three prospects getting the most attention – Zibanejad, Silfverberg and Stone – two are wingers and one is a center/winger. Where do you plan on playing Zibanejad? Do you plan on playing him down the middle?
A: No, we’re planning to put him on the left (wing). He’s a right-handed shot and he played a lot of left wing last year, in particular with the world junior team in Sweden. With a depth point of view, that fits us and he seems comfortable with that. I’m not sure if he’ll end up being a center at some point in his career, but the fact that he’s big and strong, gets up and down the ice, and shoots the puck really well, and in particular on the power play, that offside shooting the puck seems like it’s a real benefit to him… So we’re going to play him there and Luke will have to make adjustments as he goes along. I’m sure he’ll have a player that is flexible and will move into the middle, if necessary. But the plan right now is to put him on the left side.
Although the official word that Zibanejad will likely slot in on the wing, isn't exactly new, the young Swede's reception to the idea and willingness to play the position speaks volumes about his character and willingness to do whatever is in the best interests of the organization. The blurb about developing Zibanejad to slot in as a right-shot off the left-side on the powerplay is intriguing and has me looking down the road. With Spezza operating down low off the right-post and Karlsson patrolling the blueline, their ability to draw PK coverage and create shooting lanes for Zibanejad could be fun to watch. Someone is obviously going to need to take Alfie's spot there, no pressure.
Q: Guys typically like to play their offside when they have a chance to be that kind of power forward.
A: Well again, being a Swede, playing a lot, and having played that (way) a lot, it’s not abnormal for him. I think he’ll be very comfortable there. We think he’ll be more of power forward than a skilled forward or a playmaking forward but having that kind of player getting a start in the (AHL) in that position should be beneficial for him and hopefully in the long run for the Ottawa Senators.
Q: Have you given any thought to signing Ben Bishop to an AHL PTO if this lockout continues?
A: We definitely have talked to him a lot and talked to his agent a lot to get Ben to Binghamton. For the first week, he’s in St. Louis right now working out with a group of NHL players and getting lots of work. So we’re going to leave him there, we’ll go through (Binghamton) training camp and probably a week from today or tomorrow, we’ll talk to him again about the possibility of coming to Binghamton; and him and Robin (Lehner) being our two goaltenders there until such time that different things happen. We do have another good goaltender there that is pretty good, in (Nathan) Lawson. We want to make sure that we treat him right and with respect, so we’ll have to find him a location as well. So it will probably take us a week to finalize things in goal.
This has the makings of a very intriguing B plot.
Q: How did summer go for Da Costa? Was his training good and is he ready to compete for a spot and take that next step?
A: He has had some medical problems in the last couple of weeks. Up until then, he’s worked real hard. He spent a lot of time in the Boston area around Merrimack, where he went to school. But, it’s normal what happened to him (last season). I think the fact that he stepped out of college, not really ready for pro hockey. He didn’t get a lot of time. We gave him some games here but it was certainly a little above him at that point. But I think a year under his belt of pro hockey (will serve him well). He’s a guy we kind of forget about when we talk about the younger guys coming in but he’s certainly a talented kid who has a chance to play. There are a couple of other guys as well. Mike Hoffman just had an outstanding finish to his year down there and he has to be a candidate to play in the NHL very soon.
Even if Hoffman or Da Costa never put on an Ottawa Senators sweater again, their presence within the system is not without utility. As young assets who are on the cusp of the NHL, they give management the flexibility to go out and make a trade. Whether they allow the organization to move one of their more highly touted prospects or someone who is already on the for a bigger return remains to be seen, but at the very least, they are young assets who have some inherent value. Hoffman's recent development in particular has been strong.
Q: Jared Cowen has a chance to play in Binghamton because he is on ELC and Patrick Wiercioch will be back down there. How important is Andre Benoit to the development of your defensive blue line prospects?
A: He will (play some games in the NHL). There’s no question. Andre is a very, very good player and the only thing that has ever held him back is his height. He knows how to play. He’s smart and he moves the puck. He’s a good person and he’ll help our young players. We got him for selfish reasons and that is, if we need him up here, he can play. Patrick Wiercioch had a great summer. I think he’s up to 210-212 lbs. After the injury last year, I think he was down to the 180-185 lb range. We’ve got Mark Borowiecki, Eric Gryba. We have Cowen going down, so our depth going there, like many, will be much better. But our ability to call guys up when the need arises, is better than it has been in a number of years here.
Considering that last season, Patrick Wiercioch was listed at 192 lbs, I'm eager to see whether he can parlay a summer with Schwarz into some on-ice results. As somewhat of a forgotten prospect who has been passed in the organizational depth chart by guys like Borowiecki, he needs to take a step this season or risk falling further.
Q: It must be good with the experience that Luke Richardson has and the defensive prospects that you have down there.
A: Yeah, and good for Luke too. He wanted to do this and I think he’s an example of the kind of thing or things that we’re doing with the organization. Good people. He’ll pass along a lot of experience but a lot of good character situations for the young players down there. He’ll work them hard. He has got a great guy with him in Steve Stirling – who is a veteran coach and that will help Luke get his career underway. I just feel very comfortable that first of all, we have a good group. We have a great person and a good coach and a core of players that I think will really benefit from Luke being their guy.
Without knowing Luke Richardson or his coaching tendencies, it is difficult to critique the decision to hire him as their minor league affiliate's head coach. Inevitably, considering the talent that is assembled in Binghamton, some may think it suspect that the Senators were willing to give the job to someone without any head coaching experience. I hope Luke proves the doubters wrong.
Q: Is it business as usual for a lot of your staff?
A: Yeah, the amateur guys in particular are going full out. The pro scouts don’t happen to have much to do to this point. With the (AHL) only, they’ll be more in a region than they were before when we had them covering the NHL and the (AHL). But they’ll be more regional in the first part of the year at any rate, but our scouting has to continue. The strength of our team has come because Pierre (Dorion) and his staff have done an excellent job drafting and finding players to fit our roles here, so we’ll continue to do that.
Selfishly, I say bullet dodged on the rumours of Dorion being a favourite to be the Habs new GM.
Q: Will you use Paul MacLean with the staff in Binghamton at all?
A: No, Paul will be down over the course of the training camp and watching some games. But no, we have to let the coaches down there do what they do. Paul can sit, and certainly as we all will, sit and have some opinions on players and give some advice. I mean, we always tell coaches what to do, so we’ll give Luke lots of advice but he’ll do what he wants to do, I hope, at the end of the day.
Let's be honest, Luke should have full autonomy…caveat being if Paul offers moustache advice there is an obligation to take it.