After two seasons of coaching the Binghamton Senators and leading them to a Calder Cup championship in 2011, head coach Kurt Kleinedorst has confirmed that he will not be behind Ottawa’s AHL affiliate’s bench next season.
Via Joy Lindsay:
— Joy Lindsay (@PSBJoyOnTheSens) May 8, 2012
Bruce Garrioch elaborated further:
I’m told Kurt Kleinendorst turned down more than one offer of a contract extension from Senators last season. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) May 8, 2012
While Senators fans and its media continue to wax poetic over the job and manner in which in Kleinendorst conducted himself, the Senators are in an intriguing position.
For the past two seasons, one of Ottawa’s defining characteristics has been its ability to transition its AHL callups and ensure that their insertion into the starting lineup would go as smoothly as possible. Whether it was a highly touted prospect like Robin Lehner, a journeyman like Rob Klinkhammer, or a fourth line depth guy in Kaspars Daugavins, it seemed like every promoted player other than Nikita Filatov was able to make a valuable contribution.
As Kleinendorst even admitted himself, this season was a difficult one in Binghamton. After a 3-0 loss in November that marked the eighth straight loss for Binghamton, Kleinendorst made some candid comments to Joy Lindsay.
“We’re not anywhere close to where we need to be. As far as development goes, guys playing on the third or fourth line here would develop just as well in Elmira, to be quite honest with you. They would play more minutes, they would play power play, they would kill penalties, they would play five-on-five. This is not a good environment for any young kid. So for me, if we can find other players, if we can bring other players in that have some American League experience, I think it makes us a better hockey club, but I think it works better for the younger players as well because this is really an environment that you don’t want your young kids in. It’s not healthy. So that’s where I’m coming from. How far Ottawa will let me take it, we’ll find out. But that’s my take on it, and we’ll just keep looking. We’ll keep digging.”
You can empathize with Kleinendorst’s frustrations, the Senators graduated a number of players — Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Kaspars Daugavins, Jim O’Brien, and Zack Smith — from their Calder Cup winning team. Compounded by the retirement of Lee Sweatt, Robin Lehner’s inconsistencies/injuries and the loss of Nikita Filatov to the KHL, the Binghamton roster was essentially gutted from the previous season.
As Pierre Dorion mentioned yesterday in an interview with the Healthy Scratches on the Team 1200, Tim Murray has or is still working on a number of contracts to get some junior and collegiate graduates into the Binghamton system next season. While the likes of Chris Wideman, Cole Schneider and Ben Blood are already in the mix, it is expected that Shane Prince, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and possibly Jakub Culek will also be able to play in Binghamton next season.
Combined with the possibility that other highly regarded prospects such as Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad or even Jakub Silfverberg could spend some time in Binghamton next season, the impetus on the organization to find someone who is capable of continuing Ottawa’s success at drafting and developing talent is paramount.
Having spent last season as an assistant coach to Kleinendorst, Steve Stirling, who also has NHL head coaching experience, is expected to be a leading candidate for the vacant position.