The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
Randy Lee Speaks & Ben Bishop A Vezina Finalist
With the Binghamton Senators beginning their American Hockey League playoff series tonight versus the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins, Senators assistant general manager Randy Lee joined TSN 1200’s TGOR this morning to discuss the Senators’ farm team and some of its keynote prospects.
If you want to listen to the interview, you can do so by following this link or by streaming the audio embedded within this post.

On Mark Stone and his excitement for Stone’s ability to impact the Senators next season…

“For me, it’s a great story because he’s such a hard worker. When we drafted him, like you said before, he was not the best skater. I really had doubts whether he could be a player because of his skating, but he really applied himself. He really worked hard at that aspect of his game. He got himself stronger. He’s got such great instincts for the game. He’s got an absolutely amazing stick and he just plays the game right. So I think you guys saw it this year that he did take another step and this playoffs is going to be a great showcase for him to show what he can do in a real tight playoff series.”

On Stone being proof that any prospect who has a deficiency in their game can overcome that flaw through hard work…

“Yeah, without question. We used to argue with players years ago saying you can’t make guys faster. They are what they are and one of the guys was Mike Fisher. He’s arguably one of our best vets a year ago. ‘He’s just a puck chaser. I’m not sure about this guy.’ I said, ‘Trust me, this guy’s got so much character and so much work ethic.’ Guys like that who want to commit themselves… (Matt) Puempel is another guy. He really invested himself. If you really want to take the time and want to reach out and do the things you need to do and not the things that you like to do, you can make that difference. And regardless of age, sometimes you get guys who are college guys who are 22, 23 and 24 but still have deficiencies in their game, if they’re willing to step back and look at themselves, figure out what they need to do and apply themselves, they can make up that difference.”

On what Stone did to improve his skating…

“All of it: single leg stability; strength; core stability; leg power; skating mechanics – he had all of it, trust me. So that means, you’ve got so much more upside if you’ve got so many things that you can fix. And he had all of those deficiencies in his game and he worked on all of those.”

On Matt Puempel…

“He was a guy that scared us because he missed a lot of hockey due to injuries and suspensions and it wasn’t going well for him and we were worried about him as a prospect. I mean, he was our third first rounder that year, but we just weren’t sure if he was going to have it. He invested himself. He worked really hard with our skating coach. He worked really hard to get stronger. We sent him down and he’s one of the guys who at the end of his season, he went down to play in Binghamton for the end of his season and that really opened his eyes up about how much of a jump the American (Hockey) League is. So I think that sort of invigorated him to really invest and work that much harder. He’s a guy that I don’t think we expected him to get that many goals this year, but I think if you look at him now, he’s much grittier. Luke (Richardson) and Steve (Stirling) have done a great job with him. He plays way better without the puck and he’s a lot more competitive – like, he had three or four fights this year.”

On whether Puempel has a chance to challenge for a spot next season…

“I think he’ll challenge, but I think for him, I think he’ll be able to play games here for sure. I think the best course of action is for him to have another big year in the American (Hockey) League, but you never know. One big offseason, guys change and you never know what will happen in a playoff series. He could really establish himself here and sometimes the playoffs are the platform they need to really showcase themselves, so we’ll see guys take a big step here.”

On Cody Ceci’s development and what he improved upon in such a quick time and Luke Richardson’s involvement in his growth…

“Yeah, you’re exactly right. We projected him to get some games in this year. We didn’t project him to play (full-time) this year. We were (wrong) on this guy. We thought he needed to improve without the puck, his stick position, how he leveraged his body, how he could protect the front of the net and box out guys… So we thought ‘Okay, there’s a bunch of things in his game he needs to work on’, but having Luke (Richardson) there is an absolutely amazing resource for him. And he did all of that, so we brought him up and we thought, ‘Okay, we’ll get him in some games and get him a taste. He’ll go back down and he’ll be really hungry.’ He took a job from us. I mean, we’re a team that’s a budget team. We did not plan to have eight defencemen, but he forced our hand. He just came in, earned the spot and kept the spot, so give the kid credit.”

On how important it is for the development of its prospects to go on a run in the minor leagues…

“It’s incredible because in the past, a lot of times Bryan (Murray) would give us a mandate: ‘Get me guys who can play games. Get me guys who can play in the NHL.’ Now he’s changed that. Now he wants to win, so he’s saying ‘Find me guys who can raise their game up, elevate their game and be competitive in the playoffs. Help us win in the playoffs.’ So this is the best case. We can get them stronger and faster and get them to eat better and sleep better, but can they win in the playoffs? Can they step their game up when there’s pressure on the line? So this is going to be a good test for them and if you look back at the Calder Cup run, so many of those guys that were playing integral parts on that Championship team were the key guys, the prospects. They were not just American (Hockey) League guys. They were the Robin Lehners, Zack Smiths, and Cowens, (Borowieckis), and all these guys… Daugavins and Jimmy O’Briens… huge dividends for them. So we’re hoping the same thing this year – we can get guys to put them out on a platform with they’ve got to perform in pressure situations and see if they deliver.”

On Fredrik Claesson…

“Well, you saw his plus/minus this year. Freddy did a great job. He was voted the team’s best defenceman this year. He’s a very competitive guy. He’s a great guy in the dressing room. He’s not 6’4”, but he’s 6’0” or 6’1”. But he plays really hard. He defends really hard. He’s great at killing penalties. He moves the puck well and he’s one of those guys that wants to be out there in pressure situations. So he’s a guy that seriously, we had lots of confidence telling Bryan (Murray), ‘If you need a call up guy, Freddy can come up and he can deliver for you.”

Bishop A Finalist For the Vezina Trophy…

Ben Bishop is back in the news. According to the balloting of the Professional Hockey Writers Association’s balloting, the freakishly large former Ottawa Senators goaltender is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy – an award given to the league’s most outstanding goaltender.

Bishop’s numbers this season were exceptional for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season. His 37 wins, 2.23 goals against average, .924 save percentage and five shutouts placed him amongst the NHL’s top ten in each statistical category.

He had a great season and because of it, it’s even easier to revisit last year’s trade deadline and want a do-over.

It’s this generation’s Christer Olssen for Pavol Demitra trade.

In exchange for Bishop, the Senators acquired Cory Conacher and a fourth round pick. Out of Conacher, Ottawa got six goals and 25 points in 72 regular season games before moving him out via waivers so that the team could clear out his salary to offset that of Ales Hemsky’s.

We will always have this moment however.

*takes long drag of a cigarette*

In a nutshell, the Senators essentially traded Ben Bishop, a third and a fifth round pick for a season’s worth of Cory Conacher, 20 games of Ales Hemsky and a fourth round pick that was used to select THE Tobias Lindberg.

If Ottawa’s going to win this deal, depending on the organization’s ability to re-sign Hemsky, everything likely hinges on the development of Lindberg.

No pressure Tobi, you handsome Swedish devil you.

Other News and Notes…

According to James Gordon’s Twitter account (@SensReporter), he will be leaving his position as the Sports Editor of the Ottawa Citizen to join the Citizen’s editorial board as a writer/editor. As someone who has graciously afforded me numerous opportunities to do work for SenatorsExtra.com and pen some freelance pieces for the Citizen, I want to use this space to congratulate James and thank him for giving bloggers like me a bigger platform to showcase our work.

Missed this from when the Senators were still playing regular season games, but @wham_city tweeted an interesting audio clip of the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan from TSN 1200’s pregame show from the Senators’ last regular season game in Pittsburgh.

According to Brennan, he asked Bryan Murray which player he received the most phone calls on at the NHL trade deadline and Murray’s response was “Colin Greening”.

Like Brennan mentioned in the same clip, Murray could be genuine with his comments or he could simply be using the media to mislead the public (and his peers) to use false interest and create more demand for a player who had a terribly disappointing season. But hey, if teams are really interested, that’s great news to hear that the Senators may be able to extract some value out of a player who simply looked lost on the ice in 2013/14.