With training camp scheduled to begin on Tuesday, the Binghamton Devils are gearing up for their second season with the Season Opener set for Saturday, October 6th. That night, Binghamton will host the Toronto Marlies as the BDevils play six out of their first ten contests on home ice to kick off the 2018-’19 campaign.
There has been many changes with a new head coach as well as player turnovers that hopefully will lead to a successful outcome as professional hockey returns for the 45th consecutive season here in the Southern Tier of NY.
Let’s first take a look at player movements as it was a busy summer for the BDevils.
Quite The Turnover
The BDevils look to improve over last season’s record of 25-38-9-4 for fifth place in the North Division with a new head coach and a series of player turnovers. NJ was busy over the off-season as nine different players were not offered new contracts, including a league-high seven that ventured overseas.
As the parent club nearby in Newark, NJ they made some significant moves for their top affiliate club bringing in some veterans, helping to solidify the goaltending and draft some top quality prospects that are ready to hone their craft.
The seven that went overseas are Christoph Bertschy (NLA), Austin Cangelosi (NOR), Yaroslav Dyblenko (KHL), Bracken Kearns (EBEL), Michael Latta (KHL), Jan Mandat (CZE) and Mario Lucia (NOR).
The other two players were 2017-’18 AHL All-Star Defenseman Jacob MacDonald (SPR) and goaltender Ken Appleby (MAN).
Arriving here is John Ramage (D), Marian Studenic (RW), Ryan Schmelzer (C), Kurtis Gabriel (RW), Yegor Sharangovich (C), Joey Anderson (RW) and Eric Tangradi (LW).
They will join Josh Jacobs, Michael Kapla, Brian Strait, Colton White and Colby Sissons on defense and returning forwards Kevin Rooney, Brandon Baddock, Nathan Bastian, Brandon Gignac, Blake Pietila, Brett Seney and Blake Speers. Goaltenders Mackenzie Blackwood and Cam Johnson are the top two in net while Eddie Lack will be in NJ to start the season on emergency recall as back-up to Keith Kinkaid with Cory Schneider on the IR.
John Edwardh (NCAA), Tariq Hammond (NCAA) and newly signed Brian Ward (ADR) are on AHL contracts.
Nick Lappin and John Quenneville are making a strong case to make the big club while Michael McLeod might start for Binghamton. Veteran defenseman Eric Gryba is also having a strong preseason and I think he will get the nod up top.
New Coaching Staff
A new era begins with the signing of Mark Dennehy as the new head coach for the Binghamton Devils. Dennehy replaces Rick Kowalsky, who assumed the role as an assistant coach for New Jersey over the off-season.
In addition, Ryan Parent was hired as an assistant as he will join Sergei Brylin as the only returning figure that will undoubtedly have a new look, along with a new direction moving forward.
Tom Fitzgerald, GM of the BDevils had this to say after his hiring;
”Head coaching experience was one, two, I’m looking for someone who is a teacher. Someone who can stand in front of our group, and our guys know it’s black and white, there’s no gray. And lastly, someone who can stand in front of the group and motivate them. Inspire them to go out and play and create an environment that is fun to play with and demanding in the same token.”
On how Fitzgerald feels Dennehy fits the Devils’ culture of wanting to be hard to play against;
”Merrimack College has been one of the hardest places to play in all of college hockey, because of the way he plays, the uptempo game, on your toes, hunt down mentality..They had a rink that was conducive to that, pretty similar to ours.”
(The rest of the transcript can be found here).
Here is what’s interesting to me from the rink mention. The Arena (4710) is amongst the smallest in the the AHL and it’ll either work for you, or against you with no middle ground. But without a doubt, large crowds can be an advantage just like at Lawler Rink with a capacity of 2549. Opposing teams hate playing at The Floyd just because of the level of intensity the passionate fan base can bring and that is a boost for the home club.
The BDevils finished last season with a disappointing 13-19-4-2 record on home ice. Although the team wasn’t very successful, attendance figures were up by a margin of 6.27% over the previous year for the BSens in their last season. The outcome was very encouraging that included seven sell-outs and several over capacity SRO crowds.
The Panel Returns For A Second Season
The Panel returns for a second season with two new additions. Members will have an active role and follow several players throughout the season for grades on their performance, as well as forming an evaluation for each quarter on the players they have chosen.
I asked what their thoughts were heading into the new season and this is what some of them had to say;
Excited for the season to start. We’re young again, so the learning curve has to be shorter. Concerns in net, one of the youngsters must step up. Can’t afford to be buried again by Thanksgiving in an unforgiving division. Probably outside of the playoffs again. #AAtJAHL— Dave Rogan (@RogieVachon30) September 22, 2018
I’m looking forward to a fresh start after last season’s disappointment. With a mix of familiar faces and new guys, including Coach Dennehy, I’m tentatively excited for the new season. #AAtJAHL— Emily (@EmilyRose474) September 22, 2018
It's the year of the rookie in Binghamton, this season. A mass of Jersey's most anticipated forwards, veteran AHL dman Ryan Parent as the new co-AC, and rookie head coach Dennehy.— Crazy Joe (@crazybazookajoe) September 22, 2018
Tongue is admittedly in cheek but there's a lot to look forward to. Nowhere to go but up! #AAtJAHL
I will pick up any remaining players as this has been a great source of information for fans, by fans, that perhaps have some inquiries that aren’t otherwise accessible. In doing this, my goal is to give something back and let the fans be heard and so far it’s been a great success. I look forward to their inputs throughout the upcoming season.
So let’s get going and have a great hockey season!
Up Next: Training Camp begins this coming week and two preseason contests take place next weekend (Friday away, Saturday home) against the Utica Comets.