Over the last the few years the Ottawa Senators relationship with their AHL affiliate in Binghamton has been strained to say the least.
Anyone who even remotely follows the situation would know how former GM John Muckler and CEO/President of the Sens Roy Mlakar were downright awful with the fine folks in Bingo. It got to the point that they wouldn't even show their faces down in Bingo. The current situation has Randy Lee or Pierre Dorion travelling to Bingo for anything related to the hockey club. Sens GM Bryan Murray along with Assistant GM Tim Murray both haven't been down to Binghamton in well over a year now, which is absolutely unacceptable if you are a Sens fan considering you need to cultivate and take care of your draft choices. It blows me away that the bread and butter of your organization can be so distant as you need to make these players realize and understand what lies ahead. It all begs to question why does Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk allow this to continue? Well it all looks to be coming to a head.
After speaking with two sources very close to the situation over the last 5 days since I was first given a heads up on this situation, it looks as though Melnyk is finally taking control of a fractured relationship between the Sens and their AHL affiliate.
Melnyk has held talks with the city of Cornwall in hopes of bringing the Sens AHL affliate closer to home. First Melnyk must purchase the team from majority owner Tommy Mitchell which seems to be something Mitchell won't have any problem doing as the NY Rangers would love to bring back their AHL team to Bingo since departing back in 1998. The Hartford Wolfpack have floundered financially for years and the city of Hartford would love to unload the team to a willing owner.
Ottawa has two years left on their agreement once the season ends with Binghamton but if Mitchell agrees to sell the team it won't matter what is in the AHL affliliate agreement. It would be easy for Melnyk to then start up operations in Cornwall. The funny thing is that the Broome County Arena in Binghamton is identical to the arena in Cornwall. I was told by one source that if you walked into the arena in Cornwall you would swear you were in Binghamton to watch the Baby Sens. The dimensions of the ice and layout are identical in every aspect. Question is, can all of it happen this year? There is a 50/50 chance on the change occurring at the end of this season, with arena renovations that need to be made in Cornwall, I would say it most likely would happen the following season.
With the Edmonton Oilers moving their AHL affiliate from Springfield to Oklahoma City for next season and the Carolina Hurricanes moving their affliliate in Albany to Charlotte, all of a sudden the AHL has a few openings in longstanding AHL hockey markets. Springfield is the location of the AHL headquarters so one has to think a team would dropped back in Springfield.
After speaking with a source in the AHL front office, with Minnesota having their farm team in Houston, Phoenix has their AHL team in San Antonio and Edmonton having their afflilate in Oklahoma City next year, all of a sudden the SouthWest is strong with AHL teams. Don't forget the Dallas Stars now have their farm club in Austin after the operations in Iowa were suspended this past season.
For Sens fans, the potential move would be a quick drive for anyone down the highway for anyone to see how the prospects are doing and hopefully Sens management wouldn't be so absent from the farm team the way things stand now.
Expect to hear more on this in the coming months as Melnyk tries to negotiate a deal with Tommy Mitchell. Ottawa would have to get everything rolling on this within a few weeks of the season ending to make sure a smooth transition takes place.
There are more than 2,500 tickets remaining for tonight's game with the league leading Chicago Blackhawks in town. Ottawa has to be the most inconsistent hockey market of the six Canadian NHL cities. Every other team continues to sell out most nights but in Ottawa attendance continues to drop. It's time for Sens fans to man up and show their loyalty to the team that has brought them many great memories in a short time span.
Looking back quickly at the Sens most recent two wins, it really goes to show you how screwed this franchise will be when the captain Daniel Alfredsson retires. It was painfully obvious that Mike Fisher and Chris Phillips failed to lead and elevate their play while the captain was injured. The presence of Alfredsson means more to this team than ever and with the emergence of Mike Brodeur in goal, it really brought a steady confidence, something that was sorely lacking.
Back with a postgame blog after tonight's game. As always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Written by Kevin Lee
Kevin has had an extensive career as a sports writer and radio show host for almost 10 years. Kevin has covered the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA College Football and Basketball. From covering the BCS Championship Game to the Final Four and the Stanley Cup Finals, he has done it all. He has been featured on numerous sports radio stations in Canada and the United States and often a weekly guest on numerous XM and Sirius Satellite radio shows. He has also had his work featured on FoxSports.com.