09/18/2012 5:18 PM
- Photo Credit: Ottawa Senators
By: Nicole Sorce (@nicole_sorce)
It's official: for the third time in 18 years, the National Hockey League will have a quiet winter. Arguments between the league and NHL Players’ Association regarding salary cuts and other contractual limitations could not be resolved before the collective bargaining agreement expired. However, the news of the lockout won't distract Binghamton Senators head coach Luke Richardson from making sure his players don't lose sight of their goals.
"I know everyone's dream is to play in the NHL, but to play professional hockey is a huge step from wherever anybody is coming from," Richardson said. "It should be an honor for them to play in Binghamton and for them to have a chance to work on their skills at this level, to maybe win a championship, and eventually move up to the NHL."
Richardson understands how motivating the NHL can be for his young players, but he knows the real focus of his first year in Binghamton is to help the team rebound from last season. The momentum from winning the Calder Cup the year before wasn't enough to prevent the B-Sens from finishing last in the Eastern Division and posting the worst record in the league (29-40). Luckily, Richardson has the proper experience to help get the team back on the right track.
"Last year, Ottawa was in the same situation," he said. "They came off a very tough year before, and they improved immensely."
At the end of the 2010-2011 season, the Ottawa Senators finished 13th in the Eastern Conference and 26th overall in the NHL with a record of 32-40 and a mere 74 points. It was during training camp of the following season that Richardson learned one of the most important lessons of his coaching career.
"It was from head coach Paul MacLean. Right from day one at training camp, the message was that we're going to improve a little bit every day," Richardson recalled. "Just a little bit every day. That's the message that's going to be sent day one here."
The Ottawa Senators did improve immensely during the 2011-2012 season, elevating their record to 41-31. Finishing with 92 points allotted them the 8th seed of the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, yet the New York Rangers bested the O-Sens in a suspenseful seven game-first round.
Richardson will look to Binghamton's veteran players to help get his message across from the start, especially those returning from the 2010-2011 Calder Cup Championship squad. "I'm going to rely heavily on them and their attitudes to bring that winning mentality back," said Richardson. "They are going to be crucial to help maintain that message every day, all the way through."
The NHL lockout will direct attention to the performance of the Binghamton Senators as players begin to report to training camp, and Richardson can ensure that Binghamton's skill level will only improve from here. "We can't let one day slip and say 'Ah, I don't feel like doing that today, getting a little better today,'" he said.
One of Richardson's many goals for the B-Sens this upcoming season is to instill a strong will in the locker room to never give up, an aspect of his game plan that he hopes other teams pick up on. "If you get better every day, you have a stronger mental attitude which shows in the standings," said Richardson. With training camp set to begin next weekend, Richardson is certain that his message will be clear from day one.
"We're looking to rebound from last year and Binghamton not making the playoffs," he explained. "We're not going to say we're here to win the Calder Cup championship because everybody says that on the first day. And that is our goal, but we should have a consistent, professional outlook on the season and make the playoffs. If we do that, we should be on such a roll that it gives us a good chance to run for the championship again."