Boy, the Ottawa Senators need a spark.
Back-to-back losses in Alberta to two of the NHL’s worst teams, and the uninspiring way they lost those games, gave fans the impression these guys have thrown in the towel.
Management hasn’t, though.
There’s been a negative undertone to the Senators’ season with questions about almost every facet of the team, plus a lack of discipline that hasn’t wavered. That undertone seems to have entered the players’ collective psyche.
How do they change that for the final 19 games? Enter Jean-Gabriel Pageau, figuratively.
Last April, the Gatineau, Que., native was recalled as the Senators were on a five-game losing streak. Their playoff hopes were in doubt.
Pageau wasn’t on the Senators radar but a hunch by Binghamton head coach Luke Richardson paid off, as Ottawa won six of its final nine games to reach the proverbial second season.
This year, the team remains in the playoff race but they're sinking fast, as several other teams have jumped ahead in the standings.
It's time for Ottawa to dig deep in their Binghamton crop of forward prospects for a boost.
Pageau, Mark Stone, Stephane Da Costa, Derek Grant and Mike Hoffman each had at least one shot to make an impact so far this season. Stone and Da Costa have done the most, but the Senators need something new and fresh.
Here’s my list of candidates who haven’t tasted NHL action, but could help change the Senators’ fortunes. At the top is Shane Prince, who is my pick.
Shane Prince, 21
The Ottawa 67's graduate and 2011 second-round pick has been in and out of the Binghamton Senators lineup this season. But in 49 games, the second-year pro has 34 points and a plus-14 rating. Like Hoffman, Prince brings speed and skill, but the difference is he plays with a chip on his shoulder.
Matt Puempel, 21
The 2011 first-round pick is a goal scorer, plain and simple. He has 20 goals in this, his rookie season, but carries a minus-11 rating. Puempel’s defensive game needs work, so it’s unlikely he’ll be recalled. Playing on Binghamton's top line at points this season has helped make him a more responsible player, though.
Cole Schneider, 23
There’s been little mention of the American, even though his 40 points put him third in team scoring. Schneider left the University of Connecticut in 2012 to sign with the Sens as a college free agent. In his second full season in the AHL, Schneider is on pace to improve on his rookie numbers. Also of note, he leads the team with three short-handed goals.
Corey Cowick, 24
The Ottawa native, who's also an Ottawa 67’s graduate and a former sixth-round pick, is an energy player with 20 points in 53 games. Scoring is not his forte, but the six-foot-three winger can pitch in offensively (11 goals this season) and he provides an added physical punch. Not to mention, like Pageau, Cowick’s adrenaline would be pumping as he wore the jersey of his hometown team.