Written by Kevin Lee

Twelve games into the season and it’s time to ..."/> Written by Kevin Lee

Twelve games into the season and it’s time to ..."/>

Taking A Look At The 2nd Year Players

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Written by Kevin Lee

Twelve games into the season and it’s time to take a look at the 2nd year players and how they’re performing.  Three players were called up from Binghamton late in the Senators 2010-2011 season with the playoffs out of reach. They were all given sufficient ice time to try and earn a spot on the 2011-2012 roster. All three succeeded, with each earning a one-way contract for this season. Along with earning one-way contracts, all three were also a part of the 2011 Calder Cup winning Binghamton Senators. However, with a new season beginning, these sophomores may be feeling the pressure in the NHL that they didn’t feel at the end of last year when expectations were low. Have any of them run into the sophomore slump?

Erik Condra was a 7th round draft pick (211th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Being a 7th round draft pick, it has to be considered a success that he has even made the NHL. He was given 26 games in the 2010-2011 NHL season and averaged over 15 minutes of ice time most games.  Through these games he managed to put up 6 goals and 5 assists. At almost half a point per game, it was solid production from a rookie. However, it was his work effort that impressed many, including Sportsnet’s Denis Potvin who infamously called him a “hockey player” with “stamina”. He was also an integral part of the Binghamton Senators Calder Cup run, putting up 5 goals and 12 assists over the 23 game run.

This season, Condra has already found himself to be a healthy scratch once, and averaging less time on ice as well (hovering around 12 minutes) playing between the 3rd and 4th lines. With 2 assists in 11 games played, he will never be a player that can be relied on for offensive production. Yet every game Condra is skating hard and putting a consistent defensive effort into his play. Already, Paul Maclean has come to rely on him as one of the main players on the penalty kill. One could easily compare his style of play to that of ex-Senator Chris Kelly (further supported by the fact Condra has adopted the number 22). Although his offensive production is down from the previous season, as long as he maintains his strong defensive play he’ll be in the line-up more often than not.

Bobby Butler was one of Murray’s prized NCAA signings out of the University of New Hampshire at the end of the 2009-2010 season. Butler proved himself to be a sniper in the AHL for the Binghamton Senators last year putting up 22 goals and 11 assists in 47 games. When called up to the Ottawa Senators he eventually found himself on the number one line as Spezza’s right wing. They would immediately find chemistry, leading to Butler scoring 10 goals and 11 assists in 36 games. If points weren’t enough, he was scoring highlight reel goals such as the one against Montreal ‘s Hal Gill late in the season

and raising expectations for him in the 2011-2012 season.  He continued his goal scoring ways in the Calder Cup run, putting up an impressive 13 goals along with 4 assists over the 23 games it took to win.

Heading into the 2011-2012 season, many had Butler pencilled in as Spezza’s right wing once again. So far though, this season has not been friendly to Butler. With a less than impressive training camp and pre-season games, many hoped that Butler would bounce back when it came to regular season games. Like Condra though, he found himself to be a healthy scratch in 2 games already this season. In the 3 games he has played in he has been unnoticeable, still looking for his first point. He’s averaged less than 10 minutes of time on ice over those 3 games, not very much for a player who was expected to be in the top 6. To make things worse, Butler suffered a groin injury against Colorado that cost him 7 games. He returned from injury to play against the Leafs yesterday. He’ll be in tough to reclaim a spot on the top line which is currently one of the best in the NHL. However, he did start off slow last season when he first came up and he’s got nowhere to go but up from this point forward.

Colin Greening was a 7th round pick (204th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Like Condra, the fact he has cracked the NHL should be considered a success by Sens fans. He was given 24 games as a Senator last season (one under 25 games, thus still making Greening a rookie this season) and put up 6 goals and 7 assists, good for 13 points. Although decent numbers offensively, it was his effort retrieving the puck that impressed most. Greening proved himself to be a strong power forward willing to battle for the puck that could easily be slipped into the top 6. Like Condra and Butler, Greening was also part of the Calder Cup winning team. His offensive numbers didn’t stand out like the other two, only putting up 1 goal and 4 assists over the 23 game run.

This season though, Greening has thus far found himself to easily be the most successful, finding himself on the top line. He has put up 4 goals and 4 assists in 12 games keeping him in the race for rookie scoring. He has also continued to prove himself as a player willing to fight for the puck and usually come out with it (a trait that many Senators fans appreciate). As long as he continues to play the way he does, Greening will likely remain on the top line with Spezza and Michalek which has proven to be one of the top lines in the NHL up to this point. Time will tell though if he can keep up his current pace and turn out to possibly be the biggest surprise of this season.

It’s still very early in the season and things could change very quickly for any of these three players. Nevertheless, this is likely the most important season for all three players. Butler is 24 years old, while Greening and Condra are both 25. All three are quickly approaching 26, the age at which most agree NHL players will peak. Their performances this season could be determine how big a role they will have in the coming years of the Senators rebuild and eventual return to challenging for the Stanley Cup.

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Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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