Do you know who won the 2014-15 Eddie Shore Award for the best defenseman in the AHL? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. It was none other than Binghamton Senators defenseman Chris Wideman. But nobody really knows that, because it seems that he isn’t grouped together with other prospects that the Senators have, and he’s become a forgotten man.
Wideman has been around in the organization for quite a while, as he was drafted back in 2008, the same year as Erik Karlsson. He’s 25 years old, but still considered a prospect despite being 3 years younger than players like Mika Zibanejad and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He has played 3 professional seasons in the organization, and has played less than 80 games in the NHL in his career (in fact his total is zero).
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Because of the time accrued in the minors, lack of games in the NHL and his age, he is a group six unrestricted free agent this summer (along with Derek Grant). His contract is up this summer, although by now he should have been in the NHL.
There hasn’t been much talk at all about re-signing Wideman, and if he indeed does get signed by another team then it would be a major disappointment considering the potential he has. He has developed a lot over the past few years, and ever since coming over from the University of Ohio he has been one of the best players for Binghamton.
Career Track Record
So far Wideman has had quite the successful college and minor league career. Here are his stats:
In his college career he was the highest scoring defenseman on the team for all four seasons, and he racked up quite the amount of assists. At this time he was never considered a top prospect for the Senators, but people who watched him knew he had potential. His first season in the AHL was a bit disappointing, and I’m sure at that point many fans had written him off. He was 23 and time was running out.
However, the past two seasons he was fourth and first in scoring amongst defenseman, respectively. Like I mentioned before, he won the award for best defenseman this past season, so he clearly has improved his game immensely. He got called up earlier in the season due to some injuries for the Senators, but he only got scratched for two games and never actually suited up in a game.
Is He Ready?
At the age of 25, he’s definitely ready. If he’s not ready now, he never will be. But he won’t have that much more room to grow, so keeping him in the minors would be quite pointless. He was literally the best player at his position in the AHL on a bad Binghamton team, so how much better can he get there?
The Senators brought in Erik Karlsson at 19, Jared Cowen at 20, and rushed Cody Ceci at the age of 20. They aren’t like the Detroit Red Wings who keep their prospects in the minors until their mid-20’s, so you can’t say that they are simply grooming him until he gets better. He’s ready, and he’s ready now.Sep 26, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Wideman (45) takes the puck away from Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty (67) during the third period at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens beat the Senators 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY
Wideman Needs A Spot
Wideman is a right-handed shot, and would fit in quite well on the Senators defense. Right now, I would be one hundred times more confident with him on the ice instead of Chris Phillips, Jared Cowen, Eric Gryba, or Mark Borowiecki. I’d even be hesitant to play Ceci over him, although I do think Cody will get better.
I don’t understand Ottawa’s hesitance to put him in the lineup, because he’s ready and he’s shown everything he possibly can. The Senators need more offense from their defense, as Karlsson is their only legitimate force from back there. Patrick Wiercioch and Ceci show some offensive skills, but they only produced a total of 34 points last season.
Wideman is a great answer, and he would work so well on the Senators power play. No longer would they have to be so reliant on Karlsson to play the whole two minutes. The simple answer is that Wideman helps the Senators in various areas, and he would make their backend much more competent.
I find it very strange that I’m hearing nothing about Wideman right now. Bryan Murray has spoken about the goaltenders, Erik Condra, and other topics, but nothing about Wideman that I am aware of (if you have, tell me because I would like to see it). He is an unrestricted free agent, so anybody can sign him on July 1st. If for some reason Ottawa decides to let him walk, it will be the weirdest turn of events ever. He showed extremely positive potential in the minors, and he could end up being a very solid top four defenseman that they need.
Of course the issue is that they have too many defensemen right now, and Wideman may want a one-way deal. But that’s the Senators fault for paying too many depth defensemen, not Wideman’s. He’s also only 5’10”, but I don’t think that will be too big of a problem. He’s an offensive defenseman, and that’s what he brings to the table. Not his size and hitting.
It’s a shame that someone of his skill and capabilities is stuck behind four or five mediocre players that don’t deserve their contracts. Wideman is a forgotten man, but he won’t be next year if he gets some well-deserved playing time.