Winning Top of Mind for Troy Mann and Revamped Belleville Senators
After missing the playoffs in what proved to be a lackluster inaugural season, expectations will be high for Belleville this season. In a city that only knows and expects post-season hockey. The OHL Belleville Bulls only missed the playoffs four times in the organization's storied 34-year history.
An eventful off-season that saw young and talented players join the Ottawa organization. Now those athletes are poised to lay the foundation of their promising professional careers in Belleville, the hockey-mad community of 50,000 seems ready to embark on the upcoming campaign as well.
"I think the player movements were definitely needed," said David Foot, who covers the Belleville Senators for CJBQ Radio. "The team is definitely getting younger and there's a little more wiggle room for Ottawa thanks to the two-way deals. Letting 'expansion keys,' like Danny Taylor and longtime captain Mike Blunden, go shows this team is continuing to revamp itself and find its own identity."
Blunden is off to an excellent start in Europe, tallying four goals and three assists in his first four appearances for HC Bolzano (Italy). While net-minder Danny Taylor has struggled in his return to Russia, posting a .874 save percentage and 3.90 goals-against average in his first six appearances for Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL).
"I'm not sure I would call the first season a disappointment," said Foot. "I think you can only expect so much from a relocating franchise. That said, the B-Sens weren't able to build much momentum due to the injuries and call-ups that was really the downfall for them. While there probably isn't much argument that lots needed to be done during the offseason, the biggest area I think Belleville needed to improve was its pace and scoring -- an area the organization has placed emphasis on this off-season."
Foot further commented that there is speculation Ottawa and Belleville will employ much more up-tempo systems in the upcoming season.
"They were often torched by fast, skilled teams like Syracuse and Toronto and need to be able to keep up that pace. I think, on paper, it seems like the team will be a lot faster given the added youth, but if that translates into more offence remains to be seen."
It's no secret that the Ottawa Senators are absolutely loaded with young talent at forward, and there’s no question Belleville be the beneficiary.
"I think the best part about this offseason is the sheer amount of younger talent that will be coming through the Yardmen doors," said Foot. "I'm probably most excited to see how a guy like Drake Batherson translates into the pro game, but I'm also interested to see how guys like Andrew Sturtz or Boston Leier respond to earning pro deals for themselves.
Newly appointed bench boss, Troy Mann, doesn’t pull any punches. His goal is to win hockey games and that is what does. His teams have posted a .598 winning percentage the last four seasons. Ottawa Senators affiliates managed a .440 winning percentage over that same time span. Mann believes providing a winning environment not only aids in player development, but that it is vital.
He and fans in the Friendly City share the same goal for the upcoming season, as both would like nothing more than to make the playoffs and go deep in the Calder Cup tourney.
Troy Mann has had proven success in the league and with developing young players, that's a positive. Foot noted: "It's also a good call to add an experienced assistant like Ryan Murphy, who has worked with Troy closely in the past, which fills Belleville's coaching compliment after running short for pretty well all of last year. I think some new ideas behind the bench may spur the younger players.’’
Hopes are high that added depth on the bench and ice will allow the Sens to build on the results of their first season.