Chiodo facing uphill battle in Sens’ organization

by Lindsay Kramer ||

chiodoAndy Chiodo played with a lot of very good goalies during his three years in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from 2003-06.

There was Sebastien Caron, Martin Brochu, Jean-Sebastien Aubin and Dany Sabourin. And of course, Marc-Andre Fleury.

All were worthy partners. But in Chiodo’s eyes none of them was the reason he failed to emerge as a No. 1 netminder in the system. The responsibility for that, he believes, falls on just one man.

"There’s never anyone else to blame but yourself," said Chiodo, 26. "You have to hold yourself accountable."

Chiodo may have believed he was ready to be a true stopper then. Three years of playing overseas — two in Finland, one in Russia — gave him the real lowdown. A two-way deal that he signed with Ottawa last month will give him a chance to put his evolution on display.

"I think timing is a big thing. By no means do you feel time is running out," he said. "ut there is a sense of urgency to get your foot back in the door sooner rather than later. I just have a big hunger to come back here."

Chiodo had a craving to shake up his career at a time when outward appearances suggested he was doing just fine in the Penguins’ organization. As a rookie, he helped the Penguins reach the 2004 Calder Cup Finals with a 9-7 postseason record, including wins in Game 7’s at Bridgeport (division semifinals) and at Hartford (conference finals). A year later, Chiodo sparked the Pens’ comeback from an 0-2 series deficit and led them past Binghamton in the opening round of the playoffs.

His third year might have been both his best and most frustrating. When he got minutes with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2005-06, he went 8-4-2, .925, 2.21. But Sabourin was the rock on that team, and Fleury was Pittsburgh’s obvious goalie of the future. Chiodo spent most of his time in the ECHL, then decided if he was ever going to grow he had to replant his roots overseas.

"I felt some things weren’t going in the right direction. I had to grow up. I had to deal with the situation better than I did," he said. "It’s important to control your own game. I’m a hungry guy. When you are a young guy, you can get distracted by a situation. I needed a year of stability, to get better, be a leader on my team."

One challenge remains unaffected by time. Ottawa presents much the same situation that sunk Chiodo in Pittsburgh. With Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott up top and Chiodo, Mike Brodeur and Chris Holt added as depth goalies in the offseason, the Senators have an impressive array of young talent in the system.

Chiodo sees all that in his peripheral vision, but has also learned the importance of locking his gaze straight ahead.

"That’s the thing. You have to stay focused on your job. You can’t control anything but your job," he said. "It’s a long process for a goalie. It doesn’t happen overnight."

king-derek_200.jpgKing has view from above now

Most players don’t appreciate the view afforded by watching a game high up top in an arena. That’s because, naturally, a bird’s-eye look usually means they are hurt or a healthy scratch.

Derek King had the typical aversion to a press box-level seat when he played. For the past few years, though, the vantage point gave him a whole new and needed perspective.

King, 42, was recently named assistant coach of the Toronto Marlies, a position that’s his first full-time pro coaching gig. His vision for the job was in part molded by his responsibilities as a video replay goal judge for Phoenix the past few seasons.

As a forward — he skated 14 seasons in the NHL with the New York Islanders, Hartford, Toronto and St. Louis — he said he sometimes couldn’t understand how things could go awry on the ice. As a review judge, seeing the game from high above gave him a sense of exactly how and why systems break down. Not to mention a little more compassion for the offending player pleading his case.

"I tell you one thing. You see a lot of mistakes. The game is a lot easier when you watch from up top," he said. "I never knew what a positive it is for an NHL game. Everybody is watching. If you get the point, you deserve it."

There were some moments the past several years when King thought he’d never get a paying job any closer to the ice. He was a player/assistant coach with Grand Rapids in 2002-03 and 2003-04, the last two years before he retired. He hoped to transition into coaching, but nothing materialized in that field. King semi-retired to Arizona, nurtured some real estate investments and ran a hockey camp.

But King finally got his big break when Dallas Eakins landed one himself. Earlier this offseason, Eakins was tabbed as head coach of the Marlies. King and Eakins were fierce opponents in juniors and in the NHL. In-between, they were also roommates with the Maple Leafs, becoming good friends. When Eakins got the Marlies job, he put in a call to the eager King. Eakins also added Gord Dineen as another assistant.

"I didn’t think it was going to happen. I sent out a lot of resumes, and got a lot back saying, ‘Sorry, we’ll keep you in the mix,’" King said. "I’d send a bunch out again the following year, then nothing. All of a sudden, I guess the right guy got the right job at the right time.

"I see us as being a little opposite (in personality). Dallas is a lot firmer, sterner than me. More serious. He has that look. With me being more approachable, maybe that’s going to help with the players."

henleyHenley’s birthday present

Defenseman Brent Henley celebrated his 29th birthday earlier this week happy that he got the only present he hoped for.

"Just not to be 30," he joked.

Actually, Henley has another potential gift waiting to be unwrapped — stability. Hartford gave him a shot at that by signing him to an AHL pact last month.

The stop is the latest in a career that’s swung Henley through six AHL cities plus stints in four leagues lower than the AHL — the WCHL, the ECHL, the IHL and the UHL.

At 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, Henley is easy to find, so that’s not a problem. His issue has been sticking around somewhere. He said he’s run the gamut of challenges, from injuries to coaching/management changes to just plain bad timing. But if Henley’s luck is going to reverse itself, it may already have some momentum that way. His 47 games played for Norfolk last season was an AHL career high.

"I’ve had a lot of stops. A lot of different situations. It’s nice to go into a year, have a home. I can focus on being on the ice," Henley said. "I accepted in my career if I was going to pay hockey, there would be moves. I’d like to spend a whole year in Hartford, have a solid year, play 60-70 games. The stars have never really aligned. But a lot of hockey is a timing thing."

New scoreboard in Syracuse

The Syracuse Crunch’s status as one of the AHL’s elder statesmen will be preserved and furthered by a brand new scoreboard.

The Onondaga County Legislature voted earlier this week to approve a $750,000 spending package that will bring an upgraded scoreboard to the War Memorial within the first few months of this season. The current board, installed in the 2000-01 season, has been antiquated for several years.

The approval of a new bauble virtually ensures the completion of a lease extension that could tie the 16-year-old Crunch to Syracuse for at least 10 more years. Crunch owner Howard Dolgon had given his verbal approval of the deal, and was just waiting for the scoreboard go-ahead to put his autograph on it.

Dolgon started the franchise in 1994-95, after four previous AHL teams in the city had failed. Now the Crunch ranks behind only Hershey, Rochester, Albany, Portland and Providence in league seniority.