by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
Kurt Kleinendorst took a couple out-of-the-loop vacation weeks this summer.
He figures that’s when Binghamton Senators coach Don Nachbaur must have resigned. He came to that deduction because when Ottawa Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray called him to discuss whether he’d be interested in coaching Binghamton, Kleinendorst had no idea what he was talking about.
"I’m not going to lie to you. I didn’t know they had an opening," Kleinendorst said. "I didn’t know that Don had left."
The Senators were keeping a lot closer tabs on Kleinendorst than he was on their organizational chart. Ottawa’s cold-call to him indicated it was well along the way to considering him a strong candidate for the Binghamton job. After Kleinendorst absorbed the notion that there was a "Help Wanted" sign hanging in the window and said he’d love to get a crack at the position, the Senators brought him in as their AHL coach last week.
Kleinendorst, 49, spent last season as the head coach of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team, leading it to a to gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship in Belarus. He also served as an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2008 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Halifax and Quebec City.
"I think he’s got the whole background," Murray said. "I think we wanted a guy that can teach. These kids are all prospects, but they have a lot to learn. We needed more of a teacher and a communicator. He’s a student of the game."
Kleinendorst’s first pro exams didn’t go too well. From 2006-09 he coached the Lowell Devils during a tough stretch in which the under-stocked team failed to make the playoffs. Parent club New Jersey decided to make a coaching change there but offered to let Kleinendorst stay in the system. Kleinendorst said he thought he had to start fresh somewhere else if he was going to get better at the job and maybe land another pro coaching chance.
"If you don’t do self-evaluation and you keep thinking your way is the best way and there’s no way to improve, you become stale and stagnant. I needed to be better," Kleinendorst said of his Lowell years. "I don’t want to lay it all out there. This (AHL coaching) is about development. But at the same time, you have to find a way to win."
Kleinendorst makes no apologies for his generally easy going demeanor, saying he’s a good guy about 95 percent of the time. The other five percent? Well, Binghamton’s players don’t want to meet that coach, because in a rough translation of Kleinendorst’s own scouting report, he can be a real jerk when he doesn’t like what he sees.
"It comes out when it needs to come out," he said. "The players today need to be communicated to. You articulate your guidelines. I’m going to challenge the guys to be professional. Some of the guys will get it. I just think that players today respond more to being positive. I think anybody who has enjoyed playing for me will reinforce what I’m saying. I am a positive person."
Lindsay Kramer is the AHL correspondent for NHL.com. Read today’s complete column here.