Jared Cowen’s Back to the Future story will take place in Binghamton.
Once the inevitable occurs and NHL owners lock out players from big-league arenas, Cowen is resigned to the fact that he’ll be going back to the American Hockey League.
Cowen, the Senators 6-5, 230-pound defenceman who delivered an outstanding rookie NHL season in 2011-12, is headed into the second year of his entry level contract with the team. That means he’s on a two-way contract, allowing the Senators to assign him back to the Binghamton Senators.
There is a sense of been there, done that for Cowen, who joined Binghamton from Spokane of the Western Hockey League midway through the 2011 playoffs. Cowen helped lead Binghamton to the Calder Cup as AHL champs, registering four assists in 10 games and delivering solid defence.
Cowen says the experience was invaluable in helping him graduate to the NHL.
“When I came to camp here after that, I didn’t feel like I was coming in as a new guy,” he said. “I felt that I had accomplished something in pro hockey, which was a huge thing for me at the time. It was a big stepping stone.”
Cowen was composed from the outset in the NHL, scoring five goals and 12 assists in 82 regular season games and spent much of the season as a top four defenceman with the Senators. When the playoffs ended with a first-round playoff loss to the New York Rangers last spring, Cowen was looking forward to becoming an even bigger part in the big leagues this season.
That will have to wait. It’s time to take a step back.
“That’s the (lousy) thing about the lockout and the things you have to go through,” Cowen said following an informal skate with fellow Senators players and Ottawa-area professionals Monday at the Bell Sensplex. “I guess I’m just thankful I can play somewhere and don’t have to go to a different continent to play. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just something you have to take in stride.
Cowen says “there are always things you can learn” and acknowledges that the AHL is going to be much stronger because of other NHL players who are in the same situation.
“There are going to be good players down there. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like, but I did play in the Calder Cup finals, so I’ve got an idea.”
Cowen, 21, will likely be asked to play regularly on the power play and could play as much as 30 minutes per game for Binghamton coach Luke Richardson, situations that rarely happened with the Senators in his rookie NHL season.
“That’s something I was used to and coming in here (to Ottawa), it was an adjustment to play (fewer) minutes,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing more minutes. It should be fun and interesting at the same time.”