BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - Jared Cowen can only hope heís not here all season.
As the Senatorsí AHL affiliate in Binghamton wrapped up Day 1 of training camp Saturday, one of the organizationís top defencemen was still trying to get his head wrapped around the fact heís here and is going to be for the foreseeable future.
After spending all of last season in the NHL and emerging as one of Ottawaís top blueliners, Cowen canít help but get the feeling heís taken a step back in time to a place where heís pretty much accomplished all he could.
ďItís been weird,Ē Cowen told the Sun. ďThis is my first lockout. Itís a little weird being back here. I was only here for that month of playoffs (winning the Calder Cup in 2011), so I was kind of hoping Iíd never have to come back here.
ďIím not saying itís bad here, but obviously the goal is to be in Ottawa. Itís a bit odd to be back here after I made it (in the NHL). Itís kind of a backwards feeling, but itís nice to be able to play hockey.Ē
You would think if camp had opened in Ottawa, Cowen would have just picked up where he left off ó playing top four minutes on the Senators blue line. Instead, he jumped in his truck, drove to Binghamton and now has to get settled.
He talked about the situation with centre Jason Spezza before leaving Wednesday. Spezza played here during the 2004-05 lockout on a stacked team that included goaltender Ray Emery, centre Antoine Vermette and winger Chris Neil for a short stint.
ďI talked to the guys. The main message was: ĎYouíre just lucky to be playing and not having to go to a different continent to play.í Itís less of a hassle,Ē said Cowen.
ďBut, you know, itís a step down and you want to make strides forward, so I guess thatís the down part of it. But, itís nice to be in the organization and able to play.Ē
Cowen doesnít think heís too good for the league, so donít get him wrong. Heíd just rather be playing in Ottawa.
ďItís still my first season in the AHL,Ē said Cowen, who is making $67,500 a season here instead of the $900,000 he would have earned for a full season in the NHL on an entry-level contract. ďI havenít started here before. I guess I have to take that and run with it. You canít come here negative and be down on yourself because youíre in the AHL.
ďItís fine, thereís still good players here and good guys on the ice to play against. They could be in the NHL as well, so thereís still good competition.Ē
Cowen is confident this will work out well in the end.
ďIf I do do it right and I work on the parts of my game I donít get the chance to work on in Ottawa, then that will be good,Ē said Cowen. ďThereís always the idea that you could go backwards and play a different way down here.Ē
Cowen tracks CBA talks daily. He is frustrated by the lack of progress between the NHL and the NHLPA. He understands the battle is being waged for young players like him who are going to have to live with the new agreement.
ďThereís a deal to be done for sure so itís frustrating,Ē said Cowen. ďBoth sides have something to give. We want to help the less fortunate teams. Itís frustrating because we know thereís something there that will make the league work.
ďItís tough to see that thereís a deal to be made and thereís nothing going on right now. Thereís talks right now, but they arenít the right kind of talks. I donít know. You have to think of the worst-case scenario so that if the worst-case scenario happens, youíre not too disappointed.Ē
The first order of business: Find a place to live?
ďIíve already got a home in Saskatoon, Iíve set myself up in Ottawa and now Iíve got to find a place here and I donít know how long Iím going to be here,Ē said Cowen.
Neither does anybody else.