What We Know & Don’t Know

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

It seems that the Oklahoma City Barons postseason roster is beginning to come together. With the Oilers leaving Linus Omark on the farm, assigning Anton Lander last week, and today announcing that they are shipping Magnus Paajarvi south, the March 5th clear day roster might be intact a week early. The clear day roster is that moment in the minor leagues where the postseason rosters are fully set. Little wiggle room (minus injury & emergency) is given in the postseason so that the playing pool is slightly more even with many NHL teams out of postseason play. I think fans at both levels in the Oilers organization assumed that these three would be on the AHL roster to finish the season, but perhaps not this soon. It will also mark the first time these three have been on the roster together in OKC. The obvious point being; that is a whole lotta NHL talent tucked away in an already talented AHL team.

The sad and likely story that comes out of this will be the bottom end of the roster. The clear day roster, once again needs to be in place March 5th at 3 EST, can only contain 22 players. As it stands the Barons have roster spots taken by 16 forwards, 9 defenders, and 2 goaltenders. That’s a whopping 27 players, 5 of which will be left out. A painful sight for a few players who’ve toiled away the entire season in Oklahoma City.

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How To Beat The Barons

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

When a team deals the leagues best record, most standing points, fewest goals allowed, and the two best goaltenders it’s hard to find things to complain about. But as Coach Todd Nelson has always said, the system is always a work in progress. For those unsure what the Barons system might be it’s really quite simple. Basic hockey, if you will. It begins with defense. The net needs to be strong, and the defenders around the crease must be relentless and smart. It then moves towards the neutral zone where the Barons need strong and protective puck movement. Finally, the offense is wide open. It’s strong on the boards, smart behind the net, and always pass friendly. That’s the perfect system for developing young talent. And for much of two seasons, it has worked to near perfection. But we’ve seen two cases in recent weeks that lead us to believe that there are some holes in the system.

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So Long Ryan O’Marra, Hello Bryan Rodney

The trade deadline is always a little strange for those that follow a minor league team with major league ties. There are times that the moves being made in the minors are harmless. They merely are minor leaguer for minor leaguer, and typically are similar in value both ways. These are harmless because, outside of team morale, they don’t boil down to anything more than minor hiccups in the season. However, there are moments where the trades amongst minor league teams are strange, potentially lopsided, and merely confusing. Thus goes the saga of the quick and surprising move of Ryan O’Marra to Syracuse with defenseman Bryan Rodney coming to Oklahoma City.

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Welcome To Your Ephemeral Home, Zack

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

It’s not uncommon for hockey players to make a sudden and impactful difference on the ice in a very short period of time. Whether through a trade or in an off season acquisition, there is denying the numerous examples of “game changers” that instantly add something to their new team. However, there is a rare breed of player that understands life outside of his profession, and embraces the community and its fans in full force. That player understands that part of the game is also about time spent away from the rink. Such goes the legend of Zack Stortini as an Oklahoma City Baron.

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Thinking Diplomatically About Danis

Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

Yann Danis is having an amazing season as the number one goaltender for the Oklahoma City Barons. It’s a season that has been unmatched at any other time in his professional career. Statistically speaking, the closest he’s come to resembling this year on the farm was way back in 2003-2004 in his Brown University days. At Brown he was the big man on campus, in terms of hockey. Ivy League recognized and a Hobey Baker finalized, Danis had a pretty nice career with the Brown Bears. But no one could have expected a pro season, at age 30, that he’s currently having in Oklahoma City.

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The Fearful AHL & The All-Star Debacle

All-Star Games are ridiculous in nature. They are intended to honor the cream of the crop in a specific sport. The greatest of the great. The top dogs. The faces that launch a thousand ships. Or something like that. Of course, we all recognize the idea of playing an All-Star Game, and it’s usually all about the benjamins. And that’s perfectly fine with me. However, let’s not pretend that the All-Star Game or festivities in any sport is anything else.

As a fan of minor league hockey, the American Hockey League has had a tumultuous idealogy when it comes to the annual All-Star Game. For years it was Team Canada versus Team Planet USA. Basically those in the American League whom were born in Canada played for Team Canada. Everyone else fell into the strangely named Planet USA. I guess that sort of adds to the intrigue a little. However, it also alienates fans of the game outside of Canada for various reasons, but mainly because it assumes Canada is dominating in the sport of hockey. Which, of course, it is.

In an attempt to create a more even ground, and more NHL-like environment, the AHL in recent years has gone to the West vs. East. Needless to say, it neither heightens the importance of the All-Star weekend nor does it make the players any more enthused. For all practical purposes, the AHL is not the landing spot, but a refueling station on the way to the NHL. Plain and simple, a minor league All-Star Game is absolutely pointless in terms of game or play.

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Playing Linus Omark

Doesn’t this look familiar? Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

Linus Omark is healthy enough to practice these days and has given Oilers nation a reason to cheer his return as he had this to say via his not often used twitter page:

He later encouraged fans by not only referring to himself in the third person, but also claimed his return was anything less than a big deal:

As a fan of the Oklahoma City Barons, and subsequently the Oilers, it’s hard to imagine this organization without Omark. He’s a fun player to watch, and is even more fun to listen to. What comes off as arrogant, pompous, and showy is what makes him the eye-popping player that we all know he can be. A well rounded hockey players with some sass. The world needs a few of these to make things interesting.

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Edmonton Media Invades, Points & Ponders

Last week, with the NHL All-Star break in its full glory, many of the regular Oilers writers from the north graced the Cox Center with their presence and always cheery demeanor. The Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones, SportsNet another, and a few other curious folk in need of something to talk about. For as bad as the Oilers have been for nearly three seasons, their farm team has become a minor league juggernaut. Thus the All-Star festivities in Ottawa seemed un-important to most Oilers fans. Jordan Eberle was the one bright spot, able to play and represent the city, but even that is almost a footnote to the weekend.

The sudden success of the Barons, in this their second year of existence in Oklahoma City, has forced the media to look long and hard and often at how a minor league team can soar while the NHL team is a bore. I’m here to tell you, that this Barons squad is not without its imperfections. The late period “fade” is something the coaching staff is trying to correct in the latter half of the season. The lack of power play scoring to begin and end games is improving, but still lumpy. At this point, I’m just nitpicking, but for the right reasons. As someone whom watches more minor league hockey on a weekly basis than that of the major league variety, I like to think that I know a thing or two about this Oklahoma City squad. So as the Edmonton writers enjoyed a really good steak, some warmer weather, and FINALLY a couple of wins in a row, I too ponder the success in the “A” and the failures in the “N”.

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