Josh Green Elected Oklahoma City Barons Captain

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

Today, it was announced through various sources on twitter and via Barons Coach, Todd Nelson’s interview on Oilers Now, that Josh Green would be named the captain of this year’s OKC AHL team. Voted on by his peers, Josh becomes the third Baron player to wear the “C”, and give a bit of a grown up mentality to a group that needs maturity.

Also mentioned were the alternate captains. Jordan Eberle, Chris Vande Velde, Alex Plante, and Dane Byers will serve as alterna-captains this season.

There really is no news here. This is a group of players that is highly motivated to win. Plain and simple, they winners more than whiners. I suppose there are teams that need a captain to call down infractions of group connectedness, and that’s something they desperately need. And although I consider myself an old school hockey minded type of guy, I think the captaincy of any sports team is kinda silly. Somewhat trivial. Often unimportant. Always forgetful.

But I’ll take this in a direction worth steering. Josh Green was voted on by his fellow teammates. Some know him well. Others have never met him until last week. In a short time he’s made quite an impact on the Barons dressing room, and on ice play. Much like Ben Ondrus and Bryan Helmer before him, the captain position is about various leadership abilities, some that aren’t even related to hockey.

In the case of Green, his reputation preceeded him, and that’s good on Green. Does it matter that he’s the captain? No. Does it matter that he is held in high regard by his team, the fans, and the organization? Absolutely.

Now that I’ve said it I sound pro-captain. I’m really not. But I am pro-Josh Green. Congrats!

The “5 Lines” Of The Oklahoma City Barons

Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

Tis a momentous occasion in Oklahoma City these days. In terms of high hockey octane, this city is about to be blessed with the mightiest of teams. The highest number of first round draft picks to play in a season in Oklahoma is enough to sell me on the spine tingly feats we might be privy to over the next couple of months. It likely gets amped up even greater if Taylor Hall can be cleared for active duty. There are not strong enough wheels to hold such a wild ride. And so we wait for the season to begin, on pins and needles, our minds focused on the what could be’s and what should be’s of a pretty radical AHL season.

With both preseason games in the books, and another handful of players re-assigned to the ECHL, today’s practice solidified a typical lineup for game one this weekend. On the weekly Barons radio show, Todd Nelson confirmed what several saw in practice this morning— 5 full-featured forward lines in Oklahoma City.

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Rajala, Cornet, Zahn Sent To Stockton

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

Sometimes roster cuts make sense, and sometimes they can be a bit confusing. And yet there are times when moves are made, deals are done, and players part ways for the common good of the group. Individuality is limited when you play for an organization that is making room for high-end prospects, and more glamorous faces. The lockout in the NHL doesn’t do much to eliminate this “problem”.

After a double dose of preseason games over the weekend, the Barons and GM Bill Scott announced the first full set of roster moves.

Per the team:

The Edmonton Oilers re-assigned forwards Philippe Cornet and Toni Rajala to the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. In a separate transaction, defenseman Teigan Zahn was loaned by the Barons to Stockton, General Manager Bill Scott announced today

Tony Rajala was anticipated to start in Stockton, the other two were not.

After an AHL All Star appearance a season ago for his incredible goal scoring streak, Philippe Cornet being reassigned is semi-surprising. Sure his shooting percentages were off the charts a season ago, and eventually came back down to earth, but management clearly thinks he’s better off playing better minutes in Stockton. To me, it seems like more of a death sentence than a “minutes promotion”. In terms as simple as they are blunt, he’s a prospect in his final year of ELC smack dab in the middle of the NHL lockout. Many are scheduled for a raw deal this year in the minors. Cornet is the first.

Teigan Zahn, the defensive heavy signed this offseason to an AHL contract, has apparently been “loaned” to the ECHL squad. It’s not unusual for an AHL player to be loaned to a lower league, but not one like Zahn who was almost guaranteed a roster spot on a very young Barons team. Apparently they’ll run with those higher on the prospect ladder, and with more direct Oilers ties.

If and when Taylor Hall makes it to OKC, look for at least two players to be reassigned to Stockton. In all, that’s a total of 6 really solid hockeyers in the ECHL (Bunz, Zahn, Rajala, Cornet, two more).

The trickle down effect of the NHL lockout continues. For a guy like Cornet, who bettered himself two seasons at the AHL, gets somewhat demoted just as he turns the page. And others, on other squads will suffer the same fate.

Stay tuned. At least a few more reassignments are forthcoming.

Mikael Granlund Is Good, Barons Lose Final Preseason Game

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

In the second preseason game for the Barons, they’d face the familiar Houston Aeros. After beating a similar lineup the night before, the Oklahoma City team looked to add to the exhibition tally in the win column. They’d do it without Tyler Bunz, who was assigned to Stockton Friday night, and a few familiar names that sat the night before. The 12-13 debut of Tyler Pitlick, Josh Green, Dane Byers, and Magnus Paajarvi were amongst the few Barons many were anxious to see. In net, Yann Danis would return as he embarked on another campaign as the league’s best goaltender.

Early on, it seemed that the Barons were content to give up the puck, and not do much to capitilize on early Houston penalties. Mikael Granlund, after a forgetabble night on Friday, roared back with some serious wheels and two goals in the first period. The Barons defense caved a little, found little razzle dazzle, and was deep in a 2-0 hole. Until Tyler Pitlick broke free on a puck, beat every able body on the ice, soared down the right wing and unloaded a quick shot over Aeros’ goaltender Darcy Keumper.

The second period wasn’t much different. A few high quality chances from Justin Schultz, Magnus Paajarvi, and Chris Vande Velde went nowhere. As Alex Plante and Teigan Zahn took exception to some posturing in front of Danis, a roughing penalty put the Aeros on the advantage again. And again, Granlund would be a part of the plan. Charlie Coyle would press in a puck that was centered by Granlund, and the Barons go back to a two goal deficit. To end the period, Schultz roared to life with an end-to-end dangle that caught the Aeros defenders off guard. He couldn’t finish, but realized the need for a spark, and hopefully gave the team a nudge in the right direction. Period two ends with a 3-1 score.

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Barons Beat Houston 4-0 In First Preseason Game

Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

At the twelve second mark of the first period, Justin Schultz was called for an interference penalty. That, in a nutshell, was how the game started. A little uneasy, a little tepid, a little like a first preseason game should be. But when the team settled down, the play quickened, and even without Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the Barons looked like the team we saw make a run at the Calder Cup. And in an exhibition setting, they seem poised to be a threat to go deep again this season.

It’s preseason, so in typical fashion, people tend to say things that are a bit overbearing. “This team is great!” or “Wow! What a win!” and indeed those things are so true. And it took a period of getting your feet wetin the first twenty minutes to get to that point. But with a healthy dose of perspective, we dissect the victory.

After a five shot a piece first period, the Barons finally pressed harder in the second period. On the team’s second 5 on 3 opportunity of the second period, Ryan Martindale wins an offensive faceoff, Dan Ringwald drops a bad pass in deep, but Teemu Hartikainen chases it down and drops it towards the front of the net. Martindale eventually punches it in. Barons up 1-0.

Less than half a minute later with the Barons still on the PP, Justin Schultz unleashed a shot that whizzed past visiting goaltender, Matt Hackett. The Barons added eleven shots to their first period five, and now led the shot total 16-9 as the second period ended.

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Workin’ For The Weekend – Preseason Begins “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

The incomparable Michael Jackson said it the best, “Wanna be startin’ somethin’, gotta be startin’ somethin’. A song about rumors and back stabbing, the legendary track represents a nice joining of 70’s disco and 80’s pop. It’s also a perfect metaphor for the beginning of the AHL season, and the Barons in particular.

Rumors. Pro sports are full of them. Sometimes they prove to be true, many times they are covered up, and often they are completely false. The rumored lineup in Oklahoma City this season was to be full of high end players with years of NHL experience under the belt. Nuge, Ebs, Schultz, and eventually Hall will be names that become synonomis with the 2012-2013 American Hockey League season. And what a glorious sight it will be to behold with my own eyes.

Rumors. Would this really be the most dominate team that the AHL has seen in years? Perhaps. And it will be hard to guage success early in the season, but the rumors all lead to the lack of imperfection that OKC will have if any. And so we embark, “starin’ somethin'” that likely proves the rumors of the almighty Barons to be 100% true. Even if Billie Jean says otherwise.

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Taylor Hall And The Barons Benefit From The AHL’s Magical Memo

Camp is nearing an end, but the thrills keep coming. Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.

The gentle whispers of a Taylor Hall appearance in Oklahoma City were an ever present thought in the mind of Oilers/Barons fans. With a still injured status, it seemed like a long shot that he’d make the AHL pre-lockout “free” waiver period that allowed specific NHL contracted players into the minors. And, of course, the rest is history. He didn’t qualify, many many others did, and Hall seemed destined to watch his fellow line mates in Edmonton play gloriously in the American Hockey League. But the saga continues, with an added wrinkle, and a magical league-issued memo.

Joanne Ireland, at the Edmonton Journal, unleashed a post this evening that clarified the rumors of Taylor Hall hurdling the AHL pre-lockout waiver agreement, and landing in the AHL anyway:

Consequently, both the Oilers and Hall’s agent stated two weeks ago that because he hadn’t been assigned, he would not be able to follow the likes of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz. The Oilers assigned a total of 26 players to the Barons, their AHL affiliate, prior to the NHL lockout.

But last week, the AHL sent out a memo to its parent teams stipulating that players who do not require waivers can sign an AHL contract. If the lockout ended at mid-season, that contract would then be voided.

“They’ve clarified that players who do not require waivers, who meet the rest of the criteria, can sign an American (Hockey) League contract,” said Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini.

“The intent wasn’t to prohibit guys, who would normally have been able to go, to go down.”

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The Year Of A Yann Danis Dip?

Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

Yann Danis, Oklahoma City Barons number one goaltender last year, was an amalgam. A dash of veteran chutzpah, a pinch of NHL play, and a smattering of international play, fans were equally as prepared for a disaster as they were for personal best play. That debate quickly became history. Yann was, at the halfway point of the AHL season, the best tender in the league. By the time his 14 game run in the postseason was over, there was little debate that he was the best pipe sitter for the full season sked. He was simply magical. Magical enough that he made the Barons look good, even when they didn’t really deserve the accolades.

In the offseason, he signs a pretty nice contract extension with the Oilers (nice in terms of his age, and placement in the organization) to the tune of $275,000/$800,000, and immediately Barons fans rejoiced. The YannD was back.

But does history prove that he’s ready for a dip in his play? Can we expect him to have career highlighting numbers with the NHLers in and around various clubs throughout the American League? Perhaps history repeats itself.

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Camp. Bunz. Zahn. Oiler “Guys”. Return Of The Game.

I’ve done two things this week that I’ve never done before.

First, I welcomed a newborn boy into my family. Rather, my wife welcomed a newborn boy into our family. My absence in writing of late has been justified as my family grows a bit larger. Now a family of four, the excitement and adjustment of a new little one is exhilarating, tiring, frightening, and beautiful all at once. What a great thing.

Second, I missed Oklahoma City Barons training camp. The first two camps in OKC were great, eye opening insights into how major hockey players conduct preseason business. And, unless you’ve slithered under a rock recently, all camps in the AHL are increasingly more interesting. Thanks to the lockout, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, and Schultz all found their way in the middle of America that we call Oklahoma. And I hate that I missed it. Glad that I did (for reasons above), but still hate it.

But the season waits for no one, including a guy that is sleep deprived and smelling of pampers snugglers. And in my absence, lots of things are and continue to happen. The push towards AHL opening day (October 12th) is rapidly approaching.

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