Workin’ For The Weekend: Wednesday In GR “Private Eyes”

private eyes
Private eyes, they’re watching you.

Listen. No, come closer, this is important. Daryl Hall and John Oates need little introduction. With the sweet sound of syrupy melodies and smoldering goofiness they are solely responsible for some of the greatest pop music now featured in your neighborhood dental office. Not to go all “Delilah” on you, but I find their cheesy brand of performance art compelling. And they certainly aren’t without an endearing catalog of familiar tracks for which picking a favorite is darn near impossible.

So I’ll go with Private Eyes. You can thank me later.

For a song that so clearly defines the career of these two men and their one mustache, the thought of a private eye watching you always seemed a bit creepy. But in actuality, the songwriter (which was neither Hall nor Oates) intended this to be an I got you, you got me, we got each other kinda vibe. To humble brag about knowing your significant other better than they known themselves is exactly what they are trying to communicate. Trench coats, mustaches, and hand claps included.

I also feel like I know my minor league hockey team better than they know themselves. Case in point. Fans (including this one) pointed to the need to sign a veteran defensive player in the offseason. Instead they rolled with Teigan Zahn, and not Bryan Helmer. The youth movement does not a good defense make on this squad, and we all saw it coming from a mile a way. Thus Brett Clark enters the picture maybe a tad too late to resurrect the defensive core. The jury is still out on how he’ll fit in, and if his 36 year old body is up to the task.

Most fans assumed the team would hit rock bottom post-lockout. And they sorta did. Most also realized the need to right the ship while also stirring the pot when that occurred. And lo and behold, it’s happening. Cheechoo signs at least for 25 games (likely more).

We also knew that the American League would be unkind to those that were young, inexperienced, and heavy on prospects. And although the prospects on this Barons squad have had a year or two under their belts, the league has hammered the team into submission.

Granted these things weren’t ignored by Barons management, but like a good set of Private Eyes, we were watching you (watching you).

So the Barons begin a road swing with a trip to Grand Rapids. Funny thing, I lived in Grand Rapids as a very young child. My sister was born there. And the greatest memory I have from my time there is jumping off the roof into snow piles. End of story. But it’s a great town, with a great minor league hockey team, and a place where the OKC Barons could begin anew. They’ll play tonight in GR before rounding out two more on the road this weekend.

So we start with the Griffins. I’ll spare you the gory details of their most recent tangle with the Rockford Ice Hogs. The gist is simple. 230 penalty minutes later, both teams were handed serious suspensions. Here’s the league’s announcement:

The American Hockey League today announced the following disciplinary actions as a result of an incident in the Jan. 19 game between the Rockford IceHogs and Grand Rapids Griffins:

Rockford center Rob Flick and Grand Rapids center Louis-Marc Aubry have been suspended for six (6) games each and Rockford right wing Kyle Beach, Rockford left wing Kenndal McArdle, Rockford left wing Wade Brookbank and Grand Rapids left wing Triston Grant have been suspended for one (1) game each for their roles in an altercation at 11:58 of the second period.

In addition, Rockford head coach Ted Dent has been suspended for two (2) games, and both teams have been fined an undisclosed amount.

When coaches are getting suspended, and games hit 5+ in terms of length, you know the league is getting serious. To read a full recap of the events, check out Third Man In’s complete rundown.

The irony of it all for Oklahoma City is that they’ll not only face the Griffins this week, but also their partner in crime, the Rockford Ice Hogs. How these teams respond after a really rough one will be interesting.

Nonetheless, the Barons square off against the Griffins this evening. Coming off a seven game road trip, the Griffs look to stretch their lead in the Midwest Division of the West, but also improve upon a really strong ten game stretch of 6-2-1-1. And despite their penalty filled affair in Rockford, they unleashed a franchise record 11 goals in three periods. That’s dangerous. And so are they.

In net, they have a very good rookie tender in Petr Mrazek that has gotten better down the stretch. He’s in the top ten in current AHL goaltenders in terms of SV%, and he’s constantly giving forwards awkward angles to work around. The Barons will, again, have their hands full with this guy.

For Oklahoma City, special teams are the talking points. Oh, and those two green goaltenders.

Being first in power play and last in penalty kill is a feat that’s not as easy to accomplish as one might think. Luckily, that PP total was so far ahead of the rest of the league while Eberle, Hall, Schultz (and RNH) were here, that it hasn’t come back to earth just yet. But more disconcerting is the kill. Young teams WILL make mistakes and thus WILL get whistled for penalties. Although they’ve been pretty disciplined of late, the penalties need to be few and the kill needs to be strong. I’d imagine Brett Clark will play a heavy role in special teams, and most importantly the penalty kill.

And those two goaltenders. Roy in his second year pro suddenly goes as the #1. Tyler Bunz, in his rookie pro season, hasn’t received any action this week, but certainly will get a chance over the weekend. Both are so green that you almost expect them to let in at least one or two bad ones a game. Nonetheless, Roy impressed in the last game, and with some improved help on the blue line he could have a fantastic end-of-season run if he chooses to do so.

So the two teams face off tonight, both with new-fangled lineups, and both looking to earn standing points quickly. For Oklahoma City that’s about digging out of the muddy waters of mediocrity.  For Grand Rapids it’s about quickly stretching the lead they already have in the Midwest. Good luck to both.

Likely starting lineup for Oklahoma City:

Josh Green – Mark Arcobello – Jonathan Cheechoo
Toni Rajala – Anton Lander – Philippe Cornet
Kristians Pelss – Ryan Martindale – Dane Byers
Curtis Hamilton – Chris VandeVelde – Tanner House

Extras: Antti Tyrvainen, Erick Lizon

Brett Clark – Taylor Fedun
Nathan Deck – Colten Teubert
Andrew Hotham – Martin Marincin

Extras: Alex Plante (likely still banged up), Kane Lafranchise

Olivier Roy

Extra: Tyler Bunz