The story of Jack and the Beanstalk is fairly well known. Although it’s been repackaged and re-imagined for decades, the plot remains the same. The young lad, Jack, has one task – provide for his family. When the milk cow dries up, he’s sent to market to sell it, and in return bring back something of substance to his widowed mother. Instead he squanders it for magic beans. What a dummy. This is where the story takes a science fiction turn. Mom is mad, throws the beans out the window. The stalk grows, there’s a giant, a bag of gold coins, gold egg laying hen, harp, etc., etc. Jack somehow chops the beanstalk down, kills the giant, he and his mother live happily ever after. That’s nice, but what’s always bothered me is the realistic front half of the story. Jack has one task. Can’t do it. Stupidity ensues.
At home, against the Houston Aeros, in the last half of March, the Oklahoma City Barons have one task – win games. Yet somehow they squander opportunity after glorious opportunity and lose. Not only did they lose the game, but they’d lose two in-division points with sixteen games remaining.
On Friday night, the Barons would struggle post-first period at the Cox Center, and eventually lose to the Houston Aeros 3-2.
The first period was atypical Oklahoma City Barons hockey, at least since February. But there was a bit of a wrinkle this time around as both squads were jockeying for position (which is code for wanting to fight each other). It was Darcy Hordichuk and Ryley Grantham who let loose the fists in the first two minutes of the game. Darcy with some good swings, Ryley with some in-close jabs, and it seemingly effected either side of the fence much at all. It was Houston that would score first, and it was care of a fantastic pass from Justin Fontaine to Dan DaSilva mid-way through the period. But less than twenty seconds later, C.J. Stretch would put in the rebound following a Nathan Deck shot, and the Barons would solve the problem called Darcy Kuemper. And with a tie game, both goaltenders would play very well. Yann Danis, in particular, would keep his side in the game far longer than they should have. Nonetheless, the first period ends with a 1-1 tie, and Darcy Hordichuk with seven penalty minutes.
The Barons would fall flat footed for the remaining forty minutes. Josh Green would give the Aeros a power play opportunity to start the second period, just as the carryover one by Darcy Hordichuk expired. And although OKC escaped with good penalty killing, that moment in time pretty much sums up the last two periods perfectly. Goals by defenseman Brian Connelly and Mikael Granlund had the Barons digging themselves out of a hole that felt deeper than two goals. By the time the team decided to snap out of the funk they were riding, it was too late. Dan Byers would poke in a goal near the fourteen minute mark in a pile up near the goal crease. The power play goal, although anything but power play-like, broke a pretty nasty cold streak for OKC on the man advantage. That’s good. What’s not good, is how late the Barons decided to play quality hockey.
When the dust settled, the Aeros were simply the better team, and if it weren’t for Yann Danis, this might have been a blow out. The Oklahoma City Barons would lose to the Houston Aeros, 3-2, on Friday night and wiggle themselves out of a playoff spot in the West. The team now sits at 10th BUT with games in hand, and only a point from the final entry to the Calder Cup post season. A big game in San Antonio is on the docket tonight, and don’t discount a last ditch effort by the Rampage to A) spoil parties and B) make a playoff push themselves.
These lines, what can I say?
Philippe Cornet – Mark Arcobello – Jonathan Cheechoo
Toni Rajala – Anton Lander – Ben Eager
Josh Green – C. J. Stretch – Dane Byers
Darcy Hordichuk – Chris VandeVelde – Curtis Hamilton
Sure C.J. Stretch scored a goal, and added some help to the other one, but Stretch needs to be the winger on the second line. Eager, playing the right wing again in back-to-back games, was a -2 on the night and looked absolutely lost. He had a solid debut with the Barons on Tuesday, but last night was not pretty. I’d move Stretch to the right of Lander, Green back to center, Eager to left wing on the third line. Will this make the team better? Probably not. But it does give you a second line that is super quick. I’d prefer that.
The Barons can’t score multiple goals in a period. This is a fact.
The Barons can’t score on the power play (and tonight, that one was an ugly one). This is a fact.
Jonathan Cheechoo is still going goalless. That is a fact.
The Barons can’t win games late. This is a fact.
The Barons can’t play a full game. This is a fact.
But more than anything, this isn’t a team that’s made up of skillful players. There’s Hordichuk who plays a “role”. There’s Eager who’s still trying to find his place in this hockey world. There’s Josh Green who, at times, is completely non-existent as the captain of this team. Dane Byers gets nasty, but is a far cry from the tough two-way winger we thought he’d be. You have House and Tyrvainen who add energy to the team, but are scratched because of the NHL guys that have been sent down. This team very well could limp into the playoffs, but there’s no chance this team wins a playoff series of any duration.
I love the Barons. I love this version of the Barons. I just don’t think they have what it takes to compete in this league, at this moment. And that’s the worst thing I’ve typed all season.