Workin’ For The Weekend (Wednesday Edition): Oklahoma City Barons at Texas Stars “Appetite”

Prefab Sprout is likely a band you have never heard of on this side of the Great Pond. For every successful British pop-rock-synth-pop outfit that the 80’s churned out, there were twenty that were equally as forgettable. One of those bands was Prefab Sprout.

Hailing from County Durham, England, the duo (with additional members sprinkled in throughout the bands existence, Prefab Sprout was, by definition, sophisticated pop. Which really meant that it was borderline elevator music for the popped collar crowd. There was a time, and a place, and a moment for that music, and despite the bands unsuccessful attempt to crack the US charts with regularity, they were marginally successful in England.

Twelve albums spanning the years of 1984 to 2013, the Sprout hit their musical stride in the mid-80’s with a string of albums that cracked the UK top twenty. Swoon, Steve McQueen, From Langley Park, and Protest Songs weren’t ground-breaking pieces of art, but rather unsubstantial and vanilla. Some might consider it “throw away music”, but the reality is that Hall & Oates made huge careers out of vanilla, they just happened to be better songwriters.

Take “appetite” for example. Recorded for the Steve McQueen album (later changed to Two Wheels Good when Steve McQueen’s estate through a fit over naming rights), it is a simple projection of a father’s life upon that of his son. To encourage a hunger for life, pursuit of love, goodness, and hard work. The appetite is not satisfied with complacency, but through a determined spirit. These words wrapped up in a synth slow dance are about as entertaining as a trip to the pediatric dentistry and orthodontics clinic, but like the dentist, some things are good for you. It might be sophisticated pop, but it is kinda boring. Boring in an occasionally good way.

Our Barons aren’t boring, just safe. They aren’t offensively stout (although the power play has been momentarily nice). Instead, they are a mixed bag of prospects on both sides of the puck, relying on their goaltender far too much. Like our good friends, Prefab Sprout, you can embrace their complacent tendencies, but sometimes mediocre is enough in small doses. It won’t win you championships or many games, but it can be enough.

Wednesday. Mediocre won’t be enough.

The Oklahoma City Barons are meeting the Texas Stars for the second time in the early moments of the AHL season. Yet, here’s the deal, the Texas Stars are streaking, and that’s going to be a tough hill to climb for the Oklahoma City Barons who are sorta gimpy, and a bit thin offensively.

For OKC the thinning has occurred as a result of call-ups (Ben Eager, Tyler Pitlick), and injury (Ryan Martindale). They’ve lost a top liner, a bottom liner, and a gifted (at least in the minors) centerman. That’s a recipe for disaster. This is nothing new for OKC, they have faced adversity before, but this feels very different. The team identity is still not fully realized, and that has to do with the changing of the guard in Edmonton, something we have been discussing for months here at Tend The Farm.

So the team heads to Cedar Park, Texas to face the suddenly-potent Texas Stars before double dipping the Rampage in San Antonio on the weekend.

Since the October 15th meeting between Texas and Oklahoma City where Linus Omark scored a dazzler in OT, the Stars have won three straight games. They beat San Antonio by two goals, and their next two opponents by six each. They outscored their opponents in two straight games a whopping 15 to 3. Unreal.

When you get incredibly lopsided victories like those, you’re bound to find some players in the top 20 in league scoring. How about two in the top five? Travis Morin is second in the league in scoring with seven goals, while Colton Sceviour isn’t far behind with five. Morin has also added eight assists to his early season resume thus placing him with fifteen points in just six games. Wow.

In net, the Stars get back Jack Campbell, who made his first NHL appearance over the weekend in a loss against the Ducks. They still have Cristopher Nilstorp, and waiting in the wings, is rookie Josh Robinson. Regardless of whom plays, the Barons will really have to pepper the goaltender to be successful. Double digit shots per period would be a must.

The Barons will have to go without Tyler Pitlick, Ben Eager, and Ryan Martindale. They’ve gotten a bit of a kick back from Joel Broda, who’s been surprisingly well in the upper lines of offense. Likewise, Andrew Miller, Anton Lander, and Linus Omark will have to seperate themselves as the scoring threats we need them to be. As the lines get a bit of a jumble, don’t be surprised if C.J. Stretch gets a bit of an upgrade as he moves to a more offensively heavy placement in the lineup. That’s a good thing. Stretch likes speed, and he has been somewhat handcuffed to a third line role that has been good, not great.

Richard Bachman, again playing his former AHL team, has been magnificent, and is probably the lone reason why the Barons are at .500 right now. He’s a good goaltender. The defense is going to have to lend him a hand if they want to take a step forward in the standings. There is no doubt about this.

Two very good special teams will face off tonight, with the Stars being really good of late, and the Barons struggling with a man advantage. The season is young, but the special unit numbers are interesting.

Texas has a 92.6 penalty kill rate, while the Barons aren’t too far behind with 92.0. Both teams are in the top three in that specific category in the entire league.

Texas has a 30.0 rate of success on the power play, while the Barons have dipped of late to 22.6.

The recipe for success for OKC will be to stop the vicious Stars power play while also aiding Bachman defensively at 5 on 5. The other issue is goal scoring. As stated before, someone needs to step up and score some goals. Look for Linus Omark to have a whale of a game.

The game starts at 7:30pm tonight, and will be broadcast on KXXY 96.1 locally. For a look from the other side of the fence, read 100 Degree Hockey, a Texas Stars blog. Great stuff.

*For more enticing Prefab Sprout music, check out the tracks “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “Looking For Atlantis”, and “Cars And Girls”. You won’t be disappointed.