Barons Want A Win (And Some Change) On New Year’s Eve

Photo by Rob Ferguson

2013 was a memorable year for the Oklahoma City Barons. It began with a dominant squad emerging from the Western Conference, and humbly falling ever so close to their first ever trip to the minor league Cup Finals. Offseason changes well up the chain of command drastically shifted the heart of the OKC Barons from infinitely fabulous to instantly prospect driven.

No dedicated “ringer” on the offensive side, prospects re-shuffled/repackaged/re-aligned meant that scoring would become a difficult task. Defensively the tides turned towards the future despite its youth and disorientation. But the team soldiers on.

Todd Nelson looks to 2014, and probably dreams of what might be. With the tiny by comparison roster he’s managing (when compared to last season), there’s very little room for management of lines and pairs outside of the framework laid by Craig MacTavish. We have rarely seen two games where offensively and defensively things felt familiar, but the OKC coaching staff continues to take it in stride.

On the heels of a two-game trip to Abbotsford where they suffered defeat in both contests, the Barons need to change. Richard Bachman needs to steal games, get help from his blue line, and pray for scoring at the other end. Curtis Hamilton needs to build upon the two goal game he had on Saturday, continue to expand his PK goodness, and contribute to his forward partners. Ryan Martindale needs to chase down Anton Lander and Roman Horak on the depth chart. Tyler Pitlick needs to be a raging bull on the boards with agile puck possession tendencies. Every Barons defender, from Klefbom to Fedun and back again needs to emerge as true draft pleasures rather than busts. For a team that is barely on pace for 60 standing points for the season, “up” is the direction of choice.

Statistically speaking, the loss of Linus Omark continues to do damage to the Barons roster. But look who has scored since his trade to the Buffalo Sabres. Kessy twice, Hamilton twice, Marincin once, Martindale once, Acton once, C.J. Stretch once – guys that need to score and develop without guys their slight senior keeping them lower in the depth charts.

Owning a three game losing streak, posting a 2-6-0-2 record in the last ten games, and playing five straight (including tonight) against two of the best squads in the AHL is not the recipe for success that the Barons coaching/management staff had in mind. And tonight, New Years Eve, the Barons play the stingy Texas Stars, a team they recently beat prior to Christmas.

The Edmonton Oilers continue their march of postseason death, and call ups galore (nearing 90 at the half season mark) which continues to paralyze momentum in Oklahoma. Cheering for prospects to score has replaced cheering for the Barons to win, and that’s something we fans aren’t accustomed to. Yet we are dealing.

The route towards right standing gets a bit wider and less treacherous for OKC in January. Utica, San Antonio, Charlotte – teams that are struggling themselves – will all go toe to toe with the Barons in the next thirty days. The separation of teams starts to be prevalent the closer we move to February, and if the “good guys” in orange and blue don’t find the secret to success the season will be over before Cupid draws back his bow.

The uphill battle starts tonight, and we embrace a former hockey legend hailing from OKC, Doug Sauter, who always said “It’s not how many you win before Christmas, but how many you win after.” He clearly has never met an Oilers fan.

Defending Marincin, Centering Horak, Wins Post-Christmas

A belated Merry Christmas to you, readers of Tend the Farm. December was a brutal month for the Oilers farm club, but we learned a lot about where they could go in the near future. We watched young defenders mumble and stumble, and forwards look maliciously like a bunch of AHL players rather than promising NHLers. We entertained tons of goaltenders with more likely on the way. As December closes we turn back to the things at the top of the to-do list. This includes seeing Martin Marincin play defense in Oil country, and Roman Horak square off against his former team.

Marincin, the 21 year old from Slovakia with two NHL games already under his belt, still has question marks looming high above his stat sheet. Without Justin Schultz accompanying him in the minors he’s been a “hit or miss” prospect on the farm. Good, but not good enough. Stronger, but not strong enough. He’s a player who defended alongside Steve MacIntyre (yes, as a defender), Martin Gernat, and David Musil in recent games. Do you see a pattern developing here? Todd Nelson inserts him into pairings that force him to stand out. Defensively, he continues to be rough around the edges – thin on the boards, saggy in front of goaltenders – but his value seems to be on the offensive side. When he inserts himself into the offense, he plays well. It is in this one thing that MacTavish seems to be keen on, and it is difficult to not find the Slovakian Stringbean highly capable. Maybe not now or next season, but soon.

Horak will square off against the team that turned him lose recently, the Calgary Flames. Had he not have been recalled, he would have played against the Abbotsford Heat as a Baron. The skinny on Roman is that he is probably a better NHL center than Anton Lander. That’s good news. Good face off winner, defensively intelligent, and surprisingly strong on the puck as a forward, he will be a godsend to Eakins in the “swarm” and beyond. Better than Acton, better than Lander, and earned “on the cheap”, keep your eye on this kid. Not only does he want redemption against Calgary, but he wants to increase his value. Top line minutes on the farm has earned him eleven points in eighteen games as a Baron. He’s one to watch indeed.

Oklahoma City plays Abbotsford tonight at 9pm Central. The game is huge for the Barons as they hope to win more post-Christmas, but more than anything find offense in Linus Omark’s absence, and better defensive play from the youngsters. Do they have all the necessary pieces to make the playoffs? No. But never ever discount a Nelson coached team – they always surprise.

Abbotsford has five twenty point getters this season. Oklahoma City has none. That’s bothersome for me. The Heat have scored 105 goals as of Christmas which is third most in the entire league. Guys like Ben Street and Chad Billins are difficult to defend. Likewise, it’s hard to beat a good goaltender like Joni Ortio, who will get the start tonight.

Oklahoma City is only as good as their defense, and when Richard Bachman plays goaltending well, the Barons can win. Yet that’s a tough task. Especially when your team rarely out scores opponents or defeats them by more than one goal.

I’m nervous. I don’t see how the Barons can move up in the standings with such heated competition in division, and nearby. They need a scorer. They need a defensive mentor. When those things occur I will finally become un-nervous. For now I will enjoy prospects being prospects. That’s enough for me (for now).

We Cheered. We Jeered. We Won One Of Two.

Photo by Rob Ferguson

After a multi-game, multi-weekend road swing, the Oklahoma City Barons returned home for a pair of games just prior to the holiday break. Facing the stout Texas Stars at home on back-to-back nights was a daunting task. Even more so than in years gone by. In December 2013, the Stars from Cedar Park are a highly skilled bunch. Young, but intelligent. Smart, focused, assured, everything you want in a hockey squad. So the goings were bound to get tough.

It was a weekend where you cheered mightily as often as you wept. We’ve been told it’s the season of joy, of giving, of goodwill, not agonizing highs and lows. Like many Christmas expectations in life, highs and lows come with the territory.

We would witness one game where a goaltender played out of his mind. Where the offense came to life from various other regions of the roster. Where the defense seemed capable.

We would watch another game where a goaltender would get pulled for poor play. We would watch forwards suffocate. And a defense develop a knack for hanging themselves out to dry.

It was a weird weekend.

Game one on Friday night was remarkably positive. Richard Bachman would stop all 39 shots faced to defeat his former squad. An Omark-less roster would be a jumbled mess, but it netted two goals in the second period. One via Andrew Miller and another, on the power play, from C.J. Stretch.

Kale Kessy, playing on the top line, would have a weird night where he would play like a fourth liner, elbow a player, and go a fightin’. It was a strange evening. Nonetheless, the Barons would win the first half of the set, and it was solely on the shoulders of “The Biz” in net.

On Saturday evening the script was flipped. Richard Bachman let in five goals in 40:00 on only 26 shots. This included three straight in the second period. Chet Pickard came in to mop up the mess, and let in two more on twelve shots.

The Stars’ red hot power play continues as they would net two on the evening. Travis Morin would score twice, as would five other Stars as they’d run OKC out of their own barn, 7-2.

Ryan Martindale and Will Acton posted the only goals for OKC, but the night was mostly highlighted by a Steve MacIntyre “butt ending” penalty that earned a ten minute game misconduct penalty. In the end, this squelched any momentum the Barons had, and put the game firmly in the hands of the visiting squad.

The Barons will play this coming Friday and Saturday in Abbotsford after a brief Christmas break. Here’s hoping all goes well…on both nights.

The Omark-Less Barons Roster Might Be Bothersome

We have bid a fond farewell to Linus Omark, and now we turn back to the Oklahoma City roster that has no identifiable offense in the wingers absence. Below is a breakdown of the most recent OKC lineup. Keep in mind that fluctuation is the Barons mantra this season. The ever changing lineup occasionally has former top liners playing fourth line roles (Nesbitt and Stretch), and typical third and fourth liners playing towards the top (Hamilton x 2). The erratic nature had been slightly steadied on the top line in recent games with the call up of Anton Lander to Edmonton – Omark-Horak-Miller – and it was working to some degree. Nonetheless, here is the most recent offensive lineup

Linus Omark – Roman Horak – Andrew Miller
Curtis Hamilton – Ryan Martindale – Tyler Pitlick
Ryan Hamilton – Will Acton – C.J. Stretch
Kale Kessy – Travis Ewanyk – Derek Nesbitt

There are a couple of options on the left wing with Omark out. The candidates are both Hamiltons and C.J. stretch. With the desire for prospects to play more, Curtis Hamilton could get a look see in a top line against good comp. That’s a scary thought. Ryan Hamilton would be the easy choice, but C.J. Stretch would be the most reliable. Stretch, capable of playing all three forward positions is a versatile, and quick player. Defensive responsibility is suspect at times, but if you want speed and scoring, he’s a good choice.

Matt Ford, the Barons second leading scorer currently on the roster, will come back in, and that might allow Stretch to flip to the left wing. I like that option. I also like watching dumpster fires.

It also means that Steve MacIntyre plays more. With one less forward on the team, and Ben Eager still nursing an injury, Stevie Mac gets more opportunity to play. Again, that’s a scary thought.

Here are my predicted lines.

Stretch – Horak – Miller
Ford – Martindale – Pitlick
Hamilton – Acton – Nesbitt
Kessy – Ewanyk – Hamilton

Steve MacIntyre still out.

I won’t say this is a boring lineup because I find prospects dealing with adverse conditions absolutely thrilling. Yet this is probably the least offensively potent squad the Barons have dressed in four seasons.

If the Barons want to win games, and the Oilers would allow them to do so, the signing of a goal-scoring forward would be necessary. With offense falling solely into the hands of this core, and to a very young defensive prospects, the roster becomes rather bothersome.

The Barons play the Texas Stars tonight, and we will get a good look at an awkward Barons squad against one of the best teams in the league. Eat fiber.

The Linus Omark I Knew (Was The One That Surprised Me The Most)

Photo by Steven Christy

I don’t recall which season it was or what month it happened, but my very first encounter with Linus Omark was deliciously awkward. My then family of three (now four) headed to the Cox Center on a warm evening to watch the Oklahoma City Barons face a Western Conference opponent. It was sunny when we left our house, we felt excited to be at the rink, and the crowd was unusually largish by OKC hockey standards. My daughter, being a daddy’s girl, hand crafted a sparkly sign from a giant piece of poster board which only hours before had been a blank canvas. Strewn across the sign were glitzy letters that read “I’m Teemu’s #1 Fan (and I’m only 3)”. Teemu Hartikainen, being the heartthrob-like hockey player that he always has been, was an easy target for my families amusement. He was the type of hockey player we liked watching. Skilled, agile, smart, and altogether fun – he was our player, and we loved him.

We arrived at the rink an hour before the puck dropped due to some over-planning on my part, so we nestled in for the team warm-ups. My daughter raised her sign high above her head as Hartikainen entered the ice. Despite her valiant attempt at getting his attention, he was extremely focused on the task at hand. Frustrated, she asked me if she could take the sign down along the boards. “Then maybe he could see it,” she said honestly. I obliged, sorta became giddy myself, and we meandered our way rink side.

As my daughter, then three, stood their with her sparkle-filled poster sign stuck tightly to the glass, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a player stretching with his eyes fixated on the sign. It wasn’t Hartikainen checking it out, it was Linus Omark.

He gazed at the sign as if he were burning it with a laser beam, his lips were drawn up, his scowl ferocious. I immediately took offense, for I knew the work that went into that sign. Then something happened that I wasn’t expecting. As the ferocious scowl remained on his face, he stood from his stretching position, wandered over to the far boards, whispered something to fellow teammate Teemu Hartikainen, and then went back to his pregame ritual. Thirty seconds later, Teemu skated to the pane of glass where my daughter was standing, gave her a wink and a wave, and forever won her smile.

A week later I’d watch Linus Omark score five goals in regulation followed by another in the shootout to lead his team to victory.

Omark has always been perceived as a two-headed monster. On the ice he could dazzle and dominate in the AHL, but even after one really strong showing with the Oilers in his rookie season, he proceeded to be stashed away in hopes that he would sizzle again. Off the ice he was pegged as a self-promoting showboat, willing to speak his mind (in his native tongue) when given the chance. Yet he was always very kind, cordial, and entirely personable to me. It is somewhat bittersweet that his tenure with the Oilers became a highly critical mess because he remains one heckuva player, and the greatest we have seen in the young history of the Oklahoma City Barons.

To understand the Omarkian perspective you have to realize the situation that was thrust upon him. YouTube highlights promised us a magician on the ice, and indeed he was that in the minors. As the Oilers continued to struggle and struggle and struggle the need for a savior continued to grow rapidly. Despite the three-in-a-row number one picks, fans/media/management tried to put Omark, a square peg, into a round hole. This unjust need for him to rise above quickly clobbered his opportunity at success. That and the ultimate mismanagement of an entire NHL team.

When you take a step back, consider the weight of importance, and count the ways in which Linus Omark impacted an Oklahoma City Barons squad, there is no denying his greatness in brevity. He knew what he wanted, but he also understood who he was. As the Tambo era soldiered on Omark felt out of place, misused, maybe mistreated. With the assurance of a contract in the new MacTavish era, Omark gained a quickness in his step. A mindfulness towards defense. A closed mouth, and open ice pass where he normally would have dangled. But again, whether it was Steve or Craig or Ralph or Dallas, sneaking Omark into the lineup in the mode with which he played was a difficult task.

Another time, another team, another place – Omark has NHL success beyond his stat lines as an Oiler. The offensive guns were present in Edmonton, how could you squeeze in just one more? And so they didn’t. Oh they swore that he was a part of the plan, he would get his shot, he would have healthy consideration, but in the end you can’t take the prowess out of the naturally gifted warrior. When you do some things well, the same things that have carried you through most of your early life, you tend to stick to those things. Omark is an offensive player capable of being a juggernaut. The Oilers wanted him to be less that, and more something else, and despite a yeoman like attempt at the end to make those things change, he found it in vain.

Perspective is best viewed through the 20/20 vision of the brain long after events take place. Of course riding on the handlebars of my neighbor Brian’s BMX bike down an incredibly steep hill was dumb, I knew it 30 seconds after I knocked out two of my front teeth. And so we can now look back on the white hot minor league career of Linus Omark, and slowly inhale what we actually witnessed.

Bryan Helmer. Teemu Hartikainen. Jeff Petry. Mark Arcobello. Alex Plante. Chris VandeVelde. Linus Omark. These are bedrock guys. Players forged into the legacy of Oklahoma City hockey regardless of where they ended up or how they finished as an Oiler. Two on that list have graduated to NHL play having been tended to by Oklahoma City coaching. But a few have sought refuge elsewhere, and for them that’s good news. They have found success in other corners of the hockey globe, and I believe they are better for it.

As we bid a fond farewell to Linus Omark as an Oiler the hope is that we can speak fondly of him as a truly great hockey player who began in Oklahoma City. That we can be grateful for having seen him spin, dangle, criss-cross, and wrist shot his way through the better part of three AHL seasons. He will now head north, but much further east than before, and the likelihood of his success has probably never been at a higher level. He is finally getting a shot within the outstretched arms of a team that genuinely needs what he offers. Regardless of where you land – hate or love – when it comes to Omark, there is no denying that he is a fabulous hockey player. One with which we were able to watch with our own eyes.

My daughter still has that sparkly Teemu Hartikainen sign. It sits behind the closed door to my children’s play room. Occasionally it gets knocked over when someone is vacuuming the rug, or when the kids rough house, or when I drop my keys. The message on that sign was intended for Teemu, but knowing that he never would have seen it without the prompting of Linus Omark, makes it valuable. It reminds me that behind the scowling, self-promoting, and sometimes painfully direct Linus Omark was a pretty incredible fella. One who gets what it means to be a player in the professional hockey leagues, and one that is okay with doing things on his terms. I’ve never wanted to watch a Buffalo Sabres game more than I do right now. And so I’ll cheer.

Go get ’em Sir Linus.

Omark Chatter Continues On The Farm As Todd Nelson And Bill Scott Give Their “Two Cents”

Photo by Steven Christy. 

The Swedes have done it again. They have forced us all to fire up google translate to fumble through broken English to discover that Linus Omark indeed wants out in Edmonton, and has demanded a trade. This news comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed Linus Omark as an Oiler. He has been exiled and stashed away since coming overseas, and it seems that the latest non-committal attitude from Craig MacTavish has Omark considering (and requesting) a move before Christmas rolls around.

Oklahoma City Barons General Manager, Bill Scott, told the Daily Oklahoman what you would expect – he’s ours until he isn’t.

“As far as we’re concerned, Linus Omark is a contracted player with the Edmonton Oilers,” Scott said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s been unbelievable for us. He’s never worked harder. Clearly, he’s one of our best players. As far as we’re concerned, it’s status quo.”

Even his coach continues to sing his praises, but is fully aware of the hit the team takes in his absence.

“He’s always been highly skilled, very creative. What stands out this year is he’s so much more mature,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “Defensively, he’s a lot more responsible. Our coaches have enjoyed him letting us work with him to make him a more complete hockey player.”

He would go on to discuss the number of transactions.

“We’ve already had 80 transactions. You adjust,” Nelson said. “But losing a player like Linus, if that happened, that’s a lot more than one transaction. Our fans have seen him. He’s very gifted.”

Here is the farm perspective on Omark requesting a trade – GIVE IT TO HIM. He is the most dynamic, offensively gifted player we have ever seen in Oklahoma City. You might consider his skillset to be subpar, but I think he is just lost in the parallel universe between AHL and NHL. The Oilers have a savior complex, and any new forward that enters the young/energetic/first-rounder offense, they are expected to do too much. Omark will find success, as many recent Oilers have, in other lineups. This is good news for Linus.

What’s not good news is the already clanky offense in Oklahoma City takes a major hit. Oh, they’ll continue to score, but it won’t be as dominate or as frequent as Omark. OKC will have to do something, I repeat, SOMETHING for this season to be salvageable in terms of postseason play IF that is important to the Oilers organization. If not, there are forwards to call up and add to the roster who need TOI.

This has always been an interesting story to follow, and the plot thickens.

(Read the Daily Oklahoman interview with Bill Scott, Todd Nelson, and Taylor Fedun)

 

Barons Swap Laurent Brossoit With Chet Pickard (But Why?)

Photo by Rob Ferguson

Jason LaBarbera is now the property of the Chicago Blackhawks organization, and more specifically the Rockford IceHogs. That’s good news for Jason, who was kind of lost in the shuffling of goaltender deck chairs within the Edmonton Oilers organization. At the top you have Devan Dubnyk and Ilya Bryzgalov. These guys are given the task of ramrodding the atrocious play of the Oilers defense, and neither have had much success in the games leading up to the week before Christmas. Near the bottom, you have Chet Pickard, who was signed to an AHL contract by OKC, but stuffed in the ECHL Bakersfield because there were far too many players ahead of him in the goaltending depth chart. Likewise, former OKC Baron, Tyler Bunz is riding side saddle in the ECHL as well. Somewhere in the middle are Richard Bachman and Laurent Brossoit.

Yesterday, the Barons shipped Brossoit to Bakersfield and received Chet Pickard into the fold of the AHL. This is an interesting switcheroo.

Pickard’s numbers haven’t been off-the-charts-fabulous in Bakersfield. Ten starts, 26 goals allowed, 2.91 GAA, .881 SV%, and three outright wins in that span. That’s not a great tally out of the gate for the top twenty draft pick by the Nashville Predators. As a matter of fact, his ECHL/AHL numbers have never been all that great. He’s only barely had one season where his wins out numbered his losses, and he’s never had a save percentage over .899. He’s average at two lower leagues, and has been for many seasons. Which is why I’ve always questioned the fact that the Barons offered him an AHL contract. Makes no sense based on previous seasons.

The move of Brossoit to the ECHL does make sense. At 20 years old, the goaltender from Surrey, BC is a bit lost at the AHL level. His movement, awareness, and attention to detail are there, but the speed is killing him. It also doesn’t help that he has an awfully inconsistent defensive core playing in front of him.

This feels like an Oilers move, although it has roots in a Barons contracted goaltender. The Oilers clearly like Brossoit, so do I, but feel like he’s swimming in the deep end with no flotation device. The skills are present, they just have to gradually be upgraded to AHL pro ranks. I think he’ll get there, and I’m pretty optimistic about him myself. Jeff Deslauriers, Olivier Roy, Tyler Bunz – none gave me the good feelys, but Brossoit does. That’s great news.

For now, it seems that Oklahoma City will retain two goaltenders – Bachman and now Pickard. Will the Oilers chomp on the rumor that Dubnyk might be on the way out? ‘Tis speculation only at this point. However, if it were to happen, that means the Oilers would probably look at cinching up another goaltender (Justin Peters has been mentioned, woof). The wild and wacky continues.

“Need” For OKC Conference Hotel Might Push Barons Out Of Downtown

Photo via Flickr

“City leaders are being advised the city can support an approximately $200 million, 735-room full-service hotel with multiple restaurants, lounge, meeting and ballroom space,” states Steve Lackmeyer of the Daily Oklahoman, “But at what cost? Consultants over the past several years have advised that Oklahoma City will need to provide at least $50 million in public financing for a large conference hotel to be viable.”

The rumblings of a new Conference Hotel and Convention space for downtown Oklahoma City have been ongoing for ten years. However, with the growth of the city, and the burgeoning business/dweller activity in Bricktown, the time has never felt more ripe for this addition.

As you can see above the cost is high, and the impact might not just be financial in nature.

In a recent video interview, Steve Lackmeyer makes mention of the Cox Center’s future. “Councilman Ed Shadid, who’s also running for mayor, he’s been a frequent critic of this idea,” explains Lackmeyer. “He supports the idea of supporting some sort of convention center. He understands that the Cox Convention Center is very outdated, and really doesn’t work for today’s world. But he, and a couple of other council members, have questioned the size the scope of this project.”

Outdated. Doesn’t Work. Today’s World. All signs that the aging Cox Center, current home of the Oklahoma City Barons, is not a possibility for long-term convention space despite it being just that for many many years.

The proposed convention space would be just south of the Chesapeake Arena which isn’t in the way of the Cox Center’s current location, but it does, however, point to the likely demise of the home of the Oklahoma City Barons.

The Cox Center is in trouble despite a 4.5 million dollar upgrade prior to the start of the 2010 season for the Oklahoma City Barons. Lackmeyer promises an update on the Cox Center’s future in the coming weeks, and we eagerly await his report.

The city clearly doesn’t want to support three downtown arenas, especially one that is aging. What’s interesting is that the new convention space is nothing more than that – convention space (with hotel/restaurant accommodations). The desire is not to build an arena that is capable of pro sports, let alone hockey, they already have that in the Peake. Again, this potentially leaves the Barons without a future home, and although this proposed convention project is in its infant stages, the realization that hockey might be homeless in the coming years (and I mean, many many years) is troubling.

What are the options? I like Eric’s thoughts on this. Move away from downtown. Build in the Adventure District of the city. This would, however, A) force the Barons to not rely on “bounce-back” ticket sales from parallel Thunder games, and B) require some cash to spent to make a continued investment in Oklahoma City hockey. The city isn’t going to fork over that cash, and that leaves Prodigal to foot the majority of the bill. Are they willing, is the question. With their portfolio diversifying in the next year (Energy FC to play next season), a full-time soccer stadium might be more of a wiser investment than a complicated hockey arena, regardless of size.

Each and every time this convention project talk comes up, I get nervous. It points to a city moving towards bigger and better, not smaller and substandard. Minor league hockey in a big league town? It works most places, but it isn’t working in Oklahoma City at the moment. Attendance continues to be an issue, although the numbers have gone up just a bit. 3,051 is the home average, it still remains nowhere near the league average well over 1,000+ when compared.

Fingers crossed that the city leaders find hockey a viable part of the growth factor in any part of the metro area. Unfortunately, I think the growth is regressing.

(Full article by Steve Lackmeyer)

Barons Weekend “Undesirable” At Best; Three-In-Three Nets Three Loses

The second weekend where the Oklahoma City Barons played three games in three nights began on Thursday night and ended on Saturday (obviously). Three straight games, three loses, and only a single standing point earned – Oklahoma City is headed towards the worst pre-Christmas record in franchise history.

Thursday night in Milwaukee, the Barons welcomed back Richard Bachman after a lengthy stay in Edmonton due to an injured groin. He felt like one of the missing ingredients on a squad of otherwise developing players. Although his play was rusty, he still found himself in the midst of a few good moments despite his fellow teammates inability to put the puck in the net.

Forty shots, 31 across two periods, netted zero goals for the Oklahoma City Barons. Two power play goals, one at even strength, and one more empty netter put the Milwaukee Admirals on top. Magnus Hellberg would earn his first shutout on the season, and the Ads would leave fat and sassy.

The Barons really shot themselves in the foot in the first period with goofy penalties including a rough by Matt Ford and an unsportsmanlike by Steve MacIntyre (that also won him a five for fighting). Milwaukee is a team that breaks you when you give them the option, and that’s exactly what happened. The penalty kill was an ugly force, spurting out attempted block shots but not much more. Poor Richard Bachman gets saddled with the loss, and the Barons lose their second straight game.

Friday evening, the team moved to Rockford, Illinois where the offense would come to life, but not after again give away two early goals to the opposition. Two goals in the opening 3:31 from Rockford initially crippled the Barons defensive core. Yet with Laurent Brossoit helming the ship in net, the team found a way to resurrect themselves just a bit.

Andrew Miller scored his fourth goal of the season (now featured on the top line) with an assist to Linus Omark and Martin Gernat to help subside the defensive worries. But Rockford would notch one more before the period to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Just when all hope seemed lost, Ryan Hamilton punched in a late first period goal for OKC, and not all seemed lost.

Kale Kessy would earn his second goal of the season in the first three minutes of the second period, and suddenly we had a tie game. Rockford would nail the coffin door shut, ironically, in the eleventh minute of the second period for the final goal of the game. The 4-3 lead would carryover through the final period as both goaltenders stopped the puck very well.

It was a more intense game played by Oklahoma City where penalties were fewer, but the early deficit continues to plague the Barons.

Saturday night the team would round out their three games in three nights again facing the Rockford IceHogs.

Will Acton would score his first goal as a Baron, and although it ended the inability to score first for the team, the IceHogs would quickly answer back. An unassisted goal and another on the power play would nearly end the period at 2-1. Thanks to Roman Horak, in the waning minutes of the first twenty, the Barons were able to get the equalizer before the period ended. Only his seventh of the season, Horak would end the evening with a pretty solid offensive night despite a few defensive indiscretions.

In the final forty minutes of play Oklahoma City would score a power play goal, but Rockford would etch a pair of man advantage goals of their own. With two and a half minutes remaining, Martin Marincin would insert himself into the offense to tie the game at 4-4. The third period would end, and the overtime would begin. Barons needed a victory.

The team from OKC would play surprisingly well in the overtime frame, but they would again lose in a shootout, something that continues to haunt the young squad. Derek Nesbitt, Linus Omark, and Ryan Martindale were unable to score in the shootout, and the IceHogs would beat Richard Bachman once to seal the victory. The Barons would lose 5-4.

In all, the back-t0-back weekend three-in-threes was an awful example of what you would like to do on a road swing before Christmas. Four points out of twelve is a gift to opposing teams, even those that don’t land in your division. The penalty kill is awful, the power play is dipping, the goaltenders can’t steal games – does this sound familiar? The symptoms of sideways play continue to trickle down from the Oilers.

As it stands the Oklahoma City Barons are currently in third place in the five team West Division. But a glance at the winning percentage has them only eclipsing two other teams in the entire Western Conference – Utica and San Antonio. That means this team just doesn’t win games in regulation or with regularity. That’s a problem. At .431 the team heads home for two games against the Texas Stars, who are a mighty bunch who are currently riding a five game winning streak.

Consistency seems to be a problematic issue not just in terms of how often the team wins. Goaltending is good/bad in the same breathe, defenders are out of position more often than not, and goal scoring is spotty at best. Needless to say, the Barons are in trouble.