Oklahoma City Plays Wonderful “Half Game”, Outdone By Texas In The End

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy

On Tuesday evening the Texas Stars entered the Cox Center knowing that they had gotten the best of Oklahoma City this season. They are a far superior team in just about every category. The power play, the prospects, the puck protection – they are a sturdy squad. Even without Travis Morin, their leading scoring, they are still minor league potent. And again the Barons would concede a game that they were entirely capable of winning. The 5-4 defeat of the Oklahoma City Barons by the Texas Stars also meant that winter was coming, and that the Barons wouldn’t head back home until December 20th.

The first period was exceptional by both squads, and it was Martin Marincin that would rifle a shot past starting Texas netminder Cristopher Nilstorp. With assists given to Fedun and Omark, it would be the first of two helpers for both players. Less than two minutes later, the Barons would gift the Stars their first opportunity on the power play which, it’s important to note, would come back to bite them. The best PP completion rate in the AHL would quickly even the game when Curtis McKenzie scored his first of two of the evening. When the first twenty minutes came to an end, Laurent Brossoit had faced ten shots, stopped all but one, and Nilstorp eight, letting in one. The 1-1 first period would also feature really strong performances from both defensive cores, something that the Barons couldn’t manage through the back half of the game.

The second period began with a Derek Nesbitt power play goal, his sixth of the season, with additional assists again to Omark and Fedun. The Barons appeared to be in control. Matt Ford would get whistled for an errant cross-check, and again the Stars would make good on the power play chance as Colton Sceviour would score his first of two goals en route to a four point night. Less than a minute later, the fourth line of Oklahoma City would score while featuring returnee to the lineup Kale Kessy, alongside Travis Ewanyk and C.J. Stretch. Ewanyk, scoring his third of the season, tied the game just past the mid-way point. Then things got dicey for the Barons defense. McKenzie, on a helper from Sceviour, would net the go ahead goal in the final minutes of the second period to again end the period with a tied game.

Knotted at three goals a piece, the Stars would outrun and outgun the Barons for the remainder of the game. Martin Gernat, having a pretty solid game up until this point, would be benched for much of the third period after an awful giveaway that led to a goal. Marincin looked lost at times, as did the remainder of the OKC defensive core. This led to a Fortunas goal, and the first lead of the game for the Stars. C.J. Stretch would even the game up four minutes later, but it was pretty apparent that the Stars had tilted the ice in their favor. Scoring his second of the game, Sceviour whistled a goal around Lareunt Brossoit, and the Barons would lose to the Texas Stars 5-4 on home ice.

Despite letting in five goals, Brossoit looked pretty solid. Any time you give the stoutest power play in the entire league four chances, and they convert on half of those, you know you are in for some trouble. Although only facing 27 shots, Brossoit was rarely caught out of position. The defense in front of him was sloppy enough to make the entire squad look bad post-30 minutes of game time. He’s not seasoned enough to steal one for your team, but this could have been a game where the final was 7-4. He kept his squad in it.

The Barons begin a road swing that includes six games taking place in Chicago, Rockford, and Milwaukee before returning to the Cox Center on December 20th. This will be an interesting trip for OKC. All non division games, all very important to win prior to Christmas. Can they win 50%? Right now, with the team being under .500, that’s a tall task. Capable, yes. Probable, no.

Workin’ For The Weekend (Holiday Edition): Stars at Barons “2000 Miles”

How many videos in the 1980’s featured a lovely lead vocalist standing on a street corner, dressed as a Salvation Army representative, receiving donations amid a snowy scene? The correct answer would be one.

In 1983, the Pretenders released the single “Middle of the Road” which was an instant hit. On the B-side was the droopy eyed track, “2000 Miles”. The accompanied video screamed “Merry Christmas, I’m So Alone”, but in the end it is a wonderful track with a holiday flare and an ominous background.

Penned in honor of Pretenders guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, who died the year before from heart failure brought on by cocaine intolerance. His life long struggle with drugs ended his life, and the Pretenders were cautiously aware of the pitfalls that surrounded other band members as well. His death brought on a bit of a change in the life of a few of them, and that makes “2000 Miles” much more than a Christmas tune. It is about a desire to do better, be better, and become fully important to the world.

Back to the Christmasing.

I love this song. It is great year round, but I find myself enjoying it more at Christmas time. The sequential guitar intro that is woven throughout the verses, and sing songy non-chorus, is absolute Pretenderish goodness. I’ll always love the simplicity that the Pretenders brought to the indie-pop genre long before such things were cool. Joan Jett, and a few other band leaders dominated the 80’s because they were just so good at perfecting their craft. You din’t care if they were male or female because they were so good.

“2000 Miles” is indeed a tragic song of travel, longing, and heartbreak, but it sure is a classic romp. It has a sonic glitz that fits well into the holiday genre, but the rock tendency of the band exudes from every downbeat. He’s gone, the snow is falling, it gets colder day by day, I miss you, he’ll be back at Christmas time – WONDERFUL!

It’s Christmas time once again, which means that the yule log is selected, the nog is extra thick (and spicy), and the Grinch tee comes out of 11 month retirement. Yes, it’s that time of year again, and for hockey fans we have a tendency to give our 20+ games played reviews, call a spade a spade, and pray for some hope of betterment. The truth is, however, that the long standing tradition of “playing well after Christmas” is common in Oklahoma City, and with the Barons. They just can’t help themselves. They love a good finish.

With the end of the season feeling like 2000 miles away, can you hear people singing? Is there hope? Is there a chance to be back in the loving arms of the Western Conference? Always.

The 11-8-2-2 Texas Stars square off tonight against the 9-10-03 Oklahoma City Barons in Bricktown. The four year series severely favors the Barons, but this season is quite different. 1-2-0-0 is the mark for OKC, but the Stars are the far superior team, there is no doubt.

Good in net (Nilstorp), offensively gifted (Morin in Dallas, but still Sceviour and Mueller exist), and defensively seasoned (Oleksiak and Connauton in Dallas, but still Fortunas?). Okay, so maybe with Morin, Oleksia and Connauton in the NHL the Barons have a chance to win this game. Strike while you can, is what I say.

The Barons will have to overcome the best-by-a-landslide-in-the-league Stars power play, and stingy penalty kill. Both huge tasks that OKC hasn’t been exceptional at in recent games.

But Oklahoma City gets Corey Potter back, they’ll get Brossoit as the number one, and possibly Ty Rimmer. Two young goaltenders with a lot of promise means that it can be a coming out party or an utter disaster. The way Brossoit has emerged as a solid prospect tender is promising, no doubt, but Rimmer remains a bit of a question mark despite the Oilers love of him.

Huge games are needed from Anton Lander and Roman Horak, the two centerman the Barons rely on the most. Likewise, coming off a lengthy injury, Ryan Martindale has to return to form in the third line centering role for the Barons to have any chance in tonight’s game, and the remainder on the road through December 20th.

Defense continues to be puzzling. Klefbom is hit or miss, but easily one of the Barons most solid defenders of late. The infusion of Potter helps, and nudges out Gernat or Musil in the bottom pairings, but he is a quality AHL defender. That leaves Marincin, Davidson, Fedun, and Hunt to carry the rest of the load. Nelson/MacT like what they see from Brad Hunt, and his minutes will continue to be well over 19:00 per game. Fedun adding scoring support has me excited, but the hope is that he can remain doing what defenders need to do the most, and that’s, well, defend.

The game starts at 7:00pm tonight. Join us on twitter, listen online, tune in at AHL Live, or just return to Tend The Farm for the postgame. Go Barons!

Kessy Is Back, Horak vs Lander, Rimmer To OKC

After scoring the goal that launched a plethora of teddy bears, Kale Kessy has been recalled from the Bakersfield Condors to be placed with the Oklahoma City Barons. My love of this kid is quite well known, but this is an opportunity for Kessy to skate like he’s never skated before. With Curtis Hamilton playing in the third line winger role, Kessy will probably squeeze in on the opposite wing (or more likely) head to the fourth line.

Steve MacIntyre? Ben Eager? Who is going to Edmonton? My bet is on Anton Lander or maybe Roman Horak. With Boyd Gordon having leg/back/knuckle trouble, the need for a depth centerman is now. I like Horak’s chances. He’s earned it, he’s potentially better than a guy like Will Acton, and he is new to the organization – three things that the Oilers no doubt realize (right?) This doesn’t mean that Eager or MacIntyre aren’t gimpy or something. That could very well be why Kessy is coming in, but it still doesn’t change the status of Gordon. Things. They are happening.

Speaking of “going to Edmonton”, Ty Rimmer tweets this today:

With Ilya Bryzgalov injured in yesterday’s victory against the Stars, Jason LaBarbera is the logical choice. He’s played very well for OKC despite not winning consistently. Likewise, Laurent Brossoit has been solid, and he will probably go number one. Rimmer joins the Barons, which means that Tyler Bunz gets overlooked, and I hate that. Nonetheless, some important moves forming, all with two or three levels of trickle-down effect.

BBG&CS: $$$, Concussions, Dryden, Indy Fuel, Goalie Equipment, Backups, Brulé & Commodore

Photo: Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt in his backup goalie gear while working his usual job as the Capitals Video Coach. (Photo courtesy of the Capitals)

Thanksgiving is now over and for the past three days we have turned to that great post-Thanksgiving tradition of creative ways to make use of all of the leftovers. Today, Sunday’s brunch will be turkey hash! (I love hash and yes, it works well with turkey believe it or not! Comfort food at its best.) Meanwhile, in the hockey world a great deal has been happening the past week — team valuations, concussion lawsuits, Canadian TV deals, a new ECHL team, more on goalie gear changes, interviews and lots of talk about Gilbert Brulé’s recent signing(s)!

| Forbes has released their annual list of NHL’s Most Valuable Teams, and if you are wondering, yes, the lockout was very good to the NHL!

“The average NHL team now has an enterprise value (equity plus net debt) of $413 million, 46% more than a year ago.” via Mike Ozanian, Forbes.com and the full coverage of Forbes The Business of Hockey, and the NHL’s Richest Local Television Deals.

| Add to that the NHL’s most recent Canadian television deal with Rogers Communications:

“The 12-year agreement, announced jointly by the NHL and Rogers in a Tuesday morning press conference, is for $5.232 billion (Canadian). It’s the largest media rights deal in NHL history and one of the largest media rights deals in Canadian history. It is also Canada’s largest sports-media rights agreement.” via NHL.com.

| And what exactly does this all mean for the NHL, including U.S. teams you ask? Oh, a great deal!! And if you think the owners did not realize this prior to the lockout, you’ve been hiding under a bush:

“Total HRR had grown from $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion in the seven years between lockouts. The league expected to generate $1 billion more in national revenue over the next three years, with things like outdoor games and, oh, let’s see, a new Canadian TV contract. The owners would split that 30 ways.” via Nicholas J. Cotsonika, Yahoo Sports.

“It means your team will get an infusion of cash, with the Canadian clubs getting a little extra to make up for regional games that will no longer have blackout protection. […] While there is nothing firm for 2014-15, a couple of NHL general managers said they expect the cap to be close to the $70.2-million figure from the lockout-shortened 2013 season (Don’t forget there is a clause in the new CBA allowing for a five per cent “escalator” on the initial figure and only once in the previous deal did it go unused). Last summer, those same GMs said they’d been told to expect an $80-million limit in the not-too-distant future. Now, depending on outdoor games, a World Cup and the fact the annual media rights fee grows toward $500 million per season, I can’t help but wonder if we’re looking at an even higher number very soon. That’s really something.” via Elliotte Friedman, CBC.ca.

| Also this week, a group of former NHL players filed a class-action lawsuit against the NHL over concussions. Regardless what you might think, pro or con, I hope that this will be the much needed push for more precautions against concussion injuries in the NHL:

“Three years ago, Hockey Canada held a concussion seminar in Montreal. The participants received a packet that included a welcome letter from Ken Dryden, the Hall of Fame goalie and member of parliament. Dryden wrote about how we think back on the past and wonder why we could have been so wrong. He went from slavery to smoking to sports. Why did football and hockey players go so long without helmets? Why did hockey goalies go so long without masks? He wondered what people would think in 50 years about how we have handled head injuries.” — via Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo Sports.

| Stu Hackel’s brilliant interview with Ken Dryden, talking about the 30th anniversary of the greatest hockey book ever written. If you have never read it, buy a copy NOW!

The Game, by Ken Dryden, has never gone out of print for good reason. It connects the reader with professional hockey players as few books have ever done by revealing that which is universally human in them, showing their strengths alongside their vulnerabilities and placing them within the context of a superior but sputtering team striving in a common effort to maximize their potential.” via Stu Hackel, Sports on Earth.

| Welcome a new team, the Indianapolis Fuel to the ECHL!

“Indianapolis will play its home games at the Fairgrounds Coliseum, a 6,145-seat building located on the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The Coliseum was originally constructed in 1939, and is currently in the midst of a major renovation which began on Oct. 29, 2012.” — via ECHL.com

| And how’s the new goalie equipment changes working out?

“They were trying to get more goals, but maybe goalies are faster now,” said Jonathan Bernier, the Leafs netminder, flashing a devious grin. James Reimer, Bernier’s co-worker in Toronto, is certainly of the belief that he’s faster in his shaved-down gear, although he’s not particularly convinced the change has anything to do with his being on pace for a career-best season. “As much as it makes you quicker, it makes you less big, too,” Reimer said.”  — via Dave Feschuk, theStar.com.

|Speaking of goalies, how about this backup goalie for the Washington Capitals?

“Caps video coach Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt has served many roles with the team. He’s been the video-web guy, back-up goalie, DJ, video coach, crash-test-dummy, and during Friday’s 3-2 win against Montreal, back-up goaltender at the same time as being video coach.” — via Ben Summer, Capitals Outsider.

| Gilbert Brulé — KHL, Coyotes, KHL, Coyotes — you decide!

“2005 6th overall pick Gilbert Brule agreed to terms on a 1-year deal with Mike Keenan’s Magnitogorsk #Metallurg of #KHL” — via Igor Eronko (Sports.ru) (November 25th)

“Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney announced today that the Coyotes have signed forward Gilbert Brule to a one-year, two-way contract. As per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.” — via Coyotes.NHL.com (November 30th)

| Fascinating interview with Mike Commodore who is now playing for KHL’s Admiral Vladivostok, a million miles away from Canada. He talks about everything from growing up a Flames fan, to his problems with the Blue Jackets, playing in the AHL, and hockey in Russia:

“Scott Arniel played pro hockey a long time at the NHL and AHL level. Scott Arniel didn’t think he was paid enough for the time he put in. He didn’t like guys that weren’t married. Because in his words “I wish you guys had a wife and kids when you came to the NHL so you know how much they cost”. He actually said that in a meeting. So needless to say if you were single with no kids (which I was and am) and you were making good money (I was the highest paid defenseman in the organization) you were in trouble. Big trouble.” — via Hermy11, The Breakdown.

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– You know that place in The Daily Oklahoman? The one between Big Game & Club Soccer? That’s where you may find some Barons coverage. For the rest of the news, check out BBG&CS every weekend.  –