There is a fine line between tweaking and tweaking too much, and sometimes you haven’t realized that you’ve tweaked too much until you’ve, well, tweaked too much. When it comes to hockey defensive pairs, a good rule of thumb is “dance with the one who brung ya”. Simply put, if there are pairs working out well, keep them. If not, make the changes. But what happens when injuries rear their ugly head, and warm bodies are needed? You tweak a lot of things.
Two defensive players have been added to the Barons for the remainder of the season – one AHL contracted, the other Oilers contracted – and both will probably play quickly until the NHL season comes to a close.
Graeme Craig from Red Deer, Alberta, and Jordan Oesterle from Dearborn Heights are defenders with experience in different leagues, but are post-20, and thus headed towards fully realized players. Where exactly might they squeeze in?
Here is the list of available Oklahoma City Barons defenders (Denis Grebeshkov is sidelined by injury):
Graeme Craig, Brandon Davidson, David Musil, Joey Leach, Taylor Cedun, Brad Hunt, Jordan Oesterle, Martin Gernat
The only right-handed shot currently in that group is Taylor Fedun, and he’s played very well in the two recent loses to Charlotte over the weekend.
That’s a total of eight healthy defenders. I would say that Joey Leach is on a short leash, and likely becomes the eighth defender. That leaves seven blue liners, including two noobs.
My suggestion is to keep Fedun with Gernat, whom have moved the puck well, and given top pair minutes playing right / left . Gernat, despite being wiry, has been able to move his frame in appropriate ways of late. No use messing with that formula. So let’s put a traditional pair chart to my thoughts
Taylor Fedun – Martin Gernat
Brandon Davidson – Brad Hunt
Graeme Craig – Jordan Oesterle – David Musil
That’s not an earth shattering proposition on defense, but it seems the most logical. Musil struggles from time to time even in limited minutes. Yet he has many more games of pro experience versus the players in Craig / Oesterle. In the short, I’ll give Craig the start in the bottom two in the first game this week, Oesterle the two this weekend. The Oilers will want to see their contracted player in action immediately, so this bodes well for Jordan’s emergence in the lineup.
The greater conversation will be the forward lineup, and my thoughts on that are forthcoming.
On today’s Lowdown with Lowetide Radio Show, I called Todd Nelson “The Great And Powerful Oz”. ‘Tis true. He really likes the challenge of positioning players in the lineup, but he has rules. The first being that you get an initial shot to succeed. What that means is that Craig / Oesterle or any other newcomer to the squad gets good minutes, and a good chance to find marginal success. The second rule is that if he likes something, he will keep it until he doesn’t. Fedun / Gernat evolved into something special, he wants that to stick around. Likewise, he really likes Hunt or Fedun on the PP handling the puck.
In summation, the next three games are huge for the Barons in terms of postseason potential. More than that, though, they are a team with a incredibly different lineup than less than thirty days ago. That’s truly remarkable – that both of those things can happen at the same time. Godspeed, Barons.