Jason Williams Signed To AHL Contract In OKC

Here at Tend The Farm we got wind of a potential vet signing nearly a week ago. The “tipster” suggested it would be someone “long in the tooth”, “a familiar name”, and “likely a defender”. Two out of three ain’t bad, and instead we get Jason Williams.

Williams, of course, is about as seasoned as they come. 400+ NHL games, a Stanley Cup winner, a player who has had games in four different leagues around the world – he is the Webster 1868 definition of a veteran signing. He, of course, plays center. The irony here is that the Edmonton Oilers needed a really strong, vet center to shoulder some of the youthfulness (and turrbleness) at that position. Instead, it’s the OKC Barons that have a logjam of centerman (five), and probably would have been “A-Okay” in terms of not having a vet centerman. Nonetheless, we get one, and he will be put to good use.

In the same mode as Brad Moran, the Barons needed a well-traveled fella to help guide the ship from the start of the season to the end. The captaincy of a minor league team isn’t any more or less valuable than it is in the majors, but coaches and teams place heavy emphasis on it. More important than captaincy is certainly age and knowledge – two things that the nearly 34 year old Williams possesses. Therefore, this is a signing of safety, and hopefully 20+ goals. Also, per Eric Rodgers the genius of knowledge, Williams logged minutes as a Thrasher while Todd Nelson was hanging around ATL. That’s good company right there.

I’m going to go out on a limb and believe that our “tipster” is going to indeed prove true, and the world gifts us a vet defender. Yet I fully realize that the team is looking nearly complete. That’s both good and disconcerting. Then again, we have been surprised before. I hope the same happens here.

Via the Oklahoma City Barons release:

The Oklahoma City Barons signed centerman Jason Williams to an American Hockey League contract, the club’s front office announced today.

Williams, a 5-11, 185-pounder from London, Ontario has played the last two seasons with Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss Elite League. During those two seasons, he recorded 64 points (34-30-64) in 79 games. During the 12-13 season, he led the team with 26 goals and 46 points.

Williams has appeared in over 800 games during his pro career, including 455 games at the NHL level with Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Columbus, Dallas and Pittsburgh. Williams has appeared in 249 AHL games with Cincinnati, Grand Rapids, Hartford/Connecticut Whale and most recently Wilkes-Barre Scranton. In 826 professional games, he recorded 549 points (241-308-549).

Prior to turning pro, he played four full seasons with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League. During those four seasons, he appeared in 251 games and scored 194 points (74-120-194).

Oklahoma City To Play October 3rd Preseason Game

UPDATE: The Barons will travel to San Antonio on October 4th for a game against the San Antonio Rampage. That brings the total number of preseason games played to two. The likelihood of a game in OKC is slim to none.

Schedule news is good news regardless of how tiny. Before the mid-August AHL schedule is released you can go ahead and pencil in a trip to Cedar Park, Texas on October 3rd where the Oklahoma City Barons will face off against the reigning Calder Cup champs and division rival, the Texas Stars. In addition, the Texas Stars will host a preseason game against San Antonio on October 5th.

Preseason games are always a bit odd in the minor, but they do help wet the appetite for fans who have longed for sticks and pucks for many months. You will recall that the Barons played a preseason game last October on the very same night of the NHL Showcase in OKC that featured the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars (when Luke Gazdic was still a Star). Cedar Park, one of the best minor league destinations on the map, is a good host for a preseason game or any other hockey game for that matter. The band-box arena, and the faithful Stars fans make the trip a worthy endeavor.

No other Barons preseason game has been announced at this time.

Official Texas Stars release:

The 2014 Calder Cup Champion Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today their 2014-15 pre-season game schedule.

The Stars will play two games during their 2014-15 pre-season schedule, squaring off against West Division rivals Oklahoma City and San Antonio at Cedar Park Center. Texas will host the Barons on Friday, October 3rd at 7:00 p.m. and then face the Rampage on Sunday, October 5th at 3:00 p.m.

Texas Stars full season ticket holders already receive tickets to both pre-season games as part of their full 40-game plan. Individual game tickets for both pre-season games will go on sale at a later date.

2014-15 Pre-Season Game Schedule (all times CDT)

Friday, October 3rd – Texas Stars vs. Oklahoma City Barons
7:00 p.m. @ Cedar Park Center

Sunday, October 5th – Texas Stars vs. San Antonio Rampage
3:00 p.m. @ Cedar Park Center

Oklahoma City Adds One More Assistant, Tony Borgford

In the wake of Rocky Thompson being promoted to the Edmonton Oilers, and JF Houle being announced as the new head coach in Bakersfield, the Oklahoma City Barons have added to their coaching team. Announced today, Tony Borgford, has been assigned to the Oklahoma City Barons. Having logged recent assistant time with the Winnipeg Jets, Borgford isn’t a complete stranger.

Indeed Borgford coached alongside Todd Nelson with the Atlanta Thrashers organization prior to the teams turn-over and eventual demise, Borgford is the rare coach that actually kept his job when the team moved way North. He worked in the hockey operations of the Thrashers since their inception in 1999 in many capacities, but almost exclusively with video. This points to a man with good character and high work ethic, something the Barons admire dearly.

Borgford is a direct replacement of Rocky Thompson on the farm, or so we have come to believe. Borgford’s role with the Jets was video coach and analyzer of game footage. His role will instantly be to reproduce the same type of game-time data that was so useful in a young prospects world that the Barons / Oilers have grown to love. I like this sort of hire

The official Barons release:

The Edmonton Oilers announced today, they have appointed Tony Borgford as Assistant Coach and Manager of Hockey Operations for the Oklahoma City Barons.

Borgford, 39, joins the Barons after serving as a Video Coordinator/Coach for the past three seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. He also worked with as a Video Coordinator with the Atlanta Thrashers for eight seasons, prior to the franchise relocating to Winnipeg in 2010.

The Regina, Saskatchewan native played his junior hockey for the North Battleford North Stars of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and played four years of NCAA hockey for Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, from 1995-99.

Jean-Francois Houle Named Head Coach In Bakersfield

The exit of Troy Mann from the Bakersfield Condors this off season (heading to AHL Hershey Bears) hasn’t rattled the team much. They have the confidence of the Edmonton Oilers backing, have had a decent track record of coaching hires, and Mann leaves a quick, but potent legacy. The team is in good shape financially, has a loyal fanbase, and thus the anxiety towards a new coaching hire is rather small. Today they added an important piece to the already successful team – a new head coach in Jean-Francois Houle

Rocky Thompson’s move to become the Edmonton Oilers number three assistant quickly removed his name from the coaching equation in Bakersfield. This left the door wide open for a new hire, and the team somehow managed to keep the announcement sealed tightly. Good on them.

Houle is a four-year Clarkson grad where he would later earn an assistant role as well. His head coaching history has been exclusively within the confines of the QMJHL where he has coached highly successful teams in Lewiston, Main and Bosbriand, Quebec. Those teams earned JF quite the reputation as a “molder” of the under-developed. Having never missed the playoffs and achieving the third round of the postseason the last two seasons with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, Houle was not long for the minors. Player under his tutelage, including Oilers draft pick Marc-Olivier Roy have made monumental moves towards becoming players.

Via the official Bakersfield Condors release:

The Bakersfield Condors, owned by the Edmonton Oilers, announced today that Jean-François (J.F.) Houle (OOL) has been named the sixth head coach in team history. Houle replaces Troy Mann, who was named head coach of the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears earlier this month. Houle will be formally introduced in Bakersfield at a press conference next week.

“We are thrilled to name Jean-François Houle as the head coach of the Bakersfield Condors,” Edmonton Oilers Assistant General Manager Bill Scott said. “After an exhaustive interview process we identified JF as the candidate we felt was best fit to lead the Condors and Oilers prospects into the future. He has an incredible knowledge of the game, strong work ethic and has the discipline to teach and mentor our players. JF has a bright future ahead of him and we are excited to have him join our organization.”

Houle, 39, has spent the last four-plus seasons as a head coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with both Lewiston and Blainville-Boisbriand. In 305 regular season games, the Quebec City, Que. native has compiled a record of 174-101-12-18, good for a .617 point percentage. That record includes four consecutive 40-win seasons.

In May, his success led to Hockey Canada naming him head coach of one of three Canadian teams at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, a position from which he has resigned in order to coach in Bakersfield.

“I have heard nothing but good things about the community of Bakersfield and the Condors organization,” Houle said. “My family and I are excited for the opportunity to come to Bakersfield. This is an opportunity for me to learn the ropes as a professional coach, knowing that I have a big recruiting network. I’m personable, really enjoy teaching the game and consider my communication with players as a strength. I expect my teams to work hard and I am very demanding that they have a competitive edge.”

His past three seasons have been spent in Blainville-Boisbriand where he led the Armada to back-to-back West Division titles in 2011-12 and 2012-13. The team advanced to the third round of the QMHJL playoffs in each of the last two seasons and the second round in 2011-2012.

Prior to his time with the Armada, Houle spent parts of two seasons at the helm of the Lewiston MAINEiacs from 2009-11 after taking over in December of the 2009-10 season. After getting the team in the playoffs in 2010, he them to the third round the following season before losing to eventual QMJHL and Memorial Cup Champion, St. John.
He began his coaching career at his alma mater, Clarkson University, where he served as an assistant coach from 2003 until accepting the Lewiston position in 2010. With Clarkson, he recruited and coached numerous former Condors including 2010 captain F Shawn Wellar, F Scott Freeman, and F Nicholas Tremblay. He was instrumental in bringing 15 NHL Draft picks to Clarkson, including current Winnipeg Jets D Grant Clitsome.

As a player, Houle was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the fourth round (#99 overall) of the 1993 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft. He went on to play four seasons at Clarkson before turning pro and playing five seasons split between the AHL and ECHL. His best season came in 1997-98 when he recorded 62 points (25g-37a) in 53 games with the ECHL’s New Orleans Brass.

Houle is the son of Réjean Houle. His father was the number one overall pick in the 1969 NHL Entry Draft by the Canadiens, played over 700 games with the club, and went on to win five Stanley Cups.

He and his wife, Mia, have two children: Emma (12) and Noah (10).

AHL Today: Nicolas Deschamps heads to Finland

The Finnish Liiga’s Kärpät announced today that forward Nicolas Deschamps has been signed for the upcoming season. Deschamps spent last season with the Hershey Bears, scoring 40 points in 65 games. Deschamps made his NHL debut last season as well, playing in three games for the Washington Capitals, going scoreless. Deschamps was left unqualified this season, leaving him a free agent.

Hershey was the third AHL team that Deschamps played with during the past four seasons. His rookie campaign was with the Syracuse Crunch, where in 80 games he picked up 46 points. Just after New Year’s in 2012, Deschamps was shipped from the Anaheim Ducks to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 71 games combined, Deschamps scored 37 points that season.

Deschamps was on the move again in 2012-13 as the Maple Leafs traded him to the Washington Capitals organization. That season, Deschamps only managed to score 23 points in 66 games, but his seven points in 16 games with Hershey earned him a one-year extension with the Caps.

AHL Today: Milwaukee signs Triston Grant, Rob Madore

Photo copyright Steven Christy Photography

The Milwaukee Admirals have signed forward Triston Grant and goaltender Rob Madore to one-year AHL contracts. Triston Grant has spent the past two seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins, winning the Calder Cup in the 2012-13 season. Rob Madore backstopped the Cincinnati Cyclones to the Kelly Cup Finals, earning playoff MVP honors.

The 30-year old Grant returns to the Admirals after four seasons, having spent time with the Rochester Americans, Oklahoma City Barons, and the Grand Rapids Griffins. This will mark Grant’s tenth season in the American Hockey League, where he has 127 points in 561 career AHL games. With 1565 career AHL penalty minutes, Grant has hit at least 100 PIM in each season he has played.

Prior to first stint with the Admirals, Grant spent three seasons with the Philadelphia Phantoms. He has 11 NHL games under his belt with both the Flyers and Predators. He earned one assist and 19 penalty minutes.

Madore joins the Admirals for his third full professional season. Last year, Madore earned call-ups to Charlotte and Binghamton, playing one game for the Checkers. He then signed an AHL deal for the remainder of last season with the San Antonio Rampage, playing in seven games for them. Madore earned a 17-12-1 record for Cincinnati during the regular season, while going 14-10 during the playoffs.

Madore spent the 2012-13 season splitting time between the Checkers, Florida Everblades, and the Evansville IceMen.

AHL Today: Kirill Gotovets signs with Rockford

The Rockford IceHogs have signed defenseman Kirill Gotovets to an AHL contract for the 2014-15 season. Gotovets has spent the last four seasons with Cornell University, scoring 19 points in 112 games throughout those four seasons. The 23-year old was drafted in 2009 by the Tampa Bay Lightning as the 183rd overall pick in the 7th round.

Gotovets made his professional debut last season with the Milwaukee Admirals, appearing in one game while on an Amateur Try-Out. The Minsk, Belarus-native played for the national team during the World Championships, going scoreless in seven games. In two previous stints with the team during the World Championships, he went scoreless in six games.

Prior to joining Cornell, Gotovets played with Shattuck St. Mary’s high school, scoring 59 points in 98 games.

AHL Today: Colorado Avalanche re-sign Joey Hishon

A part of the Lake Erie Monsters offense was re-signed by the Colorado Avalanche, as Joey Hishon was re-signed to a one-year, two-way contract. Hishon is slated to make $67,500 in the AHL, the same as his recently-expired ELC. On the NHL side, he would make $850,500, a $49,500 cut from his ELC.

Hishon had an interruption to the start of his professional career in 2011-12, having to sit out the entire season due to a concussion. In 2012-13, Hishon was only able to participate in nine games with the Lake Erie Monsters, scoring a goal and five assists.

Participating in 50 games with the Monsters this past season, Hishon scored 10 goals and 14 assists before getting the call up to the Avalanche during their Stanley Cup Playoff run. In three games with the Avalanche, Hishon picked up a single assist.

The Stratford, Ontario native spent four seasons with the Owen Sound Attack, earning 254 points in 214 games, and was a part of the 2010-11 OHL championship team.

AHL Today: AJ Jenks signs with ECHL Toledo

As ECHL signings begin to roll out, the Toledo Walleye announced that they have signed AJ Jenks to a contract. Jenks, a 2008 4th round pick of the Florida Panthers, has spent the last two seasons splitting time between the Charlotte Checkers and the Florida Everblades. Prior to his stint with the Checkers, Jenks spent an entire season with the Rochester Americans before moving to the San Antonio Rampage when the Panthers switched their affiliations.

Jenks found himself in the Carolina Hurricanes system following a trade that sent him and Evgenii Dadonov to the Canes in exchange for Jon Matsumoto and Mattias Lindstrom. Jenks wasn’t re-signed following the expiration of his ELC during the 2013 offseason, but he still found time with the Checkers, on loan from the Everblades.

In 151 AHL games, Jenks has scored 15 goals and 23 assists. In 68 ECHL games between Florida and the Cincinnati Cyclones, Jenks has added 22 goals and 22 assists.


Thunder To Relocate D-League 66ers to OKC

News came out today that the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder are relocating their Development League franchise in Tulsa to OKC. The 66ers have spent the last two seasons in the SpiritBank Center in nearby Bixby, Oklahoma. Officials were recently informed that the arena was no longer going to lease the facility to the team, prompting the move. Multiple sources have the Thunder talking to the city to have the team play out of the Cox Convention Center, current home of the Oklahoma City Barons.

The 66ers played two games in the Chesapeake Energy Arena this past season, both Tuesday games at noon. Their first game on February 4th has an attendance listed as 1094, while their second game on March 11th is listed as 11,423. The March 11th game was a “Thunder Field Trip” day with many school-children attending, and setting the NBA D-League record for single-game attendance.

It’s no secret that the NBA and the Thunder run the city, but the big question is if there would be enough support for the D-League team to warrant them being in the same city as the big club. The 66ers averaged around 2000-plus in the 4500-seat SpiritBank Center. The Cox Center can hold up to just over 13,000 when it’s fully opened, but as we’ve seen the past few seasons with the Barons, it’s quite possible they cover up the seating in most of the building to cut down the capacity.

The D-League has a 24-game home schedule for each team, which could set up some interesting scenarios with scheduling the Barons season, but I don’t see there being much difference to previous seasons. The Texas Stars are quiet familiar with that setup in the Cedar Park Center, sharing their building with the D-League Austin Toros.

I can only see this as a good thing though, as it could very well bring a little more exposure to the Barons with more people heading to the Cox Center. I imagine the Barons-centric branding will be taken down or at least minimized, but it could help out the quality of concessions, and other pieces of the arena as well.

No word if the Thunder plan on keeping the 66ers moniker, or if there will be a rebranding of the team. When the Thunder first moved to OKC, many names were rumored including the Marshalls, Wind, and Bison. It’s possible they may break one of those out, or just go a completely different route. Also the Barons and Energy, but those are currently in use.