The Oklahoma City Barons of a week ago were leading the league in standing points, and seemed to be poised to ride that pony through most of February and in to March. They were tough, competitive nightly, and resilient from behind – basically the stuff of AHL greatness. But recent games have proven that there are a few cracks in the facade.
The team split a pair of home games with the Adirondack Flames over the weekend (Friday and Saturday) and likely should have lost both.
Game one, Friday evening, was a back and forth affair that wielded a soggy 1/7 on the PP for the Barons, but also gave us a fantastic Bogdan Yakimov overtime goal to seal the 4-3 victory. The lineup is rather, well, deflated at best with so many “normal” Barons in the NHL aiding the IR-riddled Edmonton Oilers. The holes are apparent, and nothing short of expected this time of year. For your consideration:
K. Jones-C. Jones-Schaber
Second line left winger, Josh Winquist, was an ECHLer to start the season. Keep that in mind. Jason Williams and Matt Ford are AHL contracted players. Curtis Hamilton and Bogdan Yakimov are the only two players drafted by the Oilers playing in the top six. Yakimov clearly the better prospect at this point. That is sort of bothersome. Yet the team is getting scoring from all four lines. This, no doubt, is a credit to coaching and goaltending. Brossoit is starting to head the right way, but needs to play consistently. But don’t sleep on this Barons defense, which has enough goodness hanging around to keep them relevant through the regular season.
Nonetheless, the Friday game was a record-breaking 12th OT victory. The team is hard to beat down to the finish, but with the weakening of the forward core things could get scary. Yet the Barons will be well-tested through March and early April, and will gain reinforcements to emphasize the broken portions of the lineup.
Saturday night was a similar affair for OKC albeit with a different, but logical outcome. The Barons again scored a goal on the PP, but 1 out of 6. That lone goal was Curtis Hamilton’s eleventh of the season. Sandwiched by Flames goals via Ferland and Reinhart, against a team that is just over .500 causes my eye to twitch. Then again, this is hockey, minor league hockey, and things happen.
The fragility of the Barons isn’t consistent, but it’s consistently there. Meaning that they are prone to mistakes, hard-wired to falter, and pre-conditioned to need heavier scoring / defending leaders like Lander, Pakarinen, Marincin and Klefbom. With all four likely graduating through the end of the NHL season, it is hard to pin point exactly whom is going to take charge with OKC the next month of the season.
Curtis Hamilton seems the likely candidate, and that feels odd given his struggles both to stay healthy and to consistently beat average play. Perhaps the one stand out in this whole thing becomes Bogdan Yakimov who is a guy that really needs a healthy dose of self motivation to gain traction. He seemingly has plateaued, not in numbers, but in progress. Now’s the time to shine.
Defensively the world revolves around Brossoit. He has to be the best he can be, and quite frankly he’s capable. I’ll say this, he is likely the best goaltending prospect the Oilers have had in six seasons. That’s saying something. And if the team can get good play from Hunt (eek!), Davidson, Simpson and Musil, the team will be fine for the duration of the regular season.
Lotta ballgame left, as they say, and things are starting to cook in the AHL as well as the NHL. Enjoy the ride.