Workin’ For The Weekend (Tuesday Edition): Kiddos Gonna Rampage “Kids In America”

From 1981 to 1993 Kim Wilde was a British pop singer sort of hovering in the background. A pretty good solo performer who knew her way around a stage, and was want to give a pretty solid MTV interview. Her messy blonde hair reminded folks of many female acts of the decade, and truthfully that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The synth pop drum machine style of music seemingly suited her well, and some loved her for it.

When her career fizzled a bit the glamour squad made every attempt to hammer out her rough edges that initially made her enigmatic. In the end it sort of paid off, and her late 80’s to early 90’s moments in adult contemporary were special at times, but mostly forgettable. Suddenly most realized that Wilde’s early career was her sweet spot, and that’s where we will softly land today.

At 21 Kim Wilde would release “Kids In America” as her debut single, and it would quickly propel a career that would give birth to many more none musical endeavors in years to follow.

Ease through the cobwebs of gardening shows, television hosting, and her “second” career just for a moment. Kim Wilde was a pretty infamous synth pop star, and “Kids In America” is exhibit A.

The intro has this thumping bass line that really charges through the entire song until a bubbling synth sound emerges at the chorus. Her voice is almost edgy, convicted really, and the song traps you in with a good hook and a few “Whoa-ew-oohs”.

Lyrically the song is ripped from the three chords and the crunching guitar riffed truth of punk rockers that new wave and synth pop folk often idolized. Growing up requires being tough, and for some it is the only way to get by. The transformation from childhood to adulthood doesn’t happen at a precise time for each person, and therefore “the young ones are going”, “the young ones are growing, we’re the kids in America.”

A school day game on Veterans Day in Oklahoma City is a pretty special event. Mid-morning pucks drops are brutal for AHL teams, but they are a historically important moment for kids, and one that they likely look forward to each year.

I’ve been a fan of these games for years, and partly because it hurls the team into an unfamiliar environment. The games take time to really get going, and you can almost instantly pick out the players who have good “night before” habits and those who don’t. This isn’t me standing, point a finger and shouting, “Ha! He had a rough night” as I nudge my buddy seated next to me. Rather it is about prioritizing time, managing the hours prior to a game, and coming to work prepared. For young AHL players school day games can be a learning experience.

After a Sunday snooze fest against the Rampage where the Barons were nearly shutout, the team from San Antonio visits the Cox Center today on a crisp, almost-winter-like Tuesday morning. The Rampage are currently sitting at .500, and despite coming off a two-goal victory over the Barons, they have gone 4-6 in their last ten games. By comparison the Oklahoma City Barons have rattled off a 5-3-2 run in their first ten. This will be a big challenge on a Tuesday morning for OKC, not just because they are facing the Rampage, but because they have and will play a bunch of hockey this week.

Rocco Grimaldi is back with the Rampage after a stint with the parent club in Florida. His NHL debut began on November 1st, and wasn’t dazzling enough to keep him around. But don’t be fooled by his sudden re-assignment, he is of a great quality in terms of AHL play, and look for him to be stellar.

The Rampage are still without Vincent Trochek. They’ve still scored nearly 40 goals already. They still have Bobby Butler, Mark Mancari, and Shane O’Brien. Dan Ellis and Michael Houser are serviceable goaltenders. So they will compete nightly (or daily).

Oklahoma City had a really good game on Saturday, and still nearly loss. They had a really bad game on Sunday, and were never really in it. As they face the Rampage again the key will be special teams as it tends to be in situations like these.

The PP is amazingly good, and the PK is getting better. The big issue will come in defending the pressure that San Antonio is known for. Hunt-Davidson, and the rest of the lot, will really have to make sure they keep the play in front of them, on the edges of the ice, and quickly back the other direction when need be.

The forward shakeup will likely continue, and we just might get Tyler Pitlick back in a game this week. Yet if not this week, most likely by the weekend.

Bogdan Yakimov needs a big statement game, and this could be his return to glory.

Richard Bachman is the likely candidate to start with Bachman and Brossoit splitting time over the weekend.

Also keep your eyes peeled for Steve Pinizzotto whom might be a bit nicked up.

Luke Gazdic is nearing the end of his fourteen day conditioning stint (they can call him early, not late). This might be the last time we see him. If for some reason he’s a healthy scratch assume that he’s packing for God’s country…Edmonton.

The game can be heard via 1340 The Game, iHeartRadio, Live 365 and AHL Live. Join us for the 10:35 puck drop in OKC.

Workin’ For The Weekend: OKC Hosts Toronto & Then San Antonio “Tempted”

Squeeze is one of those bands hailing from the late 70’s and early 80’s that were far too kitschy to gain major success in the U.S. market. Call us Americans simple, go ahead, but digesting soul music has always been difficult post-60’s. While Hall & Oates steamrolled the competition in the new-soul market during the 80’s, other really intelligent bands existed during the same era, were completely ignored stateside, and that would be a shame.

Indeed, when you think of Squeeze you don’t instantly think of the dynamo lyric and composition tandem of Difford and Tilbrook like you do Hall and Oates, but you certainly should. Their ability to place soul, Motown, and sophistication high on a pedestal without making it entirely cheesy is perhaps their most endearing quality.

The bands biggest single, “Tempted” just might have been a Smokey Robinson classic twenty years prior. Instead it would be the keystone to the Squeeze’s success, and a fine example of their conceptual quality.

In 1981, “Tempted” was a lazy top forty hit that barely made its way to airwaves despite a few bars actually sung by Elvis Costello. Perhaps it felt too familiar, or moreso stale, but the song would be a slow burner in the ears of many for decades to come. Its initial lack of success only makes its latter day success that much more baffling. It’s a great song. Performed with conviction, smart wordplay, and a sing-songy chorus, it is a track, like many in the early 80’s, that would become a cult hit far past its expiration date.

This song is simply about, well, temptation. Wanting more than you have, failing to be content, and regretting it in the end. It is the human condition – wanting what we don’t have – and it works so well in this poetic telling through music.

Like this track, a blue-eyed soul sensation, let’s not be tempted by the fruit of another because eventually truth is discovered.

Tempted by Squeeze on Grooveshark

We, as fans, could certainly ask for more from our Barons. Penalty killing, better consistent defense, fewer penalties, more scoring, but the truth is that this team is good. They are still trying to find their way, but they aren’t looking too shabby in the Western Conference lineup. With a big week ahead, the Barons need to focus on the good stuff, and not be tempted by the bad.

Toronto is a team that is unfamiliar to Oklahoma City, and distance is mostly to blame for that. However, games against the Marlies are almost always entertaining, and always leave you wanting more.

The Marlies are a bunch sitting at .500 as they make their way around the South. A two goal loss to the Stars two nights ago, and a one goal victory against the cranky Rampage were two games that perfectly pegged the Marlies’ season thus far. In the first game they played hard, probably deserved a win, but came up short. The other an awkward officiated game where both teams had more penalties than they cared to admit, yet the Marlies persevered. Sitting at the eighth in the West, but third in the North, the Marlies are a team better than they appear.

Rookie Connor Brown leads in team scoring with eight points in ten games, and usual mainstays Spencer Abbot and Greg McKegg not too far behind. Defensively two rookies also aid in the scoring and chances department, and those fellas to watch are Viktor Loov and Tom Nilsson.

Some okay sophomore goaltending from Christopher Gibson has been dicey at best, but the Marlies recently signed Buckeye (Go Bucks!) Cal Heeter to give Gibson a cushion.

Saturday night’s game begins at 7:00pm in OKC.

On Sunday evening at 4:00pm, the Barons welcome the Rampage back to the Cox Center. Unlike the Marlies, the Rampage are cousins that you know all too well, but somehow are always happy when they leave. Despite having beaten the Barons twice this season, with both games favoring the Rampage by a goal, the team from San Antonio has hit the skids just a bit after a fine start. Last night’s loss to Toronto handed San Antonio its fourth straight loss. Meanwhile the Barons are heading the other direction having earned at least a standing point in five straight games.

The loss of Vincent Trocheck and Rocco Grimaldi after only eight games might have thrown a wrench in the Rampage’s plan, there is no doubt, but they remain a team that puts a ton of pressure on defenses almost nightly. Bobby Butler leads the team with ten points, and he is an offensive gamer. Yet players like Mark Mancari and Brett Olson remain important “steadying” forces.

The Rampage are just behind the Marlies in the Western Conference, but third in the division behind Texas and Oklahoma City. A highly penalized, but quality scoring team, the Rampage can bite when you least expect them. A decent goaltender like Michael Houser or Dan Ellis gets good on a given night, and you might be in trouble.

With both teams being “less than the Barons” early on, expect fireworks. Toronto a distant, rarely seen opponent, and San Antonio a team hungry to win – the weekend might be wild and wooly.

Oklahoma City is without Oscar Klefbom, Keith Aulie and Iiro Pakarinen, both in Edmonton. The loss of Iiro being the most widely interesting, Todd Nelson will concoct a different lineup than he’s had for much of the season. One player doesn’t make a huge difference, but when that player is headstrong in ways that Pakarinen typically can be, he is indeed going to leave a hole.

Will Acton will draw in. Keith Aulie won’t. Acton starting against his former Marlies team is kinda sweet.

Keep your eyes peeled on face-offs and penalty killing – two things that Todd Nelson has worked on in practice.

Workin’ For The Weekend: Wild Weekend In OKC “Thriller”

‘Thriller’, the 1982 follow up to Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’, needs no introduction. Nine singles, four authored by Jackson himself, is all it took to amplify Jackson and his electro-funk-soul-rhythm-pop sound to the top of the charts in the early parts of 1980. Where ‘Off The Wall’ fell short in its contrived, disco ways, ‘Thriller’ would more than make up for.

The title cut from the album of the same name has reached pop legend status. Quincy Jones’ production, the Landis helmed video, and a bit of luck thanks to the emergence of MTV, this is a cut for the ages.

The synth heavy, sound effect layered song is instantly recognizable, and insanely Jackson-ish. It was the rare complete song that fulfilled creepy and poppy simultaneously and that’s a good thing.

The day after Halloween, my costume reeking of Snickers and sweat, “Thriller” seems more appropriate for a game preview than perhaps ever before. After all, these Oklahoma City Barons can thrill, they can also spill, but mostly thrill.

This weekend the Barons host the Iowa Wild – “’cause this is thriller, thriller night.”

Five games in and the Iowa Wild hadn’t won a game. Game one they lost to San Antonio by a single goal. The next game by two goals to the Texas Stars. Then came a two-set with the Milwaukee Admirals where the Wild were outscored eight goals to three. A week later they’d have a soul-crushing moment against the Charlotte Checkers. However, they’ve resurrected themselves in the last week or so. The losing streak ended, and a two game winning streak began. The last two games have been a “real good thing” for the Iowa Wild as they’ve dished out back-to-back multiple goal victories. So the Wild travel to Oklahoma City on Saturday and Sunday to continue their winning ways while the Barons look to nudge themselves over .500.

Jordan Schroeder signed a two-year contract with the Minnesota Wild, and he be earning his paycheck, son. Ten points in seven games is good enough for sixth in the league for him. And he is only beginning to heat up as four of those points have occurred in the last two games. The Wild needed that too, as they struggled early on to score goals in bunches.

With a team filled with nine active rookies, scoring is going to be a problem, but so is defending, goaltending, consistency, and just about everything else. They are hoping to end a bit of the inconsistent streak as they receive three decent defenders from NHL Minnesota in Stu Bickel, Jon Blum, and Justin Faulk – all reassigned in the last three days.

John Curry and Johan Gustafsson are manning the pipes for the Wild these days, and both have a below .900 save percentage. As the team cooks up offensively, and the defense gels, expect one or both to get hot once mid-November early December rolls around.

For Oklahoma City, they get Richard Bachman back. This is huge. Although it comes with a bit of trepidation as Frans Tuohimaa has played excellent minutes with Laurent Brossoit’s back tweaked just a bit.

Luke Gazdic, who had shoulder surgery in April, will suit up for Oklahoma City on a conditioning stint. That likely begins this weekend, and gives Gazdic some good minutes back in the AHL where he has lent his services for 200+ games as a member of the Texas Stars.

Also returning to the Barons is Brandon Davidson after a hernia situation that has kept him from play for the entire month of October.

All three are very interesting additions to the team, and with their induction comes change to the roster.

The official report is that Iiro Pakarinen and Curtis Hamilton will be the healthy scratches tonight, and Richard Bachman will start in net. Sitting Iiro and Curtis is odd, if winning is something you enjoy, but it is more about giving equal minutes to everyone. Let’s hope this experiment doesn’t backfire, as it almost has on a number of occasions.

Tonight’s game is at 7:00pm with the one on Saturday a matinee of sorts at 4:00pm. Won’t you join us?

Workin’ For The Weekend (Wednesday Edition): Stars Again “I Won’t Back Down”

Yawn. Stretch. Reach for your Starbucks Verona. Grab your high-falootin’ reading gadget, and join me for a game day preview from the friendly confines of Halloween week in Oklahoma City.

Sooner or later it was bound to happen. We would eventually use the Tom Petty classic “I Won’t Back Down” in a game preview. It sounds cliche, especially in hockey circles, to talk about standing your ground. The grandiose way in which hockey folk speak of their “warriors” simply demands that goofy statements be made. How many times have you seen Sid or Alex or Steven get pummeled only to have an announcer say something like, “his teammates won’t stand for that,” or “someone has to do something”? Too many times to recall, I’m sure. And when I hear the talking head utter those words, I begin humming Sir Petty.

Released in 1989, “I Won’t Back Down” was Petty’s first solo single off his first solo album. The mid-tempo war cry would have a profound usefulness for years and decades to come. Sports teams, political campaigns, even commercials found the straight forward message immediately profound.

Despite its top twenty success back then, and it’s continued use today, the single remains a good bit of songwriting. Petty, known more for Americana/Jam Band romps, had a really keen ear for a sugary hook. Rumor has it that George Harrison sat in on the recording of the track, and that alone entices me.

The driving guitar low end, the slinky lead guitar riffs, and the wiry vocals of Petty have always done it for me. A rock/pop classic in my mind that would point to a great songwriter, and true 80’s and 90’s gem of a performer.

The Oklahoma City Barons tango with the Texas Stars on Wednesday evening for the fourth time in less than two weeks. Texas won the first outing with OKC roaring back to win the next two. With Travis Morin heating up, the Barons potentially having to make some goaltending decisions, and defenses for both teams starting to challenge competition better, Wednesday’s tilt will be a good one. But who backs down?

The Barons have received scoring from every line as well as a few defenders, and suddenly the season is beginning to take off. Scoring problems were so 2013.

In net Laurent Brossoit took a game and a half to really find his sea legs. Improving minute by minute, and then suffering a back issue, Frans Tuohimaa stepped in and had back-to-back monstrous games. Nearly 100 shots in two games only netted eight goals by the opposition, and it seemed like a goaltending controversy was bubbling to the surface. In all fairness, it has, but two games is such a tiny pool to be excited about. Nonetheless, Brossoit is listed day-to-day, but we now know that Tuohimaa is capable, and his North American debut at the end of the last season wasn’t a fluke. Kid is a talented goaltender.

The number of warm bodies continues to be something that Todd Nelson is trying to manage. Tyler Pitlick is likely one of the forwards healthy scratched on Wednesday, this on the wings of a six point tear in just five games played. It will continue to be a head-scratcher – why the Barons rotate whom they rotate – but we know that there is a method to the madness. Whether that’s the Oilers willing their opinion on the nightly roster or Todd Nelson legitimately squaring up bodies we might never know. We do know, however, that all will play, and all will sit. Guaranteed.

Oscar Klefbom continues to be the defensive standout, and that’s good news for him. He has made the case to be the next defensive call-up, and with the potential return of Brandon Davidson (hernia) soon, suddenly two extra defenders will be available. If Hunt and Klefbom were to switch places, perhaps C.J. Ludwig goes to Bakersfield. Either way, the defense is starting to congele, and remain consistent despite the forwards constantly changing.

Friday night Oklahoma City handed Texas their first and only loss of the season. As the teams have now had a few days to recover from the overtime thriller on Saturday night, each squad looks to gain ground on one another.

Travis Morin had a dazzling, hat-trick on Saturday despite a loss for his team. He has had some help in the scoring department from three standout rookies. Julius Honka, Derek Hulak, and John Klingberg have a combined sixteen points in five games. The success of youth has been an eye-opening experience for the Stars, and a sight to behond. These players are hard to beat, and hard to contain. This makes life difficult for Oklahoma City.

Lineup in practice for Oklahoma City:

Moroz-Lander-Pakarinen
R.Hamilton-Williams-Pitlick-Miller
C.Hamilton-Yakimov-Pinizzotto
Kessy-Ewanyk-Ford-Khaira

Simpson-Oesterle
Klefbom-Gernat
Aulie-Musil-Ludwig

Tuohimaa
Bunz

The game is 7:30 (CT) in Cedar Park, Texas. Check Live 365 (keyword: OKC Barons) for a great live stream of the game, and listen early for Jim and Todd’s wonderful pregame thoughts.

Workin’ For The Weekend: Texas Twice, Sorta Nice “Don’t Believe The Hype”

Oh man, Public Enemy was a scary good outfit. Long before Flavor Flav was a running gag, and Chuck D was doing voice-overs for Grand Theft Auto, PE was one of the most culturally significant, and socially braggadocios hip-hop groups of any decade. The 1980’s had seen the birth of rap music through the lens of previous “passing trends” like disco and such. However, Public Enemy, and their spastic beats, were enunciated by the politically charged content of their lyrics, and this made them great. Chuck D remains one of the greatest lyrical poets of that era, musically or otherwise, and the balance of Flavor Flav’s good-hearted Jerry Lewis jabs continue to be dynamic nearly thirty years later. Despite where the band evolved from in the late-80’s to now (and the controversy that came along with it), there’s no denying the importance of Public Enemy. Go ahead, I dare ya.

Don't Believe the Hype by Public Enemy on Grooveshark

Growing up in the Midwest and eventually the Southwest, Public Enemy wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. But I vividly remember hearing “Don’t Believe The Hype” when I was nine or ten years old, and thus bouncing around my room, microphone to the mirror, like any good-natured elementary kid might be want to do in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Back when radio was fresh, and televised music videos were finally hitting their stride, there was a sense of newness to this group that instantly perked your attention. The accessibility of the trio was rare for a group that challenged folks socially. In short, the significance of this track wouldn’t fully be realized in my mind until much later in life, but that’s the greatness of Public Enemy. They eased you into their thought process via hypnotic, vibrant beats, and dropped the hammer on your brain much later. That’s true genius, and it also stamped legitimacy on PE’s career.

It seems stupid to compare such a legendary and socially important track to a local pro hockey team, but bear with me for a moment.

While the team called the Oklahoma City Barons seemingly struggled out of the gate, losing three straight, let’s peel back the layers of where they are as we near the final weekend of October.

Despite being 29th in overall points the team only has a goal differential of -3. That means the opposition has scored three more goals than the OKC Barons, and that’s not too shabby. By comparison only two or three teams in the bottom ten league-wide have a similar differential. That means games have been close, and scoring hasn’t been too difficult.

The power play is near 30% completion with seventeen attempts on the season. That means that OKC is capitalizing when necessary. And despite the penalty kill being awful, they’ve only allowed eleven short-handed chances. For a young team, both of these accomplishments are welcomed.

Iiro Pakarinen is off to a hot start. Jason Williams and Ryan Hamilton never met a shot they wouldn’t take. Laurent Brossoit seems to be settling. Coach Nelson is tinkering less with defensive pairings. Forward lines are still rotating in and out on a nightly basis. All things considered, don’t believe the hype – it’s not all that bad.

This weekend the Barons play two games. One against the Texas Stars, the other against the Texas Stars. The wrinkle of craziness is that the Friday game is in Oklahoma City, the Saturday game is in Cedar Park. The goofy scheduling of the AHL continues to reveal itself, and the Barons will have to claim some points this weekend to genuinely feel better about the month of October. There’s no denying that.

With the Edmonton Oilers on a two-game win streak it feels as if the farm team is due a good game, even against a heavy opponent like Texas. The Barons are healthy, no injuries to report at the time of this post, and the lines will look similar to what Oklahoma City unfurled in the home opener nearly a week ago.

Meanwhile Texas is healthy (Wrenn and Rallo still on the IR, however), and they look poised to again dominate the West as they have gone unbeaten in three to start the season. Yet they’ve done so by only scoring eight goals, and relying heavily upon good goaltending from Jack Campbell and Jussi Rynnas. Tell me if you have heard this story before. The Stars are good at defending, and keeping chances at bay. This gives team’s like OKC absolute nightmares. So the journey continues…

No news is good news for Oklahoma City. Meaning that a week-full of practice, a pig roast with Todd Nelson, and a few rides on the back of Doug Sauter’s horses can cure what ails a young hockey club. Recently Eric made a trip to visit with Oilers goaltender Tyler Bunz now in Wichita, and in the meantime Laurent Brossoit continues to man the Barons goaltending ship with Frans Tuohimaa his slightly lesser. That’s been a huge story line for Oklahoma City. With Richard Bachman earning NHL dollars these days (filling in for Fasth in Edmonton) we knew that eventually the prospects would take over. That’s not a bad thing, organizationally speaking, but it certainly might be if your a minor league fan. Yet Brossoit has been good, and increasingly better as the games soldier on.

Defensively C.J. Ludwig is set to finally crack the roster this weekend per Todd Nelson’s comments on Monday evening. That’s good, but it also means someone sits. Assume that it is someone on the right as Ludwig is the only right-handed defender the Barons currently have. I’ll go ahead and suggest Musil, although Gernat has been every bit problematic. This doesn’t increase the goodness of the defense, just adds another rested and motivated body. As a whole Jordan Oesterle and Dillon Simpson have played the best minutes to my eye, and that shocks me. With Oscar Klefbom, David Musil, Martin Gernat, and to a less prospect-driven extent Keith Aulie, being the “highly watched” defenders on this team, the fact that two are spoiling the party is really good news. They need to be good, have been, and thus the hope is the others follow suit.

Offensively things seem okay, and comfortable. All four lines are producing scoring and chances and opportunities to not lose. The team has an offensive identity early on, and that’s not necessarily something that came about until January a year ago. This is good news, and I only anticipate great things from the forwards this weekend.

For Texas, Travis Morin continues to be a back-bone of offense while newcomer Julius Honka shows great promise. The Stars do, however, miss the effectiveness of Curtis McKenzie whom is a player not easily replaced. When all is said and done you’ll notice that in three straight wins at least fourteen active roster players have etched a point. That means only three players (excluding goaltenders and the injured Rallo) haven’t earned at least a scoring point in three games. This is important, and it is significant. If the Barons are going to outlast the Stars they’ll need to challenge all four lines defensively, and look to flat out score more goals. Trying to out muscle this team ends badly.

Previous Oklahoma City Barons Roster:

Pakarinen-Williams-Pitlick
Moroz-Lander-Miller
C. Hamilton-Yakimov-Pinizzotto
Kessy-Ewanyk-Ford

Simpson-Oesterle
Klefbom-Gernat
Aulie-Musil

Brossoit/Tuohimaa

Scratched: R. Hamilton, Khaira, Ludwig

The games can be heard via the Barons iHeart radio position on your mobile device dial or via a Live365 search for “OKC Barons”. Both games begin at 7:00pm CT with pregame beginning about fifteen minutes prior.

Workin’ For The Weekend: Oklahoma City Comes Home For Two “I’m Gonna Be Strong”

I was born in 1980. That same year the world discovered Cyndi Lauper before she was Cyndi Lauper. Nowadays, when perusing VH1, you might stumble upon Ms. Lauper every now and again, and think to yourself, “Who is this woman, and what happened to her?”. At 61 years of age she still balances the fine line between art and oddity not only publicly, but privately as well. This mirrors her career spanning nearly 35 years.

To be totally honest, I often find myself singing Lauper tunes. They are heavily crafted to be ear worms of the highest level. For that, the writing and execution of some of Lauper’s greatest hits should truly be lauded. “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”, “She Bop”, “Time After Time”, “True Colors”, and even that crazy ‘Goonies’ song point to the highly skilled writing of a truly smart human being.

Lauper had an usual voice, instantly recognizable, but certainly not common among female performers of the day. While the glam hit full stride in the early 80’s, Lauper was okay being slightly different in both her approach and her demonstration of art. But where did it all begin?

One of my absolute vinyl treasures (one I actually own) is a first printing of the band Blue Angel, and their debut album titled the same. It was 1980, new wave and punk were sort of congealing, and some of the greatest pop-rock was formed. The band was retro in dress, in theme, but certainly in song. The leader of the pack was none other than Cyndi Lauper, a fresh faced girl from Queens, New York.

Long story short, the band only existed for a year or two following poor album sales, a lawsuit from a former manager, and some health issues from Lauper. Continuously lauded for her vocal gymnastics, record labels were craving to sign Cyndi Lauper to a solo deal, which she denied simply because she believed in Blue Angel. After things went south, Lauper waitressed, worked other odd jobs, submitted a solo demo, and the rest is history.

Despite the crash and burn project of Blue Angel, I still find the album as a whole a magical rockabilly journey – a side of Lauper I actually prefer.

Take the torch song, “I’m Gonna Be Strong” for example. Originally record by Frankie Lane in 1963, Lauper simply owns this track, modernizing it in a way that feels fresh, original, and so very 1980’s. The band backing her is simply on point. And despite the majority of the album being written by Lauper herself, this “cover” truly stands out.

It is a song about losing someone or something that you love dearly. The song taps out at under 3:00, but when it ends you wish there were more. The crux of the song really relies on the vocal and instrumental crescendo working hand in hand. By golly they nail it. The hurt, the pain, the recovery that “I’m gonna be strong, And let you go along, And take it like a man” are bruising if not revealing.

The Oklahoma City Barons have played one game. That is all it took to get a fresh look at this year’s squad. In summation, the team is exactly that – fresh. And as they travel along this journey we call an AHL season, we are going to see a constant rotation of players throughout the lineup, until the fresh becomes familiar. Don’t worry about it, instead proclaim “I’m Gonna Be Strong”.

After a 3-2 overtime loss in San Antonio last Saturday evening, the Oklahoma City Barons return home to play the Texas Stars and the same Rampage team over the weekend. The Friday and Saturday schedule is going to make for an exciting two day event as the Oklahoma City Barons celebrate five years as a member of the American Hockey League.

The 1-0-0-0 Texas Stars defeated the Iowa Wild nearly a week ago with goals coming from McKenzie, Dowling, Honka and Klingberg. Some familiar names in there as well as some new, and dangerous ones. Keep in mind that Curtis McKenzie is in Dallas to spot the ailing Val Nichushkin. They are sturdy defensively, strong on the puck, and sometimes surprisingly skilled. This has always made for good interactions with the Oklahoma City Barons, and I suspect that Friday’s opener will be more of the same.

They have always been well coached, and Derek Laxdal of Edmonton Oil Kings fame, is no exception.

Most recent Texas Stars lines/pairs/goalie:

McKenzie-Morin-Ritchie
Glennie-Dowling-Ranford
Stransky-Faksa-Henderson
Troock-Peters-Rallo

Gaunce-Klingberg
Meech-Honka
Fortunus-Jokipakka

Rynnas

The San Antonio Rampage are 2-0-0-0 to start the season, and have done so by scoring six goals, and only allowing four. Their good start is promising, but they still have issues. As we say on Saturday, they have players like Rocco Grimaldi that are speedy, and thus a mountain-sized headache for defensive players. The way you beat them is in the “toughs” department, and I don’t mean fighting. Irro Pakarinen and Ryan Hamilton scored goals by crossing directly in front of the goaltender. This “sweet spot” is where the Barons will need to attack to beat quality goaltenders. This one probably has the same look and feel to the game on Saturday, but hopefully with a better outcome.

Via Nathan Mallet at Running With The Herd, “The Good – Overall team play. Team is fast and relentless on puck pursuit. Defense looks strong and both goalies were very good. The Bad – Alex Petrovic and Jonathan Racine didn’t have a good weekend defensively.”

Most recent San Antonio lines/pairs/goalie:

Yogan-Shore-Grimaldi
Wilson-Trocheck-Butler
McFarland-Olson-Mancari
Brickley-Martindale-Shaw

Zanon-Petrovic
Racine-Kampfer
O’Brien-Weegar

Michael Houser

The game starts at 7:00pm in Bricktown. Get your tickets now!

Workin’ For The Weekend: Oklahoma City at San Antonio “Oblivious”

The 1980’s seem to be a decade easy to cast stones upon, and perhaps rightfully so. The economical “high times” were easily perceived through Westerners eyes as good, and fine, and happy. Meanwhile the rest of the world struggled, and struggled mightily. Often individuals point to music as the great example of the “lessening” of quality. This becomes their keystone argument in a conversation sharply pointed at generalities. That’s fine. Know that I’m not one of these people.

The history lesson aside, take a journey with me towards sophistication and art. The overall softening of the punk scene brought forth pails of scorned individuals looking for creative authenticity. Rock, more than any genre, felt repetitive, stale, and boring. Sure we can point to individuals birthed from such muck and mire (Springsteen, Marley, Jackson), but the “high times” musically felt few and far between even more than it had in previous decades. Fooey!

Take the Scottish alt-rock band Aztec Camera for example. Simple, smart, perhaps a bit high brow – a band spanning six albums, 15 years, and under appreciation. Look no further than the mariachi-like feel of quite possibly their best track, “Oblivious”.

‘Tis a British love song full of hopeful declarations and strange, albeit tongue-in-cheek murder jokes. Now before you bow out on the track, remember that this is a relationship that ringleader Roddy Frame ripped from the diary of his London-ing youth. Phrases like, “I hear your footsteps in the street, It won’t be long before we meet, It’s obvious…” aren’t just sly turns of a phrase, but real life incidents.

Recently the band recreated the entirety of their ‘High Land, Hard Rain’ album, originally released in 1983. Of the song “Oblivious”, Frame has always been embarrassed by its schoolboy approach to love, and honestly was “embarrassed by it for far too long.” In the years after the songs initial release, Frame came to grips with the longing for love. As an older man he found it inspirational – the wild joy, the wide-eyed viewpoint. I think we should too.

“Oblivious” isn’t a song about being oblivious, but rather the complete opposite. It’s about knowing what you want, taking it, being bold, embracing youthful emotions.

Our Barons begin game one of season five tonight against the San Antonio Rampage, a squad that defeated them in regulation in preseason. Crank up the Aztec Camera, Barons fans, we aren’t oblivious…we are excited!

List of available Oklahoma City Barons:

Tyler Pitlick, Matt Ford, Steve Pinizzotto, Iiro Pakarinen, Ryan Hamilton, Curtis Hamilton, Mitch Moroz, Kale Kessy, Jujhar Khaira, Anton Lander, Andrew Miller, Jason Williams, Travis Ewanyk, Bogdan Yakimov, Keith Aulie,

David Musil, Jordan Oesterle, Dillon Simpson, Martin Marincin, Martin Gernat, CJ Ludwig

Richard Bachman
Laurent Brossoit

Most recent Rampage lineup:

Howden-Shore-Grimaldi
Wilson-Trocheck-Butler
McFarland-Olson-Mancari
Brickley-Froese-Shaw

Zanon-Petrovic
Racine-Kampfer
Parlett-Weegar

Dan Ellis

Early scouting report on San Antonio is they are a bit more of a finesse club, and are going to have to muscle up against opponents to survive. Last night’s victory against the Iowa Wild was a calm affair for Dan Ellis (he let in two), but faced an onslaught in the final five minutes. San Antonio wrapped up the evening with a one-goal victory to start the season. Oh, and Ryan Martindale was a healthy scratch.

The Barons are healthy out of camp, carrying two tenders, and the weight of promise on their shoulders. Anxious to see an opening night roster, followed by the major changes it takes when the team plays a week later.

Let’s go Barons!

Oklahoma City Preseason Game Two In San Antonio

The second game in two days for the Oklahoma City Barons means that the legs will need to be motoring. The game, scheduled to begin at 3:00 Central, is the first game of the early season for a Rampage team that has been nearly reminiscent of their parent club, the Florida Panthers. But as is the case each and every AHL season, new faces, new leaders, new directions – all teams seemingly start at square one. So the nearly three hour drive from Cedar Park over to Houston is now complete, and the Barons attempt to win their second game in (less than) two days.

Expect a similar lineup to the one we saw last night, but with a swap of goaltenders. Brossoit played 2/3 of last night’s game with Bunz rounding things out nicely. Expect the same from Ty Rimmer and Frans Tuohimaa. Also look for Kevin Noble of St. Charles (CHL) and Gregor Hanson of Allen (CHL) to dress.

Richard Bachman has cleared waivers, and will join the team back in Oklahoma City.

The Rampage added six key players in the last 24 hours. Rocco Grimaldi, Drew Shore, Vincent Trocheck, Alex Petrovic and Mackenzie Weegar are names most Barons fans have come to know and sorta despise (save for noob Weegar). No word on if they will be in attendance for the game or not. Regardless, Barons vs. Rampage games are always entertaining. We also will get a good look at one of the two opponents the Barons will face in the month of October to start the season.

Game starts at 3:00 CT, is on the 2.0 radio broadcast of 1340 The Game, and is available via iHeart Radio app.

Let’s Go Barons!

Oklahoma City Barons Vs. Texas Stars: Playoff Preview

At the ripe age of 15, I boarded a pale white bus in South West Texas, to traverse the pristine, unfettered waters of the river simply known by locals as “The Devils”. The bus ride itself was an adventure. You felt the weight of each bump as we careened side to side to avoid each ditch-like hole in the ground. The driver, a man in his 50’s, sang classic country tunes to himself, but was willing to share with the rest of the touristico on the 30 passenger, dilapidated school bus.

The ride eventually came to a halt as we reached a portion of Devils River. The river itself, only 90 miles long, has often been considered one of the mightiest in Texas for its rugged, unforgiving tendencies. Indeed, as a 15 year old high school student the thought of taking a canoe trip down its relentless being had me exhilarated. The goal was simple. Grab a thin boat, two oars, a lunch pail and canister of water, and begin the adventure of a lifetime.

Float trips were nothing new to me. In the span of three years I endured nearly a dozen of them from the White River in Arkansas to the Red River in Southern Oklahoma, I really enjoyed the scenic tour as God intended the world to be viewed. One of the things that I learned, despite my awkward teen years being filled with crippling shyness, was that these trips were better experienced with someone. Not only for the enjoyment of togetherness, but rather for safety. I would soon find out just how important my fellow paddler would be.

As we began the trip, we were told by our guide that we were 100% free to roam the river how we would see fit. We were given one very simple rule – “Don’t get out of the boat” – we all nodded, and we were off. Our guide, who was probably only 3 or 4 years older than myself, paddled ahead of us and within 10 minutes was completely gone from our sight. As time wore on, in the first 10 miles or so, it was just one canoe and the mighty river. Alone in a rough and tumble wilderness, pristine water beneath, the echo of each paddle stroke bouncing off the rock faces that jetted from the earth like sugar stick candy – it was mesmerizing. My paddling companion and I didn’t speak for nearly and hour and a half as we viewed the spectacle of the waters edge, the wildlife, the lack of human domination. THIS was life along the Devil’s River, the portion of the Rio Grande that eventually led to Del Rio.

A brief stop for lunch catapulted my curiosity. We paddled our canoe to the edge of the river, found an embankment to waddle up, and immediately broke rule number one given to us by our guide – don’t get out of your boat. As we stepped foot on the muddy clay we felt like explorers making our presence known in this new world. A handful of large lizards were baking in the sun on a nearby log as we unpackaged our peanut butter sandwiches and Cool Ranch Doritos. As I took a long, bitingly cold drink from my steel canister I had a thought. Directly across from where we enjoyed a meal fit for a king was a 50 foot rock face with what seemed like a path worn over time by adventurious souls like myself. The path, just wide enough for a goat, started near the bottom and gently weaved its way side to side up the large hunk of God-made earth. I’m not sure if I said it out loud or if we were just on the same wave length, but my companion and I immediately nudged our canoe off the embankment, and landed at the bottom of the rock face where we would make our descent towards the 50 foot heights.

I manned up, climbed to the top, and immediately peered over the edge. The clarity of the water was remarkable. At only about 25 feet deep, the water beckoned me – “Jump, Jump”. Then I heard my friend at the bottom echo that sentiment – “Jump, Jump”. I paused momentarily, saw the face of my guide like a vision that whispered in my ear, I took a breath, I jumped. As my legs hit the water, my body reacting to the crisp, cold feeling of the water, I plummeted to the bottom rather quickly. 50 feet was no joke. I came close to hitting the bottom of the riverbed so I feverishly kicked my legs as I pushed my way to the surface. No problem, I thought.

I emerged, took a deep, harrowing breath, and doggie paddled for about 20 feet. I soon realized that the current was much swifter than I had expected, and a fight had begun. My legs were challenged by the cold and by the swift moving rapids that seemed so calm when I was in the confines of the boat. As I started to struggle to get back to the canoe I knew that the safest bet here was to get to the top of the water. I somehow managed to find the strength to kick and swing my arms towards the bottom of the rock face where our canoe had been nestled for only 10 minutes. For each stroke I took I’d move a half foot towards the boat, but 3 feet down river. I was fighting a losing battle. As my muscles seized, and my breathing became shallow I became fearful of what might happen if I didn’t make it back across.

They say your life flashes before your eyes in moments like this, but quite honestly, all I could think of is “How stupid am I?” or rather “What an awful way to go out!” I often think back to this time in my life and realize the errors of my ways, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I immediately remember that near-death moment, and count myself lucky.

Somehow, some way, and by some luck I found myself clinging to a tree branch, the only one for 500 yards in either direction, as I attempted to refill my lungs with air. As I turned to look back upstream, in the direction of the canoe, my paddling friend was nowhere to be found. That’s when I saw him take the plunge. I wasn’t cheering for him to jump, as he had done me, but rather I knew the struggle that was forthcoming. I knew the fear, the pain, the danger. So I awaited his journey to end as mine did, stuck to a broken tree limb 200 yards from where we both entered the water.

Indeed, he struggled. I watched him go through the entire range of emotions that I did as he struggled to connect his muscle movements to what was raging through his synapses. As he bobbed up and down in the water I yelled at him to push for the tree, and he did. After a solid minute of quiet he looked at me, with no emotion, and simply said, “Why did we get out of the boat?.” Agreed.

As we planned our escape from our glorious tree branch we contemplated the cost of going back in the “The Devil’s” waters. The swim sideways, downstream was nearly insurmountable, and thus the thought of going upstream, in our worn-out condition, seemed impossible. Around the bend of the river, where we had left our canoe, another paddler emerged. We yelled, he secured our canoe to his, and he saved our weary 15 year old bodies. We were grateful for his assistance, both knowing we might have been stuck on that branch for days, and we hopped back into our vessel. Before the man loosened his canoe from ours, he turned, and said something that I’ll never forget – “Don’t get out of the boat”.

Rules, not made to be broken, often times protect us from ourselves. Like me, 15 years old and making a decision that nearly cost me my life, we have to learn these things the hard way. At the time, it seemed that the rule was a suggestion, not even a guideline, but something to consider rather than an actual cold hard fact. Had I adhered to this protective rule while on the Devil’s River I wouldn’t have spent the next 30 or so miles post-rock-jump throwing up over the side of the boat as a result of dehydration and nerves. The rules – they exist for a reason.

Rules. Todd Nelson, the coach of the Oklahoma City Barons, is a stickler for them. Don’t let his laid back charm fool you, he knows that the teams that he coaches are bound by unchangeable rules that keep them above the water line. Without them, the challenge to stay alive isn’t even worth considering.

His rules are simple. Play the system. Make few mistakes. Trust that both will qualify your successfulness. That seems like a minimalist approach to coaching the game of hockey, but through its zen-like mantra these rules alleviate the struggle.

Who on God’s green earth could have predicted that in late April of 2014, nearly 140 transactions, 9 goaltenders later that Todd Nelson would have a Calder Cup postseason team? Not me. But then again I know the rules. I have watched them work beautifully for three seasons prior. I fully embrace them, expect them, and plan on them working. And this is where we are right here, right now, seeing the Barons barely making the playoffs, and facing off against the Texas Stars in the first round of the AHL postseason.

Like the “Devil’s River”, the Texas Stars are an unforgiving lot. They are tough defensively, potent offensively, and net strong each and every night. They are rough, and strong, and capable of surprising even the most formidable of opponents. No team is too large, too big, too tough, too powerful for the Stars to overtake.

Startistically speaking, they are the best team in the AHL this season, and boy are they dangerous of late. 8-1-0-1 in their last ten games leading up to the postseason, they are a squad that own 3 of the top 20 point scorers in the league (with only two of them currently on the team; Sceviour playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Dallas).

They have two of the best goaltenders in Cristopher Nilstorp and Jack Campbell. They have a defense that doesn’t score a whole bunch, but does exactly what you want them to do, and that’s protect their blue line. Names like Fortunas, Gaunce, Oleksiak keep the defensive stoutness together on a nightly basis. Their scheme is simple, yet effective, and that’s to keep forwards out of their zone. They are a force.

Historically speaking the Oklahoma City Barons and Texas Stars have matched up fairly well. From an OKC perspective the last four years have seen the Barons go 24-15-2-3 against Texas. That’s a good number, but it’s not dominant by any stretch of the imagination.

You’ll recall that only a season ago the tables were turned, and it was the Oklahoma City Barons that were the league-wide force to be reckoned with. A second round meeting of the two teams ended with OKC giving them very little chance of surviving in an eventual 4-1 series victory en route to the Western Conference Finals. One game from the Calder Cup Finals.

The saving grace, if you want to call it that, for the Oklahoma City Barons against this year’s Texas Stars is that Dallas has made the playoffs. This doesn’t mean that the Barons have the edge even in a quick five game series that starts in OKC. No, the Texas Stars have won consistently regardless of the positioning of the Dallas Stars, but it at least alleviates the blow just a bit.

Travis Morin. Curtis McKenzie. Justin Dowling. Brett Ritchie. Scott Glennie. The Stars are littered with players with incredible scoring skills. Meanwhile Oklahoma City is the complete opposite. They find their success in playing “gutted” hockey that relies less on skill and more on challenging their opponent to beat them. In the end, the Barons are going to have to really challenge the Stars in every possible sense of the word.

Here is the current roster for the Stars:

Notice that Colton Sceviour and Chris Mueller are absent from the current roster. They are in Dallas playing against the Anaheim Ducks. Likewise, defenseman Patrick Nemeth is in the same boat.

Here is the current roster for the Barons:

The Barons have 22 forwards, the Stars 16. The Barons have 10 defenders, the Stars 8. The depth for Oklahoma City is obviously much greater, but sometimes quantity isn’t quality, and that pretty much explains this situation perfectly.

Oklahoma City is a youthful squad with not a ton of experience, and that might be the deciding factor in this series. Texas is built for speed and strength, and the young Barons might be left in shambles as a result.

With the first game being this Wednesday (4/23) it is absolutely critical that the Barons win at least one of the games in the 2-3 best of five series. OKC will have to overcome the young tendencies in their squad, and rely heavily on former Stars goaltender, Richard Bachman, to save their bacon. Anton Lander will need to continue to emerge as the scoring leader and captain while Ben Eager and Steve Pinizzotto will need to contribute without costing their squad. It is going to be a battle.

In summation, this is going to be one heckuva series that is quick and dirty. Do the Barons survive? I doubt it. But don’t completely ignore Todd Nelson coached teams, and his rules, because they’ve surprised us before. Expect the unexpected, just don’t get out of the boat.

Playoff Schedule:

Western Conference Quarterfinals – Series “E” (best-of-5)
1-Texas Stars vs. 8-Oklahoma City Barons

Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 23 – Texas at Oklahoma City, 7:00
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 26 – Texas at Oklahoma City, 8:00
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 30 – Oklahoma City at Texas, 7:30
*Game 4 – Fri., May 2 – Oklahoma City at Texas, 7:30
*Game 5 – Sat., May 3 – Oklahoma City at Texas, 7:00

Oklahoma City Need “2” Against Hamilton, Khaira & Chase Ready For Debut

After losing in back to back shootouts over the weekend to the Charlotte Checkers, the Oklahoma City Barons return home for three straight games, and eyeball a chance at cutting down the lead in the playoff chase. Eight games remain on the schedule, with only two on the road. That means the Barons desperately need two points tonight against Hamilton before galloping back into the loving arms of the Charlotte Checkers for another series this weekend.

With the Hamilton game comes a bit of a roster change on the farm. Wait, scratch that, how about a roster overhaul. Two new defenders, and four new forwards since March ended and April began. Josh Winquist, Jujhar Khaira, Mitch Holmberg, and Greg Chase have been added to the forward core. Graeme Craig and Jordan Oesterle to the defense. Add to the mix Frans Tuohima as the back-up tender to Richard Bachman, you welcome a roster full of future Oilers prospects. That’s quite exciting regardless of the dire straits that the Barons playoff hopes seemingly find themselves in at the moment.

Yesterday I mentioned the potential defensive pairs. Today I’ll try to navigate the the channels of providing an offensive lineup. This will be fun.

Reported by the team following practice today, Jujhar Khaira and Greg Chase are locks for the lineup tonight. The others might squeeze in after a few more practices. Yet don’t rule them out, we might see at least one more in the lineup.

Also worth mentioning is the recall of Steve Pinizzotto to the Edmonton Oilers. This is an odd move, but it allows the youngsters to squeeze in to a spot where there normally wouldn’t be one. It also perhaps points out another knee injury situation for Tyler Pitlick. Ongoing knee issues doesn’t bode well for his future inside the Oilers organization. Fingers crossed.

With Will Acton and Steve Pinizzotto absent from the farm, that leaves Ben Eager with two missing linemates. Do the Barons just insert Khaira and Chase into center and left wing? Perhaps.

The most recent Oklahoma City Barons forward lines looked like this:

Fyten-Stretch-A. Miller
Eager-Acton-Pinizzotto
Combs-Lavoie-Ford
Curtis Hamilton-Ewanyk-G. Miller

2/3rds of the second line are now with the Edmonton Oilers. I like Eager on that left wing, but I doubt Todd Nelson keeps him there if Khaira and Chase play on the same line. I like A Combs-Khaira-Chase line on the second. That’s three pretty solid skillful players. Combs, for the record, is a bit Gumby-like, but he has speed and really good hands. That might be a good threesome.

You’ll recall that Kale Kessy is dinged up so Ewanyk and Hamilton will probably stay at the bottom with Miller. That leaves a left wing hole on the third line if Combs moves up. Fill it with Ben Eager. Lavoie and Ford have both provided offense recently, and that’s really good news. If Stretch can reel in some good maneuvers and play making on the top line, Andrew Miller and Austin Fyten can score some goals. Could we see this?

Fyten-Stretch-Miller
Combs-Khaira-Chase
Eager-Lavoie-Ford
Hamilton-Ewanyk-Miller

This could make for an interesting night of hockey. We’ve not had a potentially electrifying offense in months. This is the most promising a forward group as we’ve seen. I like the mix of young / old / burly / skill. And keep in mind, Todd Nelson is a magician with lineups. This could get interesting.

The Hamilton Bulldogs are .500 in their last ten games despite being third to last in the Western Conference. That span included wins against Milwaukee and Abbotsford, and a few against the tail-spinning San Antonio Rampage. Yet they’ve also been defeated by the Texas Stars, and that same Abbotsford Heat team. They are a team geographically located near the East so they face a lot of Eastern Conference opponents which is an issue when it comes to standings, and the league pretends that it isn’t. Nonetheless, they are a team that the Barons could overlook.

Matrin St. Pierre continues to score points (44 on the season) while rookie forward, Sven Andrighetto is inching closer to the 40+ point club in the coming days. They are a team that doesn’t score a ton of goals, but they don’t give up a bunch either. On a good night they’ll beat a quality opponent by two. On a bad night, they’ll be shutout 5-0.

Like the Barons, the Bulldogs have picked up a few ATO’s in recent hours. Connor Crisps and Brady Vail (both from OHL) are likely to play, and for them the world is their oyster.

Devan Dubnyk, Dustin Tokarski, and Robert Mayer will be the opposing goaltenders with Tokarski shouldering the load mighty fine. With Ricahrd Bachman getting better support from two of the best scoring defenders in the league – Brad Hunt and Taylor Fedun – he has had room to breathe lately. The battle in net will be key down the stretch.

The puck drops in OKC around 7pm with a chance of tornado-like activity outside. Tune in via the radio or the interwebz, this one will be interesting.