OKC Barons 2014-15 Estimated Time-On-Ice

With advanced stats a rare find in the minor leagues of American pro hockey, I’ve been working to add what I can to that realm. One of the most interesting stats is Time-On-Ice, in an effort to better see how many prospects are being used during their time in the American Hockey League. The Oklahoma City Barons saw quite a few promising prospects in their five years of playing before moving to Bakersfield, California, and it’s always fun to see how and where a lot of these guys were played.

A lot of the work on estimating TOI was started by Iain Fyffe and I’m happy to continue it. There’s a lot of great insight into the Barons 2014-15 on-ice stats from Lowetide, so be sure to check that out as well. Here, I’ll provide the actual Estimated TOI numbers for the Barons from last season.

One of the tough things about estimating TOI is that a large sample size is usually needed in order to get a number that makes a lot of sense. For this list, I took out some of the players that only played a handful of games and were never on the ice for a goal. In the case of players like Platzer and LaLeggia, even though they were only with the team for a few regular season games, they still had instances of numbers that made a bit of sense.

Leading the way for the centers is Anton Lander, who graduated midway through the season to the NHL. Veteran Jason Williams was consistently on the first line for the Barons last season, and he took up a lot of minutes on the PP as well. Bogdan Yakimov’s average number for the season comes out at around the 15 minute mark, but as I’ve mentioned on Twitter, his ice-time doubled once Lander was called up to the Oilers full-time. Guys like Connor Jones, Jujhar Khaira, and Travis Ewanyk were shuffled among the third and fourth lines all season.

On the left wing, Ryan and Curtis Hamilton took on most of the minutes, and then there’s a large drop to Kale Kessy, who was injured in the first half of the season and missed out on the second half. Kellen Jones and Josh Winquist made the most of their time on the ice throughout the season and look to have promising careers ahead of them.

Andrew Miller made a big splash with the Barons and earned himself some time with Edmonton last season. Matthew Ford was an all-around multi-purpose player for OKC last season, playing on the PP and PK as well. Pitlick and Pakarinen had pretty successful seasons with OKC, before being injured while with Edmonton.

Brad Hunt led the blue liners for most of the season, and ATO Joey LaLeggia got a big push while he was with the team at the end of the season. Oscar Klefbom probably shouldn’t have ever been with OKC last season. Brandon Davidson had a high-minutes role as well, and will probably have the same next season. The rest of the defense will all look to battle it out in training camp this season as they try to climb the depth chart.

2014-2015 AHL Upper Deck Set Now Available

The 2014-2015 Upper Deck AHL Hockey Hobby Box is now available, and by golly it features six up and coming Oklahoma City Barons. Featured in the set are Juhar Khaira, Tyler Pitlick, Anton Lander, Martin Marincin, Laurent Brossoit, and Mitch Moroz. Absent are likely candidates in Bogdan Yakimov and Oscar Klefbom.

The set features a 100 player base set with 50 short prints that fall one per pack. The short prints that feature OKC Barons on them are Brossoit and Moroz, two interesting choices.

Here is the full description on the set that sells for $59.99 via AHLStore.com:

The 2014-15 AHL set by Upper Deck has arrived. Collect current AHL stars and future NHL players in this 100 player base set.

These are joined by another 50 short prints that fall one per pack. Although in shorter supply, SP cards shouldn’t be extremely tough to land compared to the regular base cards.

Autographs fall under two umbrellas. The first are Base Autograph Parallels (1:6 packs) that give a signature spin on the base set. They’re joined by Future Stars Autographs (1:12 packs).

AHL Team Stickers land three per box. Showcasing the league’s squads, there are Logos (1:7), Alternate Logos (1:14) and Vintage Logos (1:40).

Sticking with a similar team-focused theme are Manufactured Logo Patches.

Landing 1:60 packs, they’re the toughest thing to pull from 2014-15 Upper Deck AHL Hockey. A total of 30 cards are in the set.

Each box contains 20 packs of cards with 5 cards in each pack. Upper Deck is an official licensee of the AHL.

Oilers “Transact” Four, AHL Postseason Roster Takes Shape

Photo by Steven Christy

The 2pm trade deadline brought with it not just the end of the player movement season, but also the backstopping of AHL postseason bids. That means that players paper transacted from Edmonton to Oklahoma City today are pieces that the Barons will use when the postseason begins in late April. This is good news, and the list of transacted players for each squad (usually 3-4) is always very interesting.

Here are the players transacted today whom we believe will be with the Barons when the AHL postseason begins:

I’m a bit fuzzy on the minute details here, but I’m under the impression that Ryan Hamilton is subject to waivers, and can be collected by another team (UPDATE: The games-played number is ten not nine. Hamilton is not subject to waivers). There is, however, some screwy things in the CBA that require an advanced degree to understand, so if you can point out how Ramilton gets through, let me know. Likewise, Richard Bachman should fall under the same cloud of suspicion (UPDATE: Bachman was an emergency recall to the Oilers, thus not subject to waivers).

This is a good bunch, and have at points been huge parts of the Barons success in 2014-15. Bachman is monumental. Hamilton a potent scorer. Marincin a sturdy defender. Oesterle a stop-gap blue liner. Yet devoid of players like Anton Lander, Iiro Pakarinen (both injured) or Oscar Klefbom means we are likely done with those three for the remainder of our Barons years in OKC. Bummer.

Martin Marincin Recalled By The Edmonton Oilers

Photo by Steven Christy

Martin Marincin, the bean with the dream, has been recalled by the Edmonton Oilers. I start there because the story of Marty in his final year of an entry level contract is a tale of “will he or won’t he”. That doesn’t mean that Marincin “hasn’t or won’t”, but that there are still a ton of question marks on the defensive prospect that three seasons hasn’t quite answered.

Let’s talk locally. Marincin has been a bit of a squeeky door for the Barons since his demotion from Edmonton. He is back to looking like a rookie with no NHL TOI. Awkward in the corners and in neutral ice, prone to mistakes that shouldn’t happen at this stage in the game, and want to be a tepid puck handler and blue line basher. He’s not soft, but flimsy. He’s not careful, but too cautious. He’s not really good between the ears, but distracted by something. And while the Oklahoma City Barons continue to pave the way to greatness as a team, he is slowly dipping below Davidson, Hunt, and maybe one more on the depth chart. Yikes.

But remember, he is a player that seems to over-achieve when given the spotlight (or at least a dim incandescent flood light). His most recent games with the Oilers (12 to date) haven’t been all that bad, and were certainly better than those of Keith Aulie (and more). His problem now will be to come close or even-to the quality of minutes that Oscar Klefbom is finally creating. By comparison Klefbom and even Brandon Davidson are stepping out of the minor league shadows, and actually paving the way for future success with the team that drafted them.

I think Marincin could get back to where he was as long as he fixes the things going on between his ears. We’ve seen this over the last two seasons happen to Martin Gernat – his head seems elsewhere at times – and don’t think for a moment that Marincin can’t resurrect himself out of the cobwebs of his own mind. He is a talented player, one who has unveiled those talents in the NHL regularly, he just has to put together the physical, and the metaphysical in to a blender, put it on 10, and grind out sweet tasting play.

Recently his AHL numbers point to a fella struggling a bit (for the season he only has 7 points in 27 games), but if you are trying to quantify how good he is based on goals, assists, points or plus/minus, you probably have done something unspeakable. We have watched Marincin’s minutes go down in the last two weeks, and he has been swapped between Dillon Simpson and Martin Gernat. With those two defenders struggling equal to that of Marincin (if not more so) it has been difficult to gauge the true level of success, but let’s just say it has been soggy for some time.

Speaking from the heart, I believe this is Marincin’s shot. The Oilers have nothing to lose beyond draft lotto standings, and neither does Martin. This is the kid, after all, that has Olympic ice time. That played beautifully when the Oilers otherwise were doing the opposite. I am holding out hope on this prospect because I think the Oilers are willing to give him a good spin through the league in the coming weeks. Fingers and toes crossed, my friends.

Things You Get From A Todd Nelson Coached Team

Less than 24 hours after the announcement of Dallas Eakins’ firing, and the promotion of Todd Nelson to interim Oilers coach, I am still yammering on and on about how much I love “Nelly”. With the nostalgia in the review mirror, let’s focus our attention on the here, the now, and potentially the future.

When a new coach is hired the first thing you want to understand is roster management. How will he move players throughout the lineup? How will he pair defenders? Who gets TOI on the PP? The PK? All legitimate questions that will be answered over time. Yet there are marks of Todd Nelson coached teams, and most importantly Todd Nelson coached teams in the same pipeline as the Oilers.

For much of five seasons Nelson has been dealt different versions of rosters. There was year one through three where the top half of the lineup was padded by scorers. This allowed younger players to mature over time within the farm system, but it also buried their minutes. This was fine and dandy when the Oilers were trying to salvage the fiery bus crash that was their AHL affiliated team, but it ran its course. The introduction of a new GM in Craig MacTavish gave way to a different approach on the farm. Vets were inserted as prospects themselves with ice time going more towards younger, developing players. This was seen particularly on defense where the Barons rarely have kept more than an extra defender on the roster, and sometimes only travelling with six. Forwards too got more ice time. In December of 2014 Todd Nelson was able to find a balance of vet scoring and prospect ice time, and it has worked pretty well.

All five seasons of the Nelson Era in Oklahoma City have given us five different teams (practically), but the playoff berths still happened, the team still peaked at the right times, and in the end were vastly better than when they began play in October.

Needless to say, there are some very important things you get from a Todd Nelson coached team. Let’s explore, shall we.

Reliance On The Goaltender

Gerber. Danis. Bachman. Three #1 goaltenders in five seasons of hockey, and all of them remarkably decent in the minors. The Oilers were in need of good #3 tenders, so these moves make sense. It does, however, point to a bit of a luxury for Todd Nelson and his teams. Defenses in the minors get accosted by shot totals. They aren’t all that much higher than in the NHL, but they come in waves as player transactions happen more frequently (mainly in the call-up department). It wasn’t unusual for a guy like Gerber to face 50 shots against Houston. Or for Danis to battle back from 48 against San Antonio. The fact that all three tenders have found great success is a testament to their abilities, and the Oilers plucking them from elsewhere.

With the Oilers desperately needing defensive prospects to pan out (and quickly) the bulk of the defensive responsibility landed on the goaltenders. This might be a problem with current NHLers Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth struggling through the first two months of the season. Likely a product of a bad defense, Nelson is going to look to the netminders to bail him out from time to time, and that really hasn’t happened in 2014.

Strong 1-3-1 Power Play, Offensive Defender At Top

Todd Nelson loves the 1-3-1 power play formation with two strong, great passing wingers along the left and rights boards with a centerman behind the net. A big bulky body in the middle, and an offensive defender at the top. The problem with this power play formation is the liability. If the puck squirts out of the offensive zone there is one guy that has to wrestle the opponent away. That aside the player in Gretzky’s office usually doesn’t drop low until the puck lands there. This means that there might be two in front of the net, one in the middle, two high until the team gets the puck in deep. So we go from a 1-2-2 to a 1-3-1 rather quickly.

This isn’t something that is an abnormality in the National Hockey League, but it does take the right sort of motivation to accomplish. It also takes a good puck mover at the top (he really liked Brad Hunt or Justin Schultz during lockout). Watch for this to eventually seep into the practice rotation of the team.

Hot vs Cold Defensive Pairings

Defensively speaking, there have been times in OKC where things were grimm. We cringed, we wept, we survived. The team has always prided itself upon the foundational truth that no losing streak is too large. In the minutia of lineup management is the hot vs cold defensive pairings that has saved Barons’ bacon on more than one occasion.

What I mean by this is when he might pair Brandon Davidson with Martin Gernat or Jordan Oesterle with Oscar Klefbom. Beyond the top two pairings he really likes to “make up” for weaknesses of one player by compensating with another. This has worked, especially in recent seasons, but takes a special breed of player that is willing to cover the rump of his partner.

Quiet Responsibility

The Edmonton Oilers like to throw around the word “responsibility” and “accountability” a lot these days, and I think maybe fans (me included) struggle to know exactly what that means at times. For Nelson’s Barons there is grace shown when necessary, but also moments where you really have to take ownership for your mistakes. This might mean that you sit a game. This happens mostly with the forwards where (we will get into this shortly) outside of the top two lines, things can change nightly. He quietly arms players with the ability to take their responsibility and turn it into a ever-gorgeous rose. That takes a cautious hand.

He Likes What He Likes

When forward groups are clicking, he isn’t going to change much. When defenders are playing soundly, movement is unncessary. It usually takes Todd Nelson 6-8 games to select his top two lines. He will stick to it come hell or high water. The third and fourth lines usually consist of players drafted or signed to play there. But those same players will move fluidly throughout the third and fourth lines. Gazdic might play left or right wing, and he might be asked to play third or fourth line, for example.

The defenders don’t change often until the team gets in to the thickness of terrible pudding. But again, he likes what he likes.

In summation, Todd Nelson’s future depends on how well he manages the mess that is the Edmonton Oilers. In the remaining 45+ games it would be an amazing feat if he captured 20 wins. That sounds like a giant task, and I’m hopeful for 25+. He is going to have to be entirely flexible, more so now than ever, if he wants this to work. I think success is attainable, but the mountain is high.

Todd Nelson Named Interim Oilers Coach, MacTavish His “Preparer”

After firing Dallas Eakins as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, GM Craig MacTavish turned his attention to naming a replacement. Beginning almost immediately Todd Nelson will wear the interim head coaching badge with Craig MacTavish helping him making the transition.

MacTavish says that he will be helping coach the team “and eventually hand the duties over to Todd.” As for Oklahoma City, Gerry Fleming will remain in Oklahoma City, and will serve as the head coach of the Barons at least for the remainder of this season. This moves Tony Borgford to a more permanent assistant coach behind the bench.

With no contract signed or any plans scheduled beyond the 14-15 season, the announcement of Todd Nelson as the new Oilers head coach likely catches no one off guard. And while this might feel like an interview period for Todd Nelson, he certainly could find some goodness from the bottom of the well, do some nice things in a half-season run, and leave the Oilers in the dust. Interview or not, he still has a piece in this chess game worth playing.

When Dallas Eakins was hired over a year and a half ago it felt like Todd Nelson had been passed over by the “sexy pick” from Toronto. Eakins was indeed a good AHL coach, but Todd Nelson was a better one. Thus it made the passing on a guy within the system a strange move by every stretch of the imagination.

Nonetheless, here we are, having come full circle, and Nelson gets a chance to motivate a defeated squad. You will recall that he coached Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz during the lockout season. Add Brandon Davidson, Oscar Klefbom, Keith Aulie, Marc Arcobello etc., etc. to the list, and you realize that Nelson is familiar with the faces in the locker room. He has coached thirteen players active on the Edmonton Oilers roster at the time of his promotion. That’s exciting news, and gives him the leg up on Eakins even before he starts.

More thoughts on Nelson to come, stay tuned.

Oklahoma City Recall C.J. Ludwig, Team With 6 Defenders

Photo by Steven Christy

There were five defenders in the Oklahoma City Barons lineup as of Monday morning with the recent recall of Brad Hunt (and the furthering NHL seasoning of Brandon Davidson and Oscar Klefbom with the Oilers). With games forthcoming it was inevitable that the Barons would need to recall someone from Bakersfield, and indeed they have selected a candidate.

C.J. Ludwig, who has logged ice time on both AHL and ECHL teams in the Oilers organization, is a very capable minor league defender. Todd Nelson’s use of him as a PKer was masterful, and it perhaps pointed to the Texans maturation as a player.

C.J. Ludwig’s stats through December 15th:

2014-2015 GP G A PTS PIM
Oklahoma City Barons AHL 8 1 1 2 13
Bakersfield Condors ECHL 7 1 5 6 2

A Busy Transaction Weekend For OKC, Wins Good Too

The Oklahoma City Barons played two games sandwiched around the Thanksgiving week, and boy did they shine. After the two-set in Cedar Park, they undressed a dynamo San Antonio Rampage team in the final twenty minutes of play, and thus punched their ticket of awesomeness again. Scoring three straight goals to end the game after being pummeled defensively prior to that, and eventually winning the game, was truly a remarkable turning point for this young OKC club. Todd Nelson, an absolute coaching solider, resurrected his team’s third period scoring, and that might be more important than owning the league’s top power play unit (which has dipped lately).

Yet as December slaps us in the face with an icy chill, so to does the re-assignments and eventual tweaks to the roster.

This weekend a handful of transactions took place, all with OKC Barons implications.

First up is the news on Tyler Pitlick:

The chances are high that Matt Hendricks is still dinged up, and thus Tyler Pitlick gets a recall to Edmonton land. Pitlick remains a winger that Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish enjoy in theory. His three goals and six assists to start the season in fourteen games aren’t mind blowing, but with the forward rotation squashing a bit of momentum for several players, there’s no wondering why Pitlick hasn’t scored more. I digress.

The Pitlick you knew at the beginning of last season is still the Pitlick you know in December of 2014. He has become a good positional winger that is a good angular shot taker, a smart passer, and sturdy on the boards. Defensive responsibility is admirable, but he has a tendency to be a bit vanilla. Oh I like vanilla, it is indeed the base flavor by which I judge all other ice cream shop flavors, but in the end it lacks something. For Pitlick it might be the lack of up charge. He has gotten wiser with age, but I think we have found the ceiling for Pitlick. The question of, “Where does he go from here?” might have gone the way of Chris VandeVelde in that he has run his course as an Oiler. Good player, but low-range wingers aren’t what the squad in Edmonton needs. Right? Or maybe that’s exactly what they need.

He will play in the Oilers lineup tonight with Drasaitl and Perron. Good opportunity for Mr. P.

In return Jesse Joensuu clears waivers, and enters the Todd Nelson forward rotation of doom. No, really, Jesse J will be a good addition to the roster. It is truly remarkable how often the Oilers make odd decisions, and the Barons somehow benefit.

In addition to the forward swaps, Martin Marincin lands softly in Oklahoma City rather than being scratched in the Oilers rotation. Oscar Klefbom remains, and perhaps the Oilers are sacking Marty away for a future trade. He is a solid defensive prospect, even more so than I originally assumed, and he is also probably paving the way for Klefbom to steal his coveted future defender spot – “if he can do it, so can I”.

The Barons hit the road this week, and with a few changes to the lineup. I’m excited to see Marinicn back, Joensuu in, and the Kellan Lain trade to actually pay off (HINT: It won’t).

Barons Prep For A Stars Sandwich

The great cruelty of the AHL schedule is that it is awkwardly imbalanced. Partly due to shared space (NBA or otherwise), but mostly due to geographical location. There are days where you look at the upcoming games, scratch your head, and then eventually learn to embrace the madness.

A fine example of scheduling goofiness is the two games played by the Barons in Cedar Park, Texas this week. Two games, one Wednesday another Friday, make for an odd Thanksgiving sandwich. A US holiday wrapped nicely between two loaves of game action is just so strange. Not only do the Barons spend Thanksgiving on the road, they have to plan, prepare, and be fully poised for an odd stretch during a busy holiday week. Stranger things have happened, but these sorts of things never get easy to digest.

The Stars are fresh off two really bad losses to the San Antonio Rampage who are, well, rampaging these days through the AHL West. Brett Ritchie is still out with an undisclosed lower body injury, but Dallas has returned Curtis McKenzie who is equally as dangerous (if not moreso). Jussi Rynnas and Kevin Henderson seem to be flu free, and back to their regularly scheduled slots in the lineup.

Per Sean Shapiro, here is the expected Stars lineup for tonight:

McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Stransky-Dowling-Glennie
Rallo-Faksa-Henderson
Troock-Smith-Hulak

Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Honka
Valentine-Wrenn

Rynnas

Read Sean’s blog here, you can thank me later.

Oklahoma City is rolling into Thanksgiving week with recent victories over the struggling Charlotte Checkers. They’ve scored a ton of goals against teams not from San Antonio, and this is the hopeful trend moving forward.

Jason Williams is having a whale of a start to his season, as is Iiro Pakarinen. Yet the biggest surprise has been the blossoming of a few defensive players. David Musil, in particular, has shown brightly in pretty good ice times. Oscar Klefbom has continued to be an AHL+ defender, and that’s good news for the Edmonton Oilers and OKC Barons fans who’ve desperately needed him to pan out. Then there’s Brandon Davidson who has met challenge after challenge, and surged forward with poise. He will have a good test in the coming days, and certainly against the burliest Stars forwards.

We will get a good look at the Barons / Oilers recent acquisition, Kellan Lain, who was shoehorned into a Will Acton (and then some) trade. He will likely play center which pushes Khaira out, and perhaps Yakimov on occasion. With Pinizzotto in the NHL these days, a tough guy certainly fills the resume of a “type” of player the Oilers love. So we go blindly into the Lain Era, wondering what the Oilers were thinking other than offloading Acton.

The game is a 7:30 puck drop. See you then, and Go Barons!

14 Games In, OKC Barons On-Ice Stats

In today’s world of advanced stats in hockey, there’s not a lot to be had in the American Hockey League. I’m working to change that. Here’s a look at the Oklahoma City Barons on-ice stats through 14 games. Keeping with the sample size from before (we’ll up it eventually as the season progresses), I only included players that have played five or more games so far.

New to the list are defensemen Brandon Davidson and Brad Hunt, as well as the recently traded-away Will Acton. Despite being a pair for most of their time in OKC, you can tell how much more Hunt is used on the PP as opposed to Davidson (Nelson has used a 4F-1D system on the PP since Hunt arrived), and visa versa with Davidson on the PK. Hunt and Oscar Klefbom are tied overall with a +7 goal differential, but Klefbom has been much more effective at even strength.

Dillon Simpson is now at a -10 differential, but from what I’ve seen, I can’t say that he’s a main contributor to the goals against while he’s been on. While I’ve seen him as a solid defender so far, I’ll have to start keeping a closer eye on him.

Jason Williams leads the forwards with a +13, but is riding that on the Barons top-rated PP unit. Iiro Pakarinen is the only other Baron with a double-digit positive number at +10 and leads the team at even strength with a +4.

Anton Lander is doing it all for the Barons, having been out there for the most PP goals for and PK goals against. Far and away, he’s been on the ice the most of anybody with 42 goal events. While his near 27 minutes TOI is probably inflated, it’s hard to argue with considering how much he has been played.

There was an error with Mitch Moroz’s numbers the last time around, inflating his numbers, and that has since been fixed. Not doing as well as I thought, but not doing horrible either. Just needing more chances to get into the play.

I’ll have another update in a couple weeks, stay tuned.