Happy Holidays from OKC where we hold outdoor practices in 70 degree weather. Omark just loves it! Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All Rights Reserved.
As the world finished their last minute Christmas shopping, completed packing before heading to grandma's house, and stuffed themselves full of Christmas fare, hockey became sparse in the AHL as it did in the NHL. The Barons played a single pre-Christmas game a week ago, and the break for this hockey team couldn't have come at a better moment. The three game losing streak they were clinging to was capped of most recently by back-to-back home losses. These two losses were two of the most humiliating of the year, not in the number of goals scored by opponents, but by the lack of charisma by almost everyone on the ice. Martin Gerber, who'd become the model of consistency in net, was the starting goaltender for the teams first three game losing streak of the season. With a trip to Cedar Park, Texas to visit the Texas Stars, a switch to Jeff Deslauriers was eminent. Even more important was the final start was given to Jeff Deslauriers in preparation for his trip to the Spengler Cup tourney in Switzerland following the Christmas weekend.
In other players news, Linus Omark and Ryan O'Marra continue to be productive with the big club. Last night against Vancounver, Ryan O'Marra scored his first NHL goal (1 goal, 2 assists, in 6 games), and Linus Omark (1 goal, 4 assists, in 7 games) added an assist to his NHL point totals of the season. However, with Ales Hemsky's return coming quickly, it won't be long until one (or both) head back to Oklahoma City to join familiar faces.
While Deslauriers toils away in Switzerland, Bryan Pitton has been recalled from Stockton to backup Gerber for a few weeks.
The American Hockey League All-Star voting continues through January 9th, but they have already named a few guys to the lineup, mainly captains for the game. As mentioned before, Alexandre Giroux was named captain of the Western Conference team. The President of the AHL selects the captains in "recognition of their outstanding service and leadership in the AHL". Alongside Giroux, Shawn Belle, Liam Reddox, Linus Omark, and Colin McDonald might be potential selections.
Starstruck: Barons 3 Stars 4
It seemed like an early Christmas gift. A final game prior to the Christmas break against the struggling Texas Stars. The inevitability of a win quickly faded away. Jeff Deslauriers stopped 25 of 29, Shawn Belle, Gregory Stewart, and Colin McDonald all scored goals, but it wasn't enough. The Stars came out firing, and the Barons came out flat. The Stars scored the first three goals of the game including two in the first period to set the tone for the next two periods, until the Barons decided to wake up in the third. The first two periods alone only saw 11 shots on net for the Barons versus the Stars 18. The final was 4-3 in favor of the Texas Stars who are now positioned fourth in the West Division while the Barons fall to sixth place. However, the difference between the Barons in sixth and the San Antonio Rampage in first is a mere 9 points. It wasn't a pretty game for the Barons who now extend their losing streak to 4 games, and would have the entire week off to prepare for another bout with the Texas Stars
New Year's Resolutions
With such a quiet Barons week now in the books, I've decided to ring in the new year by creating my own Barons New Year's Resolutions. It comes around each December 31st, the time of the year where we reflect on what occurred in the previous year, and resolve to do things a little differently in the new one. So here is a special New Year's Resolution list for all Barons fans to enjoy.
- Make the Playoffs - What better "thank you" could be given to the fans in Edmonton, than by having their farm club finally make the playoffs. It's not too ridiculous to think it could happen with the firepower that this team can put out. However, in order for this to happen the big club has to stay healthy. The absence of Omark and O'Marra has impacted the team over the last 6 games. When Shawn Belle isn't around the team isn't nearly as strong defensively. And what about the goaltenders? I firmly believe that Martin Gerber is the road to success this year, and his stats reflect this. Gerber faired well in his recent call-up to the Oilers, and JDD has yet to prove he can handle himself in the NHL or AHL levels on a consistent basis. Lots of "ifs" in that equation, but the playoffs would solidify the beginnings of success in Oklahoma City.
- Giroux, Reddox, Omark, McDonald All Score 15 - Only Reddox and McDonald have notched 15 goals through Christmas. Giroux has underwhelmed and is nowhere near his 50 or 60 goal pace of the last two seasons. Omark would have been in the 15 goals club had he not been sent to Edmonton. Thus it's safe to assume that in order for the team to succeed, these four will need to have big numbers.
- Alex Plante Has More Fighting Minutes - I'm an Alex Plante fan. He's not mesmerizing on the ice, but he brings a tough edge that this team has missed for about a month. To start the season he led the AHL in fighting minutes, but has slipped to #36 in the league. Does fighting equate "W's"? Of course not, but as the team faces difficult challenges in the West, and the push to the playoffs begins, he'll need to toughen up this young group.
- Jeff Petry Considered For Rookie of the Year - This one might be a stretch, but then again he does have 21 points in 32 games. Don't let his -7 rating fool you. He is the definition of a great teammate, and is comfortable paired with any D man on the team. He's not afraid to shoot, and he's not afraid to hit. Petry ranks #9 at this point in rookie scoring, and that will improve as several rook's in front of him struggled over the last few games.
- Cox Center Attendance Averages at 6,000 - Oklahoma City home game attendance is on the rise. Hovering near 4,000, with some great promotions on the horizon, shooting for an average attendance of 6,000 is lofty for sure. But keep this in mind - except for the Oklahoma City Thunder, local sports get a major downgrade during the winter months. OU/OSU basketball will struggle this year, and while the big ticket goes the way of the NBA, many families will turn to some cheaper outings when their kids get tired of being inside. Giveaways, all-you-can-eat ticket sections, and the elusive $10 after 5pm ticket are golden opportunities for attendance growth.
- Martin Gerber Sets Personal Record - Gerber will have a big finale in which he has a SV% of .945, goals against are less than 40, and his average is 1.6. Is this even possible? Four guys in the AHL have done it up until this point, but with Gerber shouldering the load for this team it might be tough. This would be a personal best kind of year for Gerber, and he's show he's capable of being a great AHL goaltender.
- Richard Petiot, Jake Taylor, Philippe Cornet Score First Goals - Bitten by the injury bug, these three guys have struggled as a result. Have no fear, in the new year they will score their first goals as Barons. They will do so in this order, Petiot, Taylor, Cornet. With some much needed rest over the last week, these three might score in the next month.
December 29th - Oklahoma City Barons vs. San Antonio Rampage
December 31st - Oklahoma City Barons vs. San Antonio Rampage
January 1st - Rockford Ice Hogs vs. Oklahoma City Barons