Who makes the cut? Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.
As the trade deadline trepidation sets in for fans, it's also a reminder that the NHL post season is drawing nigh. Well, for most fans. As the Oilers will miss the playoffs for another season, there is hope. Hope which resembles an Oklahoma City Barons team in the American Hockey League. The team has had a bang-up type of season in the Western Division, owns arguably the two best goaltenders in the minors, nearly the most standing points in the league, five All-Stars, a really strong defense (who knew!), and a handful of future Oilers that are learning to win. Coach Nelson has crafted some amazing game plans and somehow cajoled rookies and vets alike to buy into a system that wins hockey games. For the Oilers fan clinging to some resemblance of post season glory, look no further than your farm team.
Announced yesterday, the American League will present it's clear day rosters to the world on Monday, March 5th at 2:00pm Central Time. What's a clear day roster, you might ask? For those unaware or for those who may have forgotten, here's how the league defines this matter:
Only those players included on a team's Clear Day list are eligible to compete in the remainder of the AHL regular season and in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs, unless emergency conditions arise as a result of recall, injury or suspension. Teams may also add signed junior players or players on amateur tryout contracts, but only once their respective junior or college seasons are complete.
A couple things to note about the rosters that will be intact on March 5th:
- There can be an "in residency" group of players whom can play in the post season IF three or more players on the clear day roster are injured or suspended. Typically this list is small or non-existent. However, it can include players currently injured at the time of the clear day roster. Example: Concussed Alex Plante and Andrew Lord would be eligible, but are not needed on the clear day roster.
- The 22-man roster (2 goaltenders; 20 other players) CAN include NHL players that meet the league's standards in age, and waiver eligibility. This prevents teams from using high-end players in the minor leagues even if their NHL team is no longer in playoff contention.
- Collegiate players nullify their remaining eligibility if they indeed join a pro squad, even in the post season.
- Those junior and college players playing in AHL for the post season run are not required to be placed on the 22 man roster. They are considered "additional" players on ATO or a Amateur Tryout Contract.
In an attempt to beat the Barons to the punch, below you'll find my potential clear day roster as well as the potential first round lineup.
22 Man Clear Day Roster
Absent from the list: Andrew Lord (concussion), Curtis Hamilton, Dan Ringwald, Kirill Tulupov, Ryan Martindale, Cameron Abney , Jeff Petry (doesn't qualify given the league waiver/contract standards), and Anton Lander (he could be sent down, would not need to clear waivers as of yet, but would be tough to squeeze into the lineup having never played in OKC). The absent Hamilton, Ringwald, and Tulupov put the team moves in a pinch. Where do these players go? Do they sit? It's really a tough call, but one that will need to be made.
Here is my starting lineup for game one of the Calder Cup Playoffs:
Linus Omark - Josh Green - Ryan Keller
Magnus Paajarvi - Mark Arcobello - Philippe Cornet
Teemu Hartikainen - Chris VandeVelde - Tyler Pitlick
Triston Grant - Tanner House - Antti Tyrvainen
Alex Plante - Colten Teubert
Bryan Helmer - Kevin Montgomery
Dylan Yeo - Bryan Rodney
There are a couple of likely scenarios that could pan out. If the team were to bring Anton Lander down to the farm, it makes hanging on to key pieces even more difficult. I don't see that happening, but it is certainly a possibility.
And then there's Linus Omark. I've included him on my clear day roster, but there's a big "what if" attached to his situation. If he plays four or more games following the trade deadline, he'll be subject to waivers if the Oilers organization wants him in the minors for the postseason. So they have a choice to make. Do they play him in the NHL this season? He's certainly proven he's worthy and now healthy. Or do they keep him with the Barons and hope he helps in their playoff run? Things could get interesting.
For now, we wait. We wait until the team unveils the 22 man roster. We wait to see which junior players enter the fold. And lost in the excitement is the potentiality for this Barons team to run deep into the playoffs. Granted there is a lot of hockey to be played, but are we looking at a Calder Cup champ in only its second year of existence? We just might. They have the right moving parts and talent to get it done. Now it's all about execution.