Predicting the outcome of a season is an exercise in frivolity. And this, my dear readers, is what makes sports so enjoyable. The unknown outcome is what pushes us to be better fans and better students of the game. Imagine sports radio, ESPN talking heads, or even SBNation if we all had Biff Tannen's Sports Almanac - boring indeed.
For the sake of argument, as well as some interesting discussion, the roundtable has taken some time off from their busy schedules to do two things today. First, they'll wax poetic about an AHL franchise in its second year of existence. Riding a first round exit of the Calder Cup playoffs, the Barons look to reengage themselves into post season play. But first, they'll have to trek through the murky waters of the Western Conference. Second, the roundtable will take an insightful look at the Oilers. Do they dare finish last in three consecutive season?
So the questioning and answering begins. Where do the Barons and Oilers finish in the standings this season?
The roundtable today consists of Patricia, who's contributions to the blogging world at Artfulpuck are always entertaining; Scott, purveyor of the great minor league Oilers site OilFieldHockey.com; season ticket holder, photographer, and Barons chronicler, Candace who posts at A New Ice Age; Evan, the featured prospect writer for the notorious OilersJambalaya; Avid hockey fan, and Star Wars lover Jonathan; and, of course, your two lovable Copper & Blue writers, Neal and Eric.
Patricia: Given the talent that will be coming down from Edmonton, the 2011-2012 season for the OKC Barons should be very good, and I expect them to once again make the playoffs.
As for the Edmonton Oilers, they are still "rebuilding" and will need more time to develop their young players. (As I wrote that I had this odd sense of déjà vu.) They have a number of problems that require solutions if they want to move up from their 30th ranking - now is the time to solve their goaltending situation, and build up their defense. If injuries do not plague them, they could well move up slightly in the rankings, but they are up against some very tough teams in the West.
Scott: Depending on the Oilers injury situation, could see the Barons end up 2nd or 3rd in the division.
Candace:Ooooh....I consulted with my husband on this one, as I have a hard time not thinking with my heart most times. He said the Barons won't make the playoffs. I'll say - realistically - that we have a chance to finish 8th in the West and squeak in...only if everything works together for the greater good. If one small thing goes wrong, (i.e. too many injuries in Edmonton resulting in call-ups, lack of a goal scoring front-runner or scoring by committee, or insufficient goaltending), I look for his prediction to be more accurate.
As for the Oilers, I'll say they pull themselves out of the cellar a bit...not much, but still something. I feel they have the ability to finish 12th-13th in the Western Conference...if they can keep the injury bug at bay.
Evan: I think the Barons should be able to compete for a late playoff opportunity again. Depth in scoring will be a struggle if Hartikanen and Lander get called up to the NHL earlier due to injuries. Oilers? Not their year to make playoffs yet. 20th in NHL
Jonathan: It is hard to say where the Barons will finish, we learned last year that you can stack an AHL team all you want but if chemistry doesn't develop then the team will be streaky. We could have great talent or mediocre talent but the team needs to gel, and if they gel we could see a deep playoff run, but without the big talent from last year, if we don't gel, it could be a rough year. As for the Oilers, I think they'll do well but I think the big club had a similar problem. They had such a strong group of talent last year and the chemistry got weak. They are still in a rebuild there is no doubt about that but I think the Oilers and the Avalanche will really take the Western Conference by surprise. Being and Avalanche fan, I hope that the Avs can create a bigger surprise, but there is no way the Oilers and Avs are 30th and 29th this season. No, I think you could even see both of them squeeze into the first round and shock everyone.
Eric: Houston looks to be the toughest opponent within the division, and I won't rule out Texas either. If they aren't hurt too badly with call-ups, the Barons will be competing for the division title, and the conference title. I'm going to go with them winning the division on the final weekend, and 2nd in the conference to Chicago. The Oilers, I'll go a little bit higher than most I've seen, and put them 11th in the conference, with (in no order) Calgary, Colorado, Phoenix, and St. Louis behind them.
Neal: It will be another tough season for the Barons. I know it's a non-answer, but with the Oilers injury history of late, the success of the Barons will be determined by the health of the parent club. I'm hopeful that the goaltending situation in the minors is steady enough that protecting the victory won't be a problem. The real issue will be learning to score early. I'm convinced if they can get the lead, they can keep it. Nonetheless, the teams from Texas will be the Barons heartbreakers again. I've got Houston, Texas, and San Antonio ahead of the Barons, but followed by Abbotsford. I sincerely believe they'll make the playoffs, but probably by a thin margin.
As for our beloved Oilers, I think they are a better club than last year. A smidge more seasoned, but better than maybe three or four teams in the West. Namely Phoenix, Colorado, Columbus, and Calgary. See what you've done to me postive Oilers fans?!
Join us tomorrow as we end our Barons roundtable on a nostalgic note as we give our quick-fire thoughts and reviews on the first season of OKC Barons hockey.