by Lisa McRitchie on 04/16/12 at 01:00 AM ET
Another hockey season has come and gone for the Oilers. Another season ending at the bottom of the barrel and with only hope for a successful draft left for fans to cling to. But maybe there is something to the hope of the rebuild, after all the Oklahoma City Barons in only their second season of existence have led the Western Conference of the AHL. While not every player on the Barons’ roster is an Oiler prospect a good number are and now it just remains to be seen if the success can translate to the next level. Playoff success couldn’t hurt though.
Winger Magnus Paajarvi struggled to produce any scoring at the NHL level this season while his fellow sophomores Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle ran the show in Edmonton. Paajarvi would sit out more games in the pressbox than he would suit up for before the Oilers would send him down to OKC but once there Paajarvi made an immediate impact scoring the game winning goal in the shootout. Since then, Paajarvi has been up and down and has had dry spells in both leagues but he finished the regular season well scoring in 2 of the final 3 games. The best part is of course, that the Barons season is not yet over.
Defenceman Martin Marincin’s season with the Regina Pat’s is now long over, but he has been assigned to the Barons and has already registered his first professional point. The Barons were in desperate need of assistance for the final games of the season and Marincin fared well. Now that the Oilers’ season is over, Marincin adds depth going into the playoffs and will better be able to prepare himself for next year when he will likely make the semi-permanent move to Oklahoma City. Once the Oilers’ season was officially over, they were able to re-assign centreman Chris VandeVelde, winger Teemu Hartikainen and defenceman Colten Teubert.
Also adding to the team’s depth is goaltender Tyler Bunz who’s WHL team the Medicine Hat Tigers were swept this week by the Moose Jaw Warriors. Bunz is a long shot to see game time, but working under the AHL goaltender of the year Jann Danis for a few weeks certainly can’t hurt.
The combination of players and skills on the Barons roster has led to a 99 point season and a playoff matchup with the 8th seed Houston Aeros that will kick off Thursday night in Houston. It may seem odd that the Barons will not start the series off at home, but that is where the next three games will be played in this 2-3 best of 5 playoff series. The other possible scenario that may be seen throughout the Calder Cup race is a 2-2-1 home game split but it will remain a best of 5 series.
The Barons could make short work of this first series, the Barons took 7 of the 8 match ups of the regular season against the Aeros only losing once in a shoot out. The Barons also head into this round relatively healthy with only the regular bumps and bruises that all players suffer during the regular season. Regardless of how far the Barons make it in the playoffs, they have had a successful season. But the ultimate goal will always be the Calder.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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