Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall separated in Oklahoma

Jonathan Willis
December 13 2012 07:45AM

With the Oklahoma City Barons sliding down the AHL standings – the team currently sits ninth in the Western Conference and has lost five straight games – head coach Todd Nelson has opted to shuffle the lines. Not only has he broken up the “Nordic Line” of Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander and Magnus Paajarvi, but he’s separated NHL stars Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

Via NewsOK, the following are the new line combinations:

It’s a decidedly interesting setup.

The top line will continue to feature Jordan Eberle and Mark Arcobello. Arcobello is a quality AHL player and one of the few guys who has been doing a good job of providing secondary scoring; despite his size (listed at 5’9”, 165 lbs) he was a logical candidate to take the top centre role after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left for the World Juniors. The addition of Curtis Hamilton, who has had what can charitably be described as a middling season (19GP – 2G- 1A – 3PTS, -6), represents a major opportunity for the struggling prospect. Hamilton’s been a decent defensive option; now it’s time to see if he can be a complementary offensive player.

The second line keeps the pairing of Lander and Paajarvi together, and sticking Hall in there likely won’t hurt anything. For the most part this line has done a decent job of carrying the play but had difficulty converting; Hall’s presence will likely help alleviate that problem.

Teemu Hartikainen has enjoyed an excellent season so far, and on this line he’s going to be the go-to offensive player. Josh Green is highly capable but is only three games removed from an injury that kept him out of the lineup for seven weeks. Philippe Cornet has scored in the past, and in Stockton this year but has so far been a non-factor in AHL play.

The fourth line might be the most interesting of the bunch. Dane Byers and Chris VandeVelde have been Nelson’s go-to guys defensively, with both playing a significant role on the penalty kill and VandeVelde the centre of choice for late game defensive-zone draws. Pitlick, in contrast, has mostly been placed on scoring lines (his offensive development being listed as a priority by Nelson early in the year). Pitlick hasn’t responded with offense. Beyond that, his physical game has been questioned by the coach – asked by Bob Stauffer on Monday about Curtis Hamilton’s physical game, Nelson responded critically but also volunteered Pitlick as a guy who had to “use [his] body more consistently.” It’s not hard to read this demotion as a way of pushing for exactly that.

In a nutshell, as I see it: this is a glorious and surprising opportunity for Hamilton, a chance for a decent second line to start capitalizing more on its chances, a real test of Teemu Hartikainen, and a clear message to Tyler Pitlick. Beyond all that, it’s an attempt to spread out the scoring on a team that has been top-heavy in that department virtually since the season’s opening game.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Oil Is My Blood
December 13 2012, 07:49AM
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I could throw in a fist comment, but I won't

Seems like Barons with Nelson is becoming the Oilers with MacT. When things get tough, blend, blend, blend

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#2 Eulers
December 13 2012, 07:50AM
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Noooooooooooooooooooo....

Say it ain't sooooooooooooooo...

Maybe some of that scoring touch will rub off on the rest of the troupe, which last I checked, badly needs to contribute. I had hope that OKC would be more dominant this year given their past success. Their mediocre outcomes are real cause for concern if and when the NHL gets going.

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#3 McCreeper
December 13 2012, 08:16AM
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At some point this team needs to learn to play with out Hall/Eberle/Hopkins/Shultz. Those are some big shoes to fill. The key AHL players not named in this post need to step it up big time.

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#4 dawgbone
December 13 2012, 08:27AM
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Oil Is My Blood wrote:

I could throw in a fist comment, but I won't

Seems like Barons with Nelson is becoming the Oilers with MacT. When things get tough, blend, blend, blend

I know this might be a revelation, but all teams do this when they struggle.

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#5 book¡e
December 13 2012, 09:23AM
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So, just to be clear, the struggles of the OKC Barons are MacT's fault - right?

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#6 judgedrude
December 13 2012, 09:39AM
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I never knew Arcobello was so small. When I watched the Barons/Marlies playoff game last spring, he didn't look out of place physically and seemed dangerous more often than not. He seemed to "stir the drink".

Paarjarvi stood out too....crosses the line and a soft wrister from the top of the circle.

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#8 adamjames
December 13 2012, 10:02AM
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The title of this post is misleading, as I feared trouble at home.. Possibly the big boy beds no longer being side by side. Thank good that isn't the case!

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#9 Marcus
December 13 2012, 10:12AM
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First post. Love the site, tired of just reading.

Been heavily following the Kids and other Barons this year. Like many, disappointed not to see more TV coverage. Sportsnet just announced 6 more games for December. Flames, Jets, Habs, Leafs, and Canucks fans will be happy. Us...not so much. Thanks a lot Sportsnet.

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#10 Fresh Mess
December 13 2012, 10:25AM
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I would still like to see Hall at C. This would seem like a good time, unless there is concern his shoulder is not strong enough to take face offs.

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#11 RyanCoke
December 13 2012, 10:52AM
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Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off...

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#12 dessert1111
December 13 2012, 11:32AM
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RyanCoke wrote:

Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off...

...but it's better if you do?

I like the new lines. Interested to see how the B-level prospects respond. So far I've thought that Hamilton hasn't improved but hasn't been set back, while Pitlick is not playing as well as he needs to. Rooting for some multi-point nights out of Arcobello with this shot with the first line.

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#13 Oiler Al
December 13 2012, 11:46AM
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Hamilton, Hartikeinan,Pitlick, Paajarvi, Ladner are here because of Stu MacGregors hand.It might be a bit early , but some of these guys might fail lines 3 and 4, never mind top 6 at the NHL level. Worst of all none of the above can rightfully hang the " GRIT" sign above their locker. These are all big boys who play soft, regardless of their skills.

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#14 BigDawg
December 13 2012, 12:28PM
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Cant believe Hall isnt being considered at C.... is now not the perfect time???

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#15 RexLibris
December 13 2012, 12:33PM
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So how long does Hamilton get on the 1st line?

Four games? Eight? I know much of this depends on how well he performs, but one wonders how much rope is given here.

It certainly seems to be a Moroz-like push for the young man. The conspiracy theorist in me sits back and wonders if this is the organization taking one long last look at his skill-set before beginning to include him in potential trade talks.

Also, I thought everything was all Shawn Horcoff or Toby Peterson's fault? Or did I miss the memo?

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#16 OilLeak
December 13 2012, 02:07PM
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Lines look ok except for Hamilton on the 1st line, which could effectively wipe out the offense from Arcobello and Eberle.

Putting Pitlick on the 4th line is a good idea, because I don't think we'll ever see offense from Pitlick. He didn't have it last year and hasn't shown it this year, time to see if he can play an effective defensive game.

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#17 Wigswag
December 13 2012, 02:39PM
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I am looking for Martindale to get back in the lineup. I believe he has the most offensive upside (at least at the AHL level) up the middle in OKC.

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#18 Shredder
December 13 2012, 03:30PM
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Looks like the team just isn't the same without the Nuge in the lineup...he's the most important Oiler going forward...if Hall & Eberle are worth $6M apiece, Nuge is $7M.

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#19 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
December 13 2012, 03:59PM
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Oklahoma is struggling with all these Oiler kids. I fear* whats in store for Oklahoma once the lockout ends.

*Couldn't give a rats arse about the AHL.

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#20 Rocket
December 13 2012, 05:20PM
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I like Hall playing with Lander & Paajarvi: lots of speed. Hamilton on the first line? An opportunity he better not mess up.

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#21 David S
December 13 2012, 05:20PM
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I'm not really worried. Guys like NUUUUGE, Hall and Eberle are just tryng to stay healthy and work on their games. My guess is they're playing somewhere around 70% of capacity.

What this really tells us is that there's pretty much ZERO secondary scoring on the Barons so Nelson is trying to mitigate the damage by spreading out the limited offensive players he really has.

I've said it before but when the lockout is finally over and the A-team guys get called up, the Barons are pretty much dead in the water.

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#22 Danenbaum
December 14 2012, 10:36AM
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Anyone else think this 'top heavy' scoring issue is going to be the exact same problem for the Oilers when they finally assemble?

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